March 10, 2009

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By Sam Alcorn

LEWISBURG, Pa. – Bucknell University’s College of Arts and Sciences has approved a comprehensive new curriculum requiring students to draw upon the breadth of Bucknell’s academic core while critically examining issues in the global community. It will be launched in fall 2010 with the arrival of the Class of 2014.

Representing one of the biggest changes in the Arts and Sciences  curriculum in more than a decade, the new College Core Curriculum will provide students with the “foundational preparation for a lifetime of critical thinking and civic engagement” in a rapidly changing world, said College of Arts and Sciences Dean Christopher Zappe.

Following an institutional review that began two years ago, the College Core Curriculum and implementation timetable were approved Feb. 19 by the Arts and Sciences College faculty.

Educational outcomes
The new curriculum requirements are “aimed at improving on some of the strengths of the previous requirements while also rectifying some of their problems,” said Sue Ellen Henry, a co-chair of the Arts and Sciences Curriculum Committee and associate professor of education.  “One of the important improvements this curriculum makes is in taking our curricular values and offering learning goals that we can actually assess to see if we’ve fostered these values and created these educational outcomes.”

ohn Hunter, co-chair of the Arts and Sciences Curriculum Committee and associate professor of comparative humanities, said that learning goals offer consistent and minimum expectations for what these courses are to achieve for students and what students should know and be able to do as a result of participating.

“This helps us focus our attention on some common aims; not the sole aims of any course, but some consistent aims across courses,” said Hunter. “This should help our students gain a more consistent experience across the curriculum and, ultimately, be better educated as they navigate their way through their education with clear goals in mind.”

The four College Core Curriculum components are Intellectual Skills, Tools for Critical Engagement, Disciplinary Perspectives and Disciplinary Depth: The Major.

The Intellectual Skills component will include a required foundation seminar for first-year students, a foreign language course requirement, a co-taught integrated perspectives course for second-year students and a laboratory science requirement. “Labs that are exploratory in nature or aimed at discovery are strongly encouraged,” the proposal’s authors said.

Tools for Critical Engagement will provide students with opportunities to apply skills and knowledge to issues that are either a historical or new challenge. The courses include:

  • Diversity in the United States, which has as its central concern approaches to gender, sexual orientation, class, race, religion or ethnicity in the cultural landscape of the United States, including their evolution in this country.
  • Environmental Connections, which will allow students to confront their personal connection to the environment through an analysis of environmental systems, cultural narratives that shape the environmental relationship or societal mechanisms that collectively interact with the environment.
  • Because global relationships are  reshaping politics and economics as well as social and cultural relations, Global Connections courses will help students to identify and explore different cultural perspectives and inter-relationships between and across cultures.
  • Quantitative Reasoning courses will prepare students for engagement with quantitative examination in which they will gain skills for comprehending, evaluating and communicating basic quantitative claims and evidence. 

An additional requirement will expose students to a “wide range of intellectual inquiry” by requiring that they take two courses from each of the college’s divisions, including the arts and humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences and mathematics.

Development of the College Core Curriculum took place over the last 30 months and the transition period is designed to allow departments to research and discuss options for classes and adjust course offerings.

Phased implementation
In addition, the report’s authors said that the phased implementation “recognizes that the University’s financial situation has changed significantly’’ and that some College Core Curriculum elements, like the integrated perspectives course and foreign language requirement, will require sufficient funding for development and staffing for implementation.

Each College Core Curriculum element will be subject to ongoing assessment with a full review being conducted during the 2015-16 academic year. The foreign language requirement will be reviewed at the end of the 2013-14 academic year.

Contact: Division of Communications