The Subcommittee of General Education shares its initiative for general education reform
Earlier this month we learned that the start of spring would be delayed another six weeks because a certain creature saw its shadow on Gobbler’s Knob on Feb. 2. Groundhog Day also marked an anniversary of sorts for Lewis & Clark, for on Groundhog Day 2016 the faculty of the College of Arts & Sciences embarked on an initiative to consider general education reform.
The initiative began with the formation of the Subcommittee on General Education (SoGE), which provides an opportunity for faculty, staff and students to come together to discuss GE. The group, led fearlessly by Associate Professor of Biology Greta Binford, has convened at Maggie’s most Tuesday evenings (except in summer and during breaks), and reports back to the Curriculum Committee, who in turn has kept the CAS faculty in the loop. The first goal was to articulate an identity statement and goals that would serve as a guide for curricular design. Over the year, SOGE, the CC and the CAS Faculty at-large (in consultation with many other campus stakeholders) have produced:
- The LC Identity Statement. The identity statement and enumerated goals for LC students were approved by the CAS Faculty on Dec. 6, 2016.
- A shortlist of potential GE models (large scale structures for delivering GE), of which the CAS Faculty will vote to adopt one at their April 4, 2017 meeting.
The three GE models currently under consideration are as follows. All include the potential to retain space for requirements such as demonstrating proficiency in a language other than English and Physical Education:
- Strands: General education takes place in the departments and there is no Core class. In this model, thematic connections are drawn between courses in the existing curriculum. Students are required to take courses from different divisions that all touch on a theme. Whether these themes, or strands, would be devised by faculty or by students will be decided if this model is adopted.
- “INGE,” Integrated Gen Ed: This model involves developing a suite of courses (not part of the existing curriculum) that are not discipline-specific but are designed explicitly to meet the goals of general education. General education requirements would be satisfied by taking all of these courses. The design of these courses, as well as pathways for taking them, will be decided if this model is adopted.
- “DisCo” Distribution + Core: This is the model most similar to the general education requirements we currently have in place. It fulfills general education requirements through a combination of courses owned by departments and programs (“Distribution”) and course(s) collectively owned by the faculty and that satisfy nothing but general education (“Core”).
All CAS faculty have had the opportunity to consider these models in detail and to confer with one another, and are now weighing the pros and cons as they prepare to vote. Factors playing into the decision-making include:
- Which model will the faculty be able to enthusiastically get behind?
- Where in the curriculum should general education be housed (in academic departments or elsewhere)?
- Which model has the best potential to fulfill the two charges for Gen Ed (namely the LC Identity Statement and also the accreditation standard 2.C.9 defined by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities)?
One challenge in evaluating the models is that the specifics of how they might be implemented remain to be seen. Once the vote takes place on Tuesday, April 4, the work of populating the chosen model with real courses and pathways will begin in earnest. We hope that this brief introduction will provide you with enough background so that you will be able to jump in with us later this spring and next year as we begin to flesh out the details. SoGE meetings, Tuesdays at 5 p.m. at Maggie’s, continue to be the best venue for students and staff members to get involved in these discussions, so we will look forward to seeing you there.
Kate Rubick is an Instruction Services Librarian for Watzek Library. This statement was submitted on behalf of the Subcommittee on General Education.