Today: Jul 14, 2024

LEP: uncovering the glitches in the system

Part III of our LEP Special Section





With the first change in a university curriculum in 40 years, naturally there are some kinks to iron out.
While incoming students started this semester under the LEP umbrella taking Tier 1 courses, Tier 2 classes are still on the drawing board with Tier 3 classes still being decided upon.
Mike Shea, chair of the English department, said he is concerned most about the work that lies ahead in creating Tier 3 courses.
“The idea behind the capstone in the LEP is really smart because one of the ideas behind the LEP was to think of the general education program as a program, rather than just a bunch of courses. It was almost like a major alongside [students’] regular major,” Shea said. “The question is, who’s going to have the resources to create a course that serves only the gen. ed. population?”
Shea said the English department has not yet created a capstone course for general education students, and he thinks they may not even be able to. For the time being, he said the department has been concentrating on Tier 2 classes.
“I would say that it’s going to be hard for departments to make creating a capstone course for general education a priority,” Shea said, “any department, big or small.”
Dr. Martin Hartog, chair of the Undergraduate Curriculum Forum and a professor of math, said the university is working to smooth out some of the common problems students faced under the former curriculum in the new LEP.
“One of the things the old AUR system did—and as a math professor we’ve worked a long time to prevent this from happening—frequently students would wait until the end to take their math classes,” he said. “It was because they would shy away from it a little bit and in a lot of ways that’s not a good model because you had students who would take my courses in the summer—like a Math 100—and they had already walked in graduation.“
Deborah Weiss, director of the Graduate Program, said this “bottleneck from older students” waiting until the end of their college career to take required courses is one of a few glitches in the LEP. She said some students may face difficulty registering for world language requirements due to a low amount of sections.
Elena Schmitt, World Languages Department Chair, said because the World Languages program has changed its requirement to four semesters of a language, more 101 and 200 level courses will be offered. Schmitt said she is concerned about the number of adjunct faculty now teaching lower-level courses.
“It would be wonderful to see our full-time faculty teach in the lower-level classes,” said Schmitt, “but we don’t have the sufficient number of full-time faculty to fill in all the sections we offer.”
James Tait, professor of the Environmental Studies Department and a member of UCF, said students may face problems with the structured order of which they are required to take their courses under the LEP.
“Some programs need students to start taking, say, some of their science courses the very first semester they’re there—like chemistry,” said Tait. “They want students to take their intro to chemistry course, which could be a Tier 2 course in their first semester, so they can’t do critical thinking or inquiry first.”
Polly Beals, director of the Liberal Education Program, said the LEP is structured around the concept that student success is predicated on having certain courses first.
“Now there are more prerequisites than the AUR,” she said. “Students are required to take critical thinking before entering the Tier 1 program.”
Beals said the university will evaluate the success of the critical thinking courses and later determine how to improve the students’ performance.
“At the end of the semester we will have to sort through the people who didn’t pass critical thinking. We’re going to be looking at what students have learned.” she said. “The LEP has more room for assessment. We’re doing more formal surveys and tests to look at what students are learning.”
With 40 percent of full-time undergraduate students having transferred from previous institutions, the university is working to facilitate a smooth transition of credits from other institutions into the LEP.
Kimberly Crone, associate vice president for Academic Affairs, said a newly developed transfer task force program will evaluate how transfer credits fit into Southern’s new curriculum.
“While we want the student, obviously, that comes to Southern as a freshman to start and complete their degree with us,” said Crone. “We recognize that four out of 10 of the students at Southern are starting their career some place else—their educational career some place else—so we want to make sure that we maximize the opportunity for the student to transfer.”
Transfer students are accepted on a rolling admission basis to help accommodate almost every potential transfer student. Concerns about transfer students fitting into the new LEP brought faculty members together last summer to closely look at the general requirements at Southern’s feeder institutions, according to Interim Provost Marianne Kennedy. She said the faculty members produced a comprehensive document detailing course requirements at Southern in order to facilitate a more seamless transfer of credits.
“They really examined the courses to see how they fit into our new LEP courses,” Kennedy said. “We hope for more of an overlap and synergy with the courses at our biggest feeder institutions.”
Still, small departments like sociology are feeling the strains of the new curriculum in a time of statewide budget cuts.
“We are understaffed and it is a challenge to provide everything our majors need while also trying to contribute to the university-wide curriculum,” Jon Bloch, chair of the Sociology Department, said.
Ilene Crawford, co-coordinator of the composition program and a professor of English, said the university is asking the faculty to undergo a curricular change in a time where there is no time and no money to offer.
“Everyone recognizes that students need more and more time for us,” said Crawford. “No one wants to feel like they’re robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

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