Today: May 22, 2024

Liberal Ed. program set for fall

Jessica Giannone, General Assignment Reporter:
The old versus the new: a conflict that exists at Southern which is complicated to overcome, as administration has expressed. If things go as planned, a new curriculum at the university will be initiated as of the Fall 2011 semester with both support and resentment of some faculty.
As of May 20 when the results of the final referendum on May 4 are released, the Southern community will know for sure where its academic fate lies.
Current students will still be under the current All-University Requirement arrangement, but incoming freshmen will be the first to learn under the new Liberal Education Program.
Aside from some new courses, the LEP is different from the AUR in a structural sense, according to Polly Beals, the director of LEP.
“A lot of things will be similar,” said Beals, “but there are a lot of things we want to do in addition.”
The new program focuses on sequential building blocks of knowledge and course experience through the progression of three tiers, levels of course organization, that focus on goal groups.
To some faculty, the “upside” is that new organization provides a better learning structure, but to others, the curriculum will be more complicated in terms of completion of credits in an efficient manner.
Unlike the current curriculum, which has been around for over 40 years, the new program
will have additional categories of courses which focus on intellectual competencies, areas of knowledge and experience, and synthesis of tiers and discussion of values.
“There’s some sequencing involved,” said Beals.

Students are encouraged to take certain tier courses before they can move on to the next tier, as some are required, and some are guidelines.
The first tier is designed for foundations. It includes new course categories such as Critical Thinking and Technological Fluency, in addition to the already-adapted Written Communication, Quantitative Reasoning, Inquiry and Multilingual Communication courses.
Tier 1 courses serve as transitions to Tier 2 courses. However, the only Tier 1 credit required to move onto Tier 2 is Critical Thinking, which consists of classes such as philosophy, history, theater and more.

Beals said Critical Thinking is part of a nation-wide movement in higher education to help students develop abilities to recognize debates and arguments, evaluate evidence that is presented and put together their own ideas as well.
She described the new Tier 1 course categories as a way to bring the curriculum up to date, as she mentioned the question would be “What should an educated citizen be able to do?”
“One of the things we’re hoping is that if students take [certain courses] early on, they will be more successful in their [other] courses,” said Beals.
She said Tier 1 courses can be spread out through freshman year and potentially into sophomore year, depending on where students are placed based on their learning community.
The other new Tier 1 addition, Technological Fluency, focuses on teaching students how to be comfortable in different digital environments, such as learning to work with different software and how to retrieve information, according to Beals.
She said the courses are all about digital, mostly professional, communication, and students will learn skills such as how to work with groups on Wiki, and partake in discussions on legal and ethical issues.
“Everybody knows how to Google,” said Beals, “but there is a lot more out there.”
Lisa Lancor, the LEP Committee chairperson, said the goal is to emphasize coherence in the education program.
“I think the best part is what it’s going to do for students,” said Lancor. “I think it’s going to lead to better student success, and they’ll have the foundations they will need and be able to build on those when they go into the next semester of courses.”
She said, however, the number of credits has been a concern, and there are a lot of majors that are very “credit heavy” which might make it difficult to fit the program with some of the majors.
Some departments with courses currently in the AUR have identified the category in LEP that they want to transition into.
Lancor mentioned how it is a huge shift from the old system and brings some resistance, which is why scheduling has been a forefront more than ever.
There is the idea that each LEP course has goals for classes to meet which have to be evaluated to make sure the purposes and key elements of the category are being met.
For the Tier 2 course categories, which require 7 out of the 9 course credits to be completed to move to Tier 3, students will be focusing on exploration. The question is, “What should an educated citizen know?”
New credits such as Creative Drive, American Experience and Global Awareness will be offered.
Polly said Creative Drive will include classes where students will reach out of their comfort level so they can tap into their creativity. One of the new classes will be Games and Simulations, in which students can learn about creating video games.
For Tier 3, which is focused on connections, there is only one credit requirement; a Capstone course, which is at an advanced level.
The question for Tier 3 is, “With what values should an educated citizen be conversant?”
Categories include Civic Engagement, Environmental Awareness and Ethical Judgment.
Beals said the Tier 3 courses revolve around applying general education to a big modern topic.
“You need to start with the skills and then you’re better able to move on to the knowledge areas,” said Beals.
She said she thinks learning a new system is going to be a challenge for everyone, particularly with faculty being asked to find time to make curriculum changes.
The process of determining what is necessary for transfer students is another issue, as students with less than 30 credits will have to be individually assessed to decide which program they will be in.
“I think students have to be advised and knowledgeable of the structure and the opportunities in it,” said Lancor. “At this point that’s going to be the most important part.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Latest from Blog