General Education Task Force
Minutes - March 19, 2004
Present: Beld, Booth, Cisar, Larson, Umbanhowar Jr., Zempel.
1. Quantitative Reasoning Across the Curriculum . The Task Force received a copy of the statement from Lynn Steen included on the website for the Quantitative Methods for Public Policy program at Macalester. There might be an analogous approach to the MAR requirement at St. Olaf.
2. Faculty forums to discuss the GE curriculum . Some members of the faculty have strong views that may or may not have been captured in the departmental discussions, and would like the opportunity to share these views individually with the Task Force. However, it would be important to make that opportunity equally available to everyone. Faculty forums would be a good venue for doing so. Community Time and one additional time might work during or after the week of April 12th.
3. Faculty-wide "ownership" of the curriculum . Observations:
- Such ownership is not entirely consistent across requirements. Some requirements include specific mention of specific departments (NST, BST-B). Other requirements are written so that only a limited number of departments can teach them (arguably, MAR).
- There is also sincere disagreement among the faculty about the desirability of faculty-wide ownership; should general education courses be taught by competent generalists or only by specialists? Would alternative models of cross-disciplinary instruction, placing disciplines "in dialogue" with one another, be desirable? Should we be reviewing competency and certification of instructors, rather than simply course content, in approving courses for GE?
- Faculty-wide ownership is also challenging in some departments that require a more sequential approach to course selection.
- Faculty still aren't of one mind about the overarching goals of GE curriculum: content v. proficiency, "sampling" broadly v. coherence.
4. Discussion of the religion requirement . There is ambivalence within religion department about how BTS-T is defined. Some Religion faculty see it as too narrow for the major and possibly for the college as a whole. The goal of "theological literacy" might be advanced by encounters with world religions as well as with the Christian tradition (though that would further extend the scope of the requirement). Others (both in and out of the department) disagree.
5. Clarifying student learning objectives for the GE curriculum . Both faculty and students would benefit if the GE requirements were expressed in terms of learning outcomes rather than (or in addition to) guidelines for course content. This would also highlight some of the underlying assumptions about learning reflected in the guidelines for each course.
Each member of the Task Force was "assigned" to prepare a statement of student learning objectives for each of the GE requirements, as follows:
Beld -- HBS, ORC
Booth -- BTS, EIN
Cisar -- ALS-L, PHA
Hoekstra -- ALS-A
Larson -- MCS, HWC
Umbanhowar -- NST, MAR
Zempel -- FOL, WRI
A document summarizing these statements could be the basis for feedback at the faculty forums, in addition to any other issues the faculty wish to discuss.