Campus News

University Council OKs core curriculum changes

The University Council has approved changes to the core curriculum designed to strengthen student academic rigor by focusing more heavily on sciences, quantitative reasoning and culture and the humanities.

At its Nov. 2 meeting, the council adopted a proposed framework for a “general education curriculum” that will help students better understand globalization, learn more about science and technology, be more aware of diversity in their own culture, and be able to critically assess information instead of just memorizing facts, said William Vencill, chair of the council’s Curriculum Committee.

The committee developed the curriculum this year to implement recommendations of the Task Force on General Education, which spent a year studying ways to strengthen undergraduate education and foster academic achievement among students. The task force report, issued last year, has more than 40 recommendations including a number dealing with what students are taught and how they learn.

The general education curriculum retains the same nine hours of board of regents-mandated essential skills as in Area A of the core curriculum. But the new curriculum puts more emphasis on certain disciplines and areas of knowledge, requiring, for example, that students take at least one course in life sciences and one in physical sciences, and take more courses in world languages and culture, humanities and the arts. It creates a new area of quantitative reasoning with courses in computing, calculus, engineering and statistics.

Vencill noted that the changes affect only a student’s first 42 hours of required courses and have no bearing on the 78 hours of study in a student’s major. He also emphasized that the curriculum is only a “framework” and can be adjusted to allow departments to submit new or different courses that meet specific learning outcomes in specific areas of the curriculum.

The proposal for the new curriculum requires that all courses in the curriculum be periodically reviewed to ensure they meet expected learning outcomes-another recommendation of the Task Force on General Education.

Vencill said the Curriculum Committee will submit additional proposals to enact other task force recommendations later, including adding upper-level courses to the general curriculum, as well as courses that meet specific learning abilities in such areas as communication, computer literacy, critical thinking and moral reasoning.

The general education curriculum must be reviewed and approved by the board of regents and won’t be implemented until fall semester of 2008 at the earliest, Vencill said. After the vote, President Michael F. Adams praised the new curriculum as a “terrific outgrowth” of the Task Force on General Education.

“I’m very proud of this faculty effort that retains the strong core, adds breadth to the curriculum and helps meet our students’ needs for the 21st century,” he said.