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A Proposal: General Education and a Modified 4-4 Model “A liberal education... frees a man (sic) from the prison-house of his class, race, time, place, background, family and even his nation.” (Robert Hutchins) “...Not to know the relative disposition of things is the state of slaves or children” (John Henry Newman) This proposal is designed to provide a framework for thinking about general education requirements. In fact, as a framework, it is not tied to any particular calendar. That said, it is useful for making changes to the previously proposed 4-4 calendar and it allows us to address many of the concerns raised while giving us a way to talk about general education. Our general education requirements are a statement to the students and to the world about how we will try to tackle the daunting task of freeing and knowing. These requirements represent an important part our strategy for attacking a problem of terrible importance—preparing students for a future that we cannot know. Our tradition has been to balance the explicit general education requirements against our desire for students to become sufficiently expert in a specialty (major) and our desire to give students the ability to explore and discover (free electives). The general education requirements hold a special place, however, because they apply to all of our students. General education requirements necessarily require compromises because the basic economics of finite resources. Our time with our students is not infinite. We will debate and discuss passionately what should or should not be present—but ultimately we will come to an artful compromise that fits the time and resources available to the college and the students. But the question of General Education always will and should be open to discussion, debate and amendment as our students change, our world changes, and we the faculty change. The debate never ends—it is only suspended. Proposal Part 1: The Monmouth College Liberal Arts Core This proposal identifies a set of 8 courses/competencies that every Monmouth College student must take. They are explicitly central to what it means to be a Monmouth College graduate in the early 21st century. The Liberal Arts Core focuses on writing well, speaking well and integrating knowledge from diverse points of view in preparation for being a citizen of the community, nation and world. The Liberal Arts Core consists of: Liberal Arts Core English 110 Introduction to the Liberal Arts Comm 101 Global Perspectives Language 101 Reflection Language 102 Citizenship Liberals Arts Core Requirement: Every Monmouth College student must take the Liberal Arts Core. Students may still place out of Language 101 and/or Language 102. Rationale: English 110 and Comm 101 are foundational courses designed to develop the explicit writing and speaking skills of every Monmouth College Student. Language 101 and 102 serve a dual purpose in the Core. Language courses give students the experience of learning about speaking and writing in a powerful but different way, thus reinforcing the experience of English 110 and Comm 101. They also serve as important cultural pathways to reach a new understanding of citizenship. The Integrated Studies Sequence provides an intentional way that is longitudinally connected to develop students’ abilities to connect ideas from diverse viewpoints. Proposal Part 2: The Monmouth College Disciplinary Core To be liberally educated—to “know the relative disposition of things” in Newman’s words, requires that students learn in a substantive way about a variety disciplines. In the context of general education, we wish to ensure that every Monmouth College graduate has been required to see and learn in a broad way. This proposal addresses this breadth across disciplines by grouping our specialties in a way that will enable us to form every student’s experience, while preserving their ability to explore and master a discipline deeply. This proposal begins by grouping our specialties. Disciplinary Core Natural Sciences Social Sciences Arts & Humanities Chemistry Psychology Art Biology Political Science Theatre Physics Education Music Biochemistry Accounting English Biopsychology Sociology Communications Environmental Science Anthropology History Economics/Bus. Adm MFL Physical Education Classics/Greek/Latin Math/CS Philosophy Public Relations Religious Studies Women's Studies This kind of grouping of is always difficult since there are many ways to do it. How many categories? The table that we have presented is a “first try” at this, but a good first try, given some practical considerations of implementation. If there are too many categories, the disciplinary core begins to looks badly splintered. Which disciplines should be placed into which categories? This is may be a difficult decision, again because many solutions are possible. This proposal advocates discussion, with each discipline having a large say in where it might be placed. The details of this discussion could change as different departments place themselves differently. Disciplinary Core Requirement: Having grouped our disciplines in a way that rationally encompasses the broad scope of things that students should to learn: Every student will be required to take 3 courses outside of his or her disciplinary group, with at least one from each of the two remaining groups. At least one course from the Natural Science Group must be a lab course and one course from the Social Science Group must have a substantive quantitative component (as informed by our ongoing Quantitative Literacy discussion) This is NOT a simple distribution requirement. Our current set of rubric based requirements form the substance of what courses satisfy the extra-group requirements. In the Arts & Humanities group, the Beauty and Meaning rubric will initially define what courses satisfy the Arts & Humanities requirement, but some classes may move over from the original Human Societies list. The Arts and Humanities faculty can discuss ways to further adapt courses (in content as well as form) as they see fit and to form new proposals for courses that would give students a meaningful experience in the spirit of the Beauty and Meaning rubric. In the Social Sciences, the current Human Societies courses, (with the addition of Psychology), are the starting point for defining what courses satisfy the Social Science requirement. Some of these courses may need modifications to define a substantive quantitative component while others may not. Not every course must have a substantive quantitative piece, but enough courses that have a quantitative piece will be needed. The Social Science faculty could form proposals in the future that continue to develop these ideas and make proposals to the faculty. In the Natural Sciences, the current Physical Universe Life Forms rubric (with Psychology 101 removed) defines what courses satisfy the Natural Science requirement. Natural Science faculty will meet, like the other groups to review and propose changes as they see fit. Like our current PULF requirement, lab will be a part of courses that satisfy this requirement. Rationale: The goal of this requirement is to ensure that every Monmouth College student has at least one course from each disciplinary grouping and two serious quantitative courses. These courses may occur in the major or in the general education requirements. Each student will have at one course in the natural sciences, one course in the social sciences and one additional course in Arts & Humanities (that course as part of our current Beauty and Meaning rubric). Groups and Majors could apply additional constraints on what courses satisfy these disciplinary core requirements. For example, the natural sciences or individual majors in the natural sciences could require that students take a particular kind of course. Proposal Part 3: Ensuring Breadth of Experience. To assure that each student will have as full experience of the discipline as possible, there is one additional constraint. If a student tests out of Language 101 and/or Language 102, he or she must take one or two elective courses that are also outside his or her group. MFL, Communications, and English Majors are required to take at least one additional course in the Arts & Humanities to satisfy the Beauty and Meaning rubric. Rationale: If students are able to place out of their language requirement, this requirement ensures that students have a broad experience. How Can this Proposal Address Questions Raised about the Original 4-4 Proposal? This proposal can be implemented within the constraints of the original 4-4 model with minor modifications and it can address many of the concerns raised. The table below gives a quick comparison. There is one less elective under this proposal. Original 4-4 32 Courses Total 4-4 Under this proposal 32 Courses Total General Education 10 Courses General Education 11 Courses English 110 English 110 Comm 101 Comm 101 Language 101 Language 101 Language 102 Language 102 ILA ILA Global Perspectives Global Perspectives Reflections Reflections Citizenship Citizenship Arts 3 Extra-Group Science Target for Major 12 Courses Target for Major 12 Courses (Exceptions Allowed) (Exceptions Allowed) Electives 10 Courses Electives 9 Courses Specific Concerns raised about the Original 4-4 Proposal: Concern: Eliminating one science course weakens the exposure that students have to science. Resolution: In this proposal, every student must take a science course in the natural sciences and the social sciences. This is comparable to what we are currently doing since many students already take Psychology as their life science course. Concern: Eliminating one science course weakens the exposure that students have to quantitative reasoning Resolution: In this proposal, every student must take at least two courses with a strong quantitative component. These courses are embedded in the natural and social science requirement. Concern: The elimination of the Human Societies course means that students will have no requirement in the social sciences. Resolution: Every student is required to take at least one social science course. Concern: Eliminating an Arts course weakens the exposure that students have to the arts. Resolution: Students both outside the Arts & Humanities division may be required by their major or their division to take two of their three extra-group courses in the arts. Challenges, Opportunities and Questions. There are a number of questions that might need to be addressed (Thanks to Brian Baugh for some of these) as well as some interesting opportunities. How Many Groups? This is a first try that uses three. Other categorizations are possible, but two groups is probably too small and five is too big. More groups make the program harder to explain and administer and may burden a single department with many general education students. Who decides which departments belong in which group? Ideally departments “self identify” and most departments will find themselves at home in one of the groupings, although there is room for flexing. For example, one can construct an argument for placing Math/CS in any of the groups. Psychology could live in Social Science or Natural Science. Most if not all of the categorization must come from the departments themselves. There are some practical constraints, however. There must enough options in each group so that any single department is not overwhelmed with general education students. How important does the concept of groups become to the overall college? For example, do we then have group chairs or deans of groups? This proposal is about constructing a framework for thinking about and organizing general education. It does not require deans or group chairs. How will faculty react to students being pushed to choose a major sooner? Students will need to declare at least what group they are in to be able to make a plan for satisfying their disciplinary core requirements. A reasonable and common position would be to ask students to declare their major by the end of their second year. Some might argue that this is a good thing? How does a group model change the narrative of the college? This model gives us a way of talking about general education that is similar to our current model. Currently we talk about the value of the sciences and the arts and why we require them of every student in a particular way. This proposal allow for the same kind of discussion, with a slightly different organization. Who decides what courses get in the Liberal Arts Core? Shouldn’t X be in the Liberal Arts Core? The faculty do! This proposal is designed to be very similar to our current structure. The core should be open to review, but for now, this proposal has opted for a Liberal Arts Core that matches what we have done. Healthy debate and review of the Liberal Arts Core will occur in the future and this proposal plans on reviewing the Liberal Arts Core in the upcoming years. Since this might be a large and challenging review, this could take substantial time and effort. What do you mean by Quantitatively Substantive in the Social Sciences, who will decide this, and how? Ideally, the Social Science departments will discuss and decide what strong quantitative experience they want for students at Monmouth College and then make a proposal to the Curriculum Committee. Substantive really means that the course has a time that is dedicated to some kind of data analysis, modeling, or other appropriate quantitative endeavor. One can imagine many great courses, including the current Psychology 101 class, an Econ 200 course with a meeting time for quantitative modeling, a GIS course for the social sciences that focuses on spatial reasoning and a host of statistics related courses. In the short term, the social science faculty would begin by selecting from their existing offerings and make modifications to those courses. What constitutes an appropriate Arts & Humanities Gen Ed Course and who decides? The Beauty and Meaning rubric is really the backbone of this requirement. The Arts & Humanities faculty will discuss what kinds of experiences would be best for our students and make a proposal to Curriculum and to the faculty. Again, in the short term, the current General Education offerings, perhaps with modification, would be the place to start. Will the Natural Sciences be reviewing their offerings for General Education? Yes! This is an excellent opportunity for us to join and discuss what is happening in our current general education lab courses, whether or not it’s what we want, and how to make those courses even more effective. How will we handle transfer students? What about Music courses? Transfer students and Music courses are treated in the same way as the original 4-4 proposal. There are no new problems with this proposal. How will labs count for teaching? Labs are counted in the same way as in the original 4-4 proposal. There are no new problems with this proposal. Are half semester courses allowed? Are they necessary for this proposal? Half-semester courses are allowed, but they are not required for this proposal. What happens if a student changes his or her major, moving from one group to another? His or her General Education requirements could change. In principle, this could be a problem, but we anticipate that the number of students that would do this after the middle or end of their second year is probably small. The existing appeals process using AASC could deal with these problems. What happens if a student double majors in majors that fall in two different groups? Which group counts for general education? The spirit of this approach is to ensure broad exposure. A student with a double major will probably have already taken at least one course in each group, but we will need to make sure of this. Alternatively, we could ask students to declare one of their majors as there “primary” major and then use that category. There are several ways to address this concern. Are there other modifications to the original 4-4 proposal? What about not having enough class time? One modification that one might consider that is in place at some other 4-4 like colleges would be to expand the total class time per week from 150 minutes to 180 minutes (3 – 60 minute classes or 2 - 90 minute classes). Several faculty members have suggested this change to provide additional class time. It would also be a concrete sign to students that things under the new curriculum/calendar are different. Final Comments This framework for thinking about General Education allows us to address some of the problems that we encountered with the original 4-4. It also provides us with a few new opportunities. This framework for thinking about education will still work if in the future, the faculty wish to change to a 4-4-1/4-1-4 or some other calendar. It is not tied to a particular calendar. Innovation can easily be included. New majors, programs and courses can be placed in the divisional structure without requiring a complete restructuring. Under the “umbrella” requirement of three extra-divisional courses, individual divisions and majors can tailor the courses for their students (Ex: No—a physics major cannot take Symbolic Logic as his/her Arts & Humanities course). The organization of courses for General Education gives us the opportunity (excuse) to talk with our colleagues about our shared interests in our disciplinary groupings. Some of these groups already exist and lead to interesting and fruitful results for our students and this structure encourages even more of that kind of cross-departmental and integrative activity. Note: Thanks to many colleagues for helpful conversations!
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