Our Opinion: More time needed to work out core curriculum details

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Our Opinion: More time needed to work out core curriculum details

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The Wood Word has been following the Strategic Resource Allocation (SRA) report for some time since the evaluation process began in 2015.

The SRA was a study of university resources to inform a restructuring process for colleges, academic programs and organizational structures with the intention of saving money or cutting spending.

The report influenced the planned core curriculum changes. The university assembled a Core Curriculum Revision Task Force to plan this new model. A Core Curriculum Committee made up of faculty and administrators voted on the new model, and passed it on to Provost Dr. Susan Turell. Both groups voted “yes.” Votes from undergraduate faculty and a Student Government Association (SGA) letter in support of the model informed the decisions.

The revised curriculum will go into effect for new students beginning in the fall 2019 semester. One class from each of the religious studies, philosophy, history and English departments will have linked curricula, with a 12-credit foundation based on learning paths the university wants students to follow. Students will also take a 24-credit or two 12-credit threads of core classes that end with a three-credit capstone.

The curriculum plan needs time before faculty and students are acclimated to the thread system. The Wood Word Editorial Board weighs what we feel are some pros and cons of the revised core curriculum.

Pro:

Linking the curricula and assignments between core classes is a pro for students because their classes will feel more deliberate and relevant. Rather than taking a number of general core classes, the topics will all be relevant to students’ interests or area of major study. With the current core curriculum, students are told to fill so many credits from each general department, and often classes are only chosen because they are what’s being offered when a student needs to fill credits. The revised plan means students won’t be taking arbitrary classes just to fill the core credits.

Con:

At face value, it seems like professors from different departments will have to design individual class curricula to coincide with classes in other departments in order to complete the threads. Having a number of threads for students to follow means that professors across departments will have to change or drop currently offered classes and collaborate with a number of professors outside of their department.

With the number of faculty involved in the core threads, this will need a lot of organization to be effective and successful. A plan of this caliber will require smooth and excellent communication and coordination across departments.

Pro:

The proposed plan does not change the minimum number of credits students will need to graduate, which is 120. However, it does change the number of core credits students will take, creating the possibility for more room for credits that relate to a student’s major.

Con:

Instead of 43 to 46 core credits, students will take anywhere from 39 to 51 credits. Students are not expected to take more total credits to graduate, however. Having a range of 12 credits in the core that students may or may not need means that the credits in individual majors could be affected.

Turell said that degrees will likely need to be modified in order to account for the threads and the change in core credits. This means degree-specific courses will need to be added, dropped or taught differently. Having a core curriculum that may negatively impact the way individual majors are taught could be detrimental to students’ degrees.

Pro:

The decision to review the core was not random or uninformed. It came from the SRA report. The report is meant to help the university, so a decision to review and rewrite the core curriculum is a positive move by the university.

Con:

The decision to move forward with the new model passed very quickly considering how few details have been worked out. The proposal is more of a framework for a full model. Specific details like how transfer students will be factored into the threads, how exactly courses will be linked and what departments will have to do to deal with the changed core have not been explicitly laid out.

It’s alarming that the proposal passed in the time it did without these details completed. The new curriculum will go into affect in fall of 2019, which is just about a year and a half away.

Notre Dame University went through a similar process of reviewing their core curriculum. The process began in 2014, and their committee’s final report was approved in 2016. A transition committee was appointed in early 2017, and the new core will begin with incoming students in fall of 2018. Notre Dame’s process took four years from beginning of review to implementation. Marywood’s review of its core only began in January of 2017, and the changed model will begin just over two years from the start date of the review.

The provost, Core Curriculum Task Force and Core Curriculum Committee should have taken more time to work out the minute details of the new plan before total approval. The entire planned model should be worked out in its entirety and shared with students and faculty long before implementation.

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