Curriculum and Teaching Committee

Minutes (draft)

October 13, 2003, 3PM, Sheehy-Farmer 109

 

Present: Derrick Boucher (Chair), Robert Liebler, Anne Massey, Edmund Napieralski (guest), Jack Ryan, David Sosar, Thomas Visgilio

 

Approval of previous Minutes.

 

Core review master plan was distributed for brainstorming and prioritizing of ideas.? Each issue was assigned a relative priority (H=High, M=Medium, L=Low) and notes made to link similar issues.? What follows is the list with priorities and notes in italics.

 

Core Review:

preliminary, general concerns and questions from C&T members and other faculty

 

Draft Categories for questions:

I.                     Philosophy of Core and the mission of the College

II.                   Relevancy of the Core to today?s student

III.                  Isolation of the Core from the rest of the curriculum

IV.               Staffing issues

V.                 Gripes about specific Core sequences

VI.               Students? feelings/feedback

 

 

What follows is a random collection of ideas related to our review of the Core curriculum that will be placed in the above draft categories. I have attempted to paraphrase and anonymize them and would not divulge the original sources for a million dollars, except maybe in cash. ?D. Boucher 10/13/03

 

1. (Low) The CORE is a bit blurred and needs some clarifying or else there is a danger that any course that doesn?t fit anywhere else could become part of the CORE.? This is how other institutions end up with bloated and meaningless general education credits.

 

2. (High) About requiring CORE classes in the major: there times when this is appropriate (Example: In Foreign Language many of the students come in ready to start the major program and won?t take any CORE courses in Foreign Language unless the 145-146-major courses-count as CORE courses as well.) Perhaps there needs to be guardianship rather than an overall ruling.

 

3. (High) Ensuring that the CORE maintains a balance of practical and abstract thinking and that it meets the needs of students.? What should a liberal arts education be in the 21st century?? Is our CORE meeting those needs?

 

4. (Delete this issue, same as 3 above) What exactly is the "philosophy of the CORE"?? Does the philosophy reflect our current agenda?

 

5. (High, related to 3 above)? Are the present CORE categories appropriate?

 

6. (Combine with 2 above) Should the CORE be used to fulfill major requirements; if so, with what limitations?

 

7. (Medium. Separate issue needs to be generated noting the historical fact that the original creation of the Core did not result in any faculty member losing his or her job. A laudable goal for us, too!) How can we guarantee CORE staffing?? In other words, what can we do to make sure that CORE's listed as available will actually be run??

 

8. (Low) Related to above, can we have advanced planning in Core sequences for various majors so that we can plan to offer the seldom-offered Core courses.

 

9. (Low) What is the distribution of interest in the various classes?? In other words, do certain CORE's have a large class size and others barely get any students?? Is this a problem?

 

10. (Medium) What are the criteria for class sizes? This is the larger issue of section caps, which has never been transparent enough, but it seems to affect the Core offerings in some areas to a greater extent than others.

 

11. (Medium, related to issue 7) To what extent are departments held responsible for providing Core offerings that are actually staffed? I have noticed that my department devotes resources to the Core only on a ?time permitting? basis, if they?ve nothing ?better? to do. If the Core is such a high-level priority for the College, departments must reflect that. If it?s really not a high level priority, let?s be honest about it.

 

12. (Medium, related to issue 3 but more specific) The current Core curriculum does not contain a section dedicated solely to Business. Among the reasons for this is the fact that at the time of the Core?s creation the business faculty were very overextended and a sizeable contribution from them could not be expected. Yet, one can argue that a liberally educated person cannot remain ignorant of the practice of business in our world and in their personal lives. Should we establish a list of ?business competencies? we should expect from our graduates and form a Core section to serve that need?

 

13.) (Medium, related to issues 7, 11) If the Core is radically transformed it would most likely lead to staffing shortages in some areas. That is a problem if we do not have the extra money to hire in those areas. (?If?-haha!) The other side of this coin is perhaps worse; financially imprudent staffing surpluses in other areas. Whatever our changes to the Core, these changes should make best use of the faculty resources of the present and the near future (e.g. retirements).

 

14. (Medium, related to issues 7, 11, 13) The introductory science Core course, Core 270, is understaffed and therefore subject to large class sizes. The sequels, Core 27x, are few in number, fewer in variety and also subject to large class sizes.

 

15. (High) We should pay careful attention to the Mission of the College and its Catholic identity. Are there lines we cannot cross without losing our identity? Specifically, philosophy and theology come to mind.

 

16. (High) My issue with the Core is its size. I think it is several courses too big. My guess (I could be wrong) would be that if the College looked at other liberal arts schools, we would have one of the largest core curriculums in terms of credit hours.  I believe if the core were smaller it would allow students to take on a second major or minors more easily. It would also allow for students to have greater flexibility in scheduling. Thus, permitting students to change majors later in their academic career and still graduate on time.

I think the most painless way to reduce the core is to allow some choice. I would require all of our students to take core 100, 110, 115 & 120. Then, I would have students take 2 courses in 3 or 4 of the core areas and only 1 course in the other 3 or 4 areas: core 130s; core 140s; core 150's; core 160s; core 250/260s; core 270s & core 280s. Students would choose which core areas they would take 2 in. This change would retain the core areas and thus not threaten anyone's job security. At the same time it would reduce the student's core credit demands by 9 or 12 credits. I think this change would be a win-win, but I'm sure not everyone would agree. Good luck.

 

17. (Medium) I think much of the problem with the Core is not the individual classes, but the requirements that force students to take classes they absolutely hate and see no value in.  It's hard to teach science to non-scientists, for example. Perhaps worse is trying to teach poetry to a room full of senior business majors who have put off Literature and the Arts II until their eighth and final semester.

 

18. (High) There?s no real value in taking a single semester of a foreign language.

 

19. (High) The two generic science courses, Core 150 and Core 270, should be replaced by specific social science and natural science courses.

 

20. (Low, The very diverse student backgrounds make it hard to show that much learning has occurred for some students who come into Core 270 or a Core 27x with advanced placement in a science.? Others, with minimal background, struggle with the simplest concepts and exhibit math phobia.? The instructors in the courses have documented the differences in student performance, but structural and manpower difficulties have prevented special honors sections or sections for students with deficiencies from being offered.?

 

21. (High, related to issue 19) Original discussions on core courses seem to assume that there would eventually be more similarity among a subject (e.g., critical thinking taught by some from the English dept, Philosophy dept., etc) than difference.? Perhaps even being standardized.? Question: What degree of standardization is desirable for core courses (e.g., common text, syllabi, etc).

 

22. (High, issue of student choice, staffing) How desirable is student choice in selecting core subjects?? The discussions regarding major programs dictating core selection among its majors have generated a good deal of concern about loss of student choice.? However, there is also the matter of student choice being dictated by offering departments (those teaching the course). That is, by limiting the number of sections of the course being offered.? A hypothetical would be: Suppose virtually of the business school majors wanted to take business ethics as their second philosophy core requirement but the philosophy dept. either could not or would not supply the desired number of sections.? Is the value of student choice being severely violated here?