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Past, Present, and Future of Core Curriculum at MCLA


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Title: Past, Present, and Future of Core Curriculum at MCLA

Past, Present, and Future of Core Curriculum at
  • Presented at SoTLs
  • 6th Annual Conference
  • May 18, 2006
  • London

Nancy Ovitsky, Ph.D. Department of Business
Administration Economics
MCLA Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
  • Small state public liberal arts college in
    northwest corner of Massachusetts
  • Area renowned for its natural beauty, cultural
    attractions and outdoor recreation
  • College has 100 year history of programs in
    teaching, liberal arts, and the professions

A 1000 Words
A Brief(!) History of Core Curriculum Development
  • Pre-1992 work done for several years on
    reforming General Education
  • Fall 1992 Undergraduate Experience Committee
  • Spring 1993 Assumptions, Desired Outcomes, and
    Criteria proposed

History (cont)
  • Fall 1993 Summer Study Group presents Three
  • 1. Inquiry Model
  • 2. Problems Projects Model
  • 3. Seminar-Based Model

Inquiry Model
Senior Junior Interdisciplinary Inquiries into Contemporary Issues (15 cr) Interdisciplinary Inquiries into Contemporary Issues (15 cr) Interdisciplinary Inquiries into Contemporary Issues (15 cr)
Soph Core Modes of Inquiry (9 cr) Modes of Inquiry (9 cr) Modes of Inquiry (9 cr)
First Year Core Growth of Knowledge (18 cr) Growth of Knowledge (18 cr) Growth of Knowledge (18 cr)
Natural Sciences Domain Social Sciences Domain Humanities Domain
Problems Projects Model
  • First Year Two multi-disciplinary seminars
    equal to 3 courses each (18 cr)
  • Second Year Two cluster courses, each
    consisting of 3 linked courses
  • Junior Year A single course on individual
    society taken in the major
  • Senior Year A multi-disciplinary seminar on an
    ethical problem

Seminar-Based Model
  • 8 multi-disciplinary seminars distributed over 4
  • First 4 semesters one 6-credit seminar each
  • Last 4 semesters one 3-credit course each

Fall 1993 Assumptions, Desired Outcomes,
Criteria for Revision
  • Assumptions included our expectations of
    challenges our graduates would need to meet in
    the 21st century
  • Desired Outcomes were the Knowledge,
    Perspectives, Abilities, and Values needed in the
    21st century

Desired Outcomes
  • Knowledge be informed about perennial human
    questions, possess sufficient knowledge to be
    qualified for a position in ones chosen field
  • Perspectives historical - to understand
    long-run trends cultural - for living in a
    diverse world global - to be responsible 21st
    century citizen

Desired Outcomes (cont.)
  • Abilities to think critically creatively, to
    communicate effectively, including social skills
    to become a lifelong learner quantitative
    computer-oriented to access evaluate
    information to know how to ask the right
    questions examine issues from multiple
    perspectives capacity for aesthetic appreciation

Desired Outcomes (cont.)
  • Values taking responsibility for defining ones
    values convictions, participating in the
    responsible play of ideas in the search for
    truth, striving for excellence in each
    undertaking, recognizing ones responsibilities
    in an interdependent world

Criteria for Gen Ed Revision
  • Be a 4-year developmental curriculum
  • Provide foundational knowledge skills in
    different curriculum domains for subsequent
    interdisciplinary approach
  • Challenge students to make connections
  • Promote across-the-curriculum the development of
    communication and critical thinking skills

Criteria for Gen Ed Revision (cont.)
  • Enable students to access manipulate data with
  • Active learning as individuals in collaboration
    with others
  • Provide opportunities to integrate liberal arts
    professional programs
  • Increase awareness of diverse historical,
    cultural, ideological perspectives

Criteria for Gen Ed Revision (cont.)
  • Provide an understanding of the impact of science
    technology on contemporary life
  • Challenge students to understand the foundations
    of ethical judgments understand question their
    own value systems carefully formulate their
    beliefs values
  • Account for the special needs of non-trads and
    transfer students

Criteria for Gen Ed Revision (cont.)
  • Be sufficiently distinctive to attract funding
    sources higher quality students
  • Have clear objectives for each curricular domain
    level of the program
  • Develop implement evaluation procedures for
    these objectives which incorporate a variety of
    assessment techniques.

Some Models We Reviewed
  • Alverno College
  • Evergreen College
  • American University
  • Morse Academic Plan at New York University
  • King's College
  • The Core Curriculum - Saint Joseph's College

History (cont)
  • 1993-1995 Models considered various
    conversations, First Year Seminar a first step
    towards change
  • 1995-1997 revisited Gen Ed and re-certified
    courses for inclusion in Gen Ed
  • 1997-2000 - Format of a Core Curriculum emerged
    and became refined into two models

Major Institutional Change1997
  • Changed name of institution from North Adams
    State College to Massachusetts College of Liberal
    Arts to reflect the adoption of the public
    liberal arts mission four years earlier

Recent History Core Curriculum
  • 11-3-97 General Education Subcommittee of the
    Curriculum Committee commences meeting. Its
    role to examine current general education
    requirements and to make recommendations to the
    Curriculum Committee as to what changes should
    occur given the revised mission of the college as
    a premier liberal arts institution

Recent History Core Curriculum
  • Continuing conversations throughout the 97-98 and
    98-99 academic years resulted in the model on the
    next slide
  • Spring 1999 Generic criteria approved for all
    domains. The first Tier 1 courses were piloted
  • Spring Summer 2000 faculty worked throughout
    to develop Tier 1 and Tier 2 courses

Models 2 versions into 1
Capstone Course Capstone Course Capstone Course Capstone Course Capstone Course Capstone Course Capstone Course Capstone Course
Tier 2 Creative Arts Tier 2 Creative Arts Tier 2 Human Heritage Tier 2 Human Heritage Tier 2 Self Society Tier 2 Self Society Tier 2 Science Tech Tier 2 Science Tech
Tier 1 Creative Arts Tier 1 Creative Arts Tier 1 Human Heritage Tier 1 Human Heritage Tier 1 Self Society Tier 1 Self Society Tier 1 Science Tech Tier 1 Science Tech
Math Comp Writing Comp Writing Comp Computer Comp Computer Comp Speech Comp Speech Comp Language Comp
Tier 1 Great Ideas Tier 2 More focused
Other model had Tiers reversed
Recent History Core Curriculum
  • 2000 decide on Core Curriculum model pilot
    courses developed and offered develop Domain
  • Spring 2001 Curriculum and All College have
    close votes on implementation proceeding in Fall
    2001 President decides we should proceed

Recent History Core Curriculum
  • Fall 2001 Entering Freshmen required to
    complete Core Curriculum
  • 2001-2002 - Curriculum Committee and All College
    continue to consider approvals and reapprovals of
    Core Courses and deal with the myriad side
    effects, expected unexpected, of Core
    implementation and Gen Ed phaseout

Recent History Core Curriculum
  • Fall 2002 Core Conversations we learn we can
    keep faculty on campus on Friday afternoons!
  • Fall 2003 - Conversations lead to suggestion to
    allow each student to opt out of one Domain
    passes Curriculum but not ACC. Leads to a
    reexamination of what we want from Core Curriculum

Proposed modifications
  • The All College Committee recommended in May 2003
    that a summer work group (SWG) should discuss the
    status of the core curriculum, due to a
    consistent demand from departments for discipline
    based courses

Summer 2003
  • The summer work group reviewed material from
    previous work groups
  • Generated a list of issues that had been
    identified as concerns
  • Suggested changes in response to the issues and
    concerns identified
  • Kept the campus community informed via e-mail on
    meeting updates, and welcomed comments and
  • Held a college wide meeting early fall 2003 to
    inform the campus community.

Proposed Changes Fall 2003
  • Remove the term competency. Make the basic skills
    part of the core. Move to become the first tier
    (Tier I)
  • Combine 100 level courses and 200 level courses
    into Tier II
  • Students required to take a total of eight
    courses, two from each of the four domains.
  • Discipline based courses, as long as they meet
    the learning outcomes, can be submitted for core

2004-2006 Core Issues
  • Approved various discipline based courses for
    Core designation
  • Postponed Capstone implementation to Fall 2006 to
    allow time for development and staffing ILP
  • Required foreign language as of Fall 2006
  • Expanded Math competency requirement

MCLA Involvement in ILP
  • Submitted Proposal September 2003 work on
    outcomes and assessment of and proposals for Tier
    3 Capstone Courses
  • One of 10 institutions selected out of 140
  • Project covers 3 years 3 January meetings and 3
    July workshops 2004-2006

Core Curriculum at MCLA Fall 2006
Tier I Competencies Writing Math Computer
Literacy Foreign Language
Tier II Domain Courses 2 courses from each domain
Human Heritage Self and Society Creative Arts Science and Technology
Tier III Capstone to the Core 1 course
incorporating at least two of the above domains
Core Capstone
  • Challenges students to integrate knowledge from
    several disciplines, applying academic learning
    and critical thinking skills to modern-day
  • Encourages students to work with others and
    become engaged citizens in the context of today's

Connecting Institutional Outcomes to Course
Learning Outcomes
Need to review these
Institutional Outcomes
Connections we need to make to Tier 3 Core
School Program-Level Outcomes including
Professional Accreditation Outcomes
Course/Service Learning Outcomes
  • Cooperation Collaboration between Academics
    and Student Affairs
  • Student Ownership of their Learning

Pilot Core Capstone Courses
  • Stipends were provided to six faculty in Summer
    2005 for development of pilot capstone courses.
    Currently two faculty have applied for Summer
  • Assessment of the capstone course will serve as
    assessment for our Core Curriculum program

Pilot Capstone Courses 2005-2006
  • America on the Worlds Stage Angel or Devil?
    (History, political and economic theory,
    philosophy, and literature are utilized to
    explore American foreign policy.)
  • Culture, Power, and Protest (Social movements
    from the point of view of historians, political
    scientists, and environmentalists)
  • The Robotic Incursion (Technology and society)
  • Science Human Values (Emphasis on genetics and
  • Science Spirit (Faith and spirituality in this
    technological age)
  • Foster Care Adoption (Sociology meets local
    politics and economics)

Summer 2006 proposals
  • Course in women's poetry to explore how women
    have used lyrical voices to understand and
    explain their lives.
  • Course in language and censorship looking at
    first amendment issues (this faculty member is
    nationally known for his work on cursing).

Related Institutional Initiatives
  • MCLA's 4th Annual Undergraduate Research
    Conference - April 13, 2006.  Students presented
    their research in either a poster format or as a
    short talk.
  • Service Learning Important aspect of MCLA
  • Berkshire Compact for Higher Education
    Countywide collaboration on education K-16

Whos in Charge of this Show (and what have they
done lately)?
  • Faculty Professional Development Team (Nuts and
  • College Curriculum Committee (Governance
  • Dean of Academic Affairs ()
  • Faculty Professional Development Team Recruited
    faculty to teach pilot capstone courses. Will
    oversee and guide course approval/implementation
    and future recruitment efforts.
  • Curriculum Committee approved pilot courses and
    CCAP courses to be offered beginning Fall 2006
  • Dean of Academic Affairs Found some extra cash
    laying around.

Professional Development Activities for Core and
  • November 2004 6 faculty members attended
    seminar presentation by Peggy Maki at Salve
  • March 2005 Day of Assessment for all faculty at
    MCLA by Dick Gerber, President, New England
    Educational Assessment Network
  • September 2005 Martha Stassen (University of
    Massachusetts, Amherst) presented assessment
    activities for all faculty
  • Pilot courses presented to campus November 2005
    and April 2006

Assessment of Tier I
  • Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
  • Core Curriculum

Mean Grades by Professor
Expected Grade and Interest
  • Expected grade correlates with end-of-semester
    interest (t .33 p lt .001
  • Not much difference between A and B grades
  • Expected grade also correlates with initial
    interest (t .16 p lt .001

Student Opinion
  • Students have mainly a moderate opinion of the
    Core and mostly take its courses to fulfill
  • The end-semester interest level is generally
    higher than the initial level.
  • Student opinion varies significantly by domain
    and course.
  • Since discipline courses were added to Core, they
    are rated higher on interest level.

Summary of Assessment
  • Students appear mainly satisfied with Core
    experience, based on questionnaires and grades
  • Questionnaires provide means for professors to
    compare with peers (unlike previous Gen Ed
  • Faculty and student concerns - grade inflation
    (leniency), unequal workload, highly variable
    standards, and high variability in classroom

Issues for Future of Core
  • Tight Staffing reason Capstone was postponed,
    still an issue
  • Impact of discipline specific courses on
    integrity of the Core
  • Assessment, assessment, assessment!
  • Intentional learning creating a campus culture

As our oldest building is renewed, so too our
Core Curriculum
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