Committee to Assess General Education Requirements

Posted by Alex Hodor-Lee

Students in the classes of 2017 and beyond will likely adhere to a new set of general requirements than the ones current Skidmore students follow.

That is because the Committee on Educational Planning and Policy (CEPP), the college committee which recommends educational policies to the faculty and administration, is currently reviewing the foundation and breadth courses requisite for graduation.

Last year the College reviewed its cultural diversity requirement-which requires every student to fulfill one course that familiarizes them with a non-Western culture.

Having reviewed the cultural diversity requirement, CEPP is now appraising the College's general education requirements. Committee members will evaluate whether or not the general education requirements are effectively carrying out the student goals for learning as articulated in the College's goals for student learning and development. [link to: http://www.skidmore.edu/assessment/goals-for-student-learning.php]

"It's getting to that time to assess some of the general requirements," said Peter von Allmen, chair of the Economics department and CEPP. "Some of them haven't been reviewed in almost twenty years. That doesn't mean that the courses that make up the requirements haven't changed...but the requirements themselves have been the same for a while."

CEPP's two major goals are: transformation and integration of education. Transforming the general education curriculum is an effort to tailor students' eduction to more effectively carry out the College's vision for student learning. Equally important is integration: designing curriculum that intentionally connects students' understanding of subject matter across disciplines. "[disciplinary integration] is a conversation not only happening, here, that comes from the AAC&U (Association of American Colleges and Universities) and that is a primary area of interest in higher education right now: not to give up the depth that comes with a major, but to, particularly in a liberal arts setting, make sure that students are seeing the connections across disciplines," Von Allmen said

College policy mandates that the entire review process take at least two years, though many schools which adjust their general education requirements often experience a three to four year process.

The school is concurrently assessing science literacy for many upperclassman students. This week, scores of classes will spend their seminars with science literacy evaluations which are concomitant with the general education review and the planning for a new multi-million dollar science center that the College plans to construct in the near future.

But the College is not just assessing its students and policy. CEPP and other College officials are turning to other schools as a source of inspiration and guidance, according to von Allmen. "A lot of smart people have spent a lot of time thinking about this and so, I think it would be inefficient to just ignore that work," said von Allmen.

Charles Tetelman '16 is one of two student representatives on CEPP. Tetelman recognizes the integral role of outside research as adding to the efficacy of both process and outcome, as such transformative processes are high-stakes and enduring, "One of the difficult things, is that we can't make curriculum based-off evidence that it's working. If it's not working, it's not something you can just change again," Tetelman said

The transformation and integration will have a substantial impact on students' learning, "I like to think Skidmore like a triangle, your education starts out broad and you knock off all of your general requirements, and you get to think peak. But the point of this general education is to have an understanding, of not just what is in your major, but everything else," said Tetelman, adding, "That's not to say if you're an art major you have to be able to understand all the processes of photosynthesis, but you'd be able to understand that biology does have an impact on the world and on art."

The review process will take years. The first challenge is getting departmental input, and then making sure curriculum changes meet everyone's needs. Then CEPP will have to bring it to the faculty for a floor vote, and then they will have to work out the logistics of such an immediate and impactful policy change.

But for von Allmen, such a successful change can deeply and profoundly affect student development. "One of the things that I feel most powerfully about in terms of what [CEPP provides] is not something completely immediately apparent, when you walk across the stage in May," von Allmen said. "That appreciation for multidisciplinary learning--the desire to continue learning after you leave, intellectual curiosity, intellectual maturity--those are things that we hope to foster here that provide benefits way down the road."

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