General Faculty Meeting
Bruce Nauman, Gary Gabriele,
Core Curriculum Approval Process – Cheryl Geisler, President of the Faculty Senate
Context for the Current Proposal – Gary Gabriele, Vice Provost and Dean of
Issues of Assessment – Pamela Theroux, Assistant Director CIUE, Research &
of Objectives –
of the Survey of Program Representatives –
Chair, Peter Persans called the meeting to order at . He explained the purpose of the meeting on the core curriculum and reviewed the agenda for the meeting.
President Geisler welcomed everyone and thanked them for attending the meeting. She also announced that the meeting is streaming live and can be viewed in playback at a later time. The meeting can be viewed with Windows Media Player at
There is a provision in the Faculty Senate Constitution under the curriculum approval process that all changes to the core curriculum require approval by the full faculty. This is the only curriculum matter that requires this level of approval and is therefore important to think about the process.
Gary Gabriele, Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education began by saying that it is interesting that core curriculum has such importance in the Faculty Senate Constitution, but does not command as much importance in the catalog, which was discovered during the Core Curriculum study. He will be talking about what the current core curriculum is, why it needs to be updated, where the current proposal came from and why it’s important.
The Current Core Curriculum is defined in three places in the catalog.
Under general degree requirements which outlines each plan of study, has two objectives: First, to “reach a preprofessional standing or fundamental mastery in a selected discipline, second, to develop some grounding in knowledge found in liberally educated persons, an appreciation of technology and science, and an openness to ongoing learning.” This is followed by credits requirements, 24 credits of math and science, 24 of H&SS and 12 credits of free electives.
The second place that references the core is in the H&SS core requirements. It says “the core is the foundation of undergraduate education. In it, students develop the skills necessary for personal and professional success, and they also begin to explore the social and cultural areas of study and issues of debate that are important in the global society of the twenty-first century.” This statement is also followed by a set of requirements which are distribution requirements.
The third place is in the science core which has no statement of purpose or objectives, just the credit requirements.
The last time the core curriculum was reviewed was in the 1991-1993 timeframe. There were no substantial changes made in the credit requirements. The only noticeable change was the Physical Education requirement was dropped at this time. A significant portion of the undergraduate curriculum requirements is devoted to the Core, 60 of 124 undergraduate credits are core. There is very little explicit discussion about why the requirements and credit distributions have been established or what goals they should achieve with these. As a result, students are at a loss of how to use these due to no direction in the catalog to help guide students.
It is also regulatory.
Two accrediting agencies, New York State Department of Education and the
Middle States Association will be visiting the campus in the Spring of 2006. During the visit, the Institute will be
judged on 14 standards of excellence in Administration and Academics. In reviewing the standards,
Since a major portion of any degree is associated with the core curriculum, all degree programs built upon the foundation provided by the Core, it is appropriate to have a clearer definition of the core.
In August 2001, a committee of faculty representatives from each of the schools, reviewed the current core requirements, benchmarked other market basket schools, looked at current literature around general education and talked to key executives, alumni, deans, Provost, President and the Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee. In fall 2002 a draft was circulated to all the Curriculum Committees and asked for comments and revisions. Afterwards, another version was put together and sent to the FSCC and then turned back to individual schools for further comments. In April 2003, the final set was voted on and brought forth to the Faculty at the Spring General Faculty Meeting.
Updating the core curriculum addresses internal and external demands. Internally, the core curriculum has been a fuzzy road map for charting student’s course requirements. It serves the program review processes, strategic planning and curriculum revisions. With revisions it can provide a more detailed map of student achievement and engagement in the learning process. In addition, by identifying comprehensive outcomes, it will provide us with an opportunity to see how well we are using our resources to help students engage and learn through their educational experience.
Externally, since the Core Curriculum plays such a vital role
and is such a central piece of the
Dr. Pamela Theroux, Associate Director for Assessment
Research of the
As a new faculty member, she has listened carefully to the discussions and met with different departments about curricular development and the core curriculum objectives. As a sociologist and educational researcher, she has also listened attentively to arguments being constructed around “student-learning outcomes.” As she understands it, the overarching rationale of this proposal is to recognize the overall mission of RPI to teach students, to express this set of student learning outcomes and to provide for a way to determine whether these outcomes are achieved through meaningful assessment. There are Core Curriculum Objectives a.k.a. Teaching Goals, Student Learning Outcomes a.k.a. Learning Objectives and Assessment.
She called her presentation “Assessment as an Art” as opposed to “Issues of Assessment”. She stated that this analogy allows a bit more flexibility, it invokes the idea of creativity, and captures the concept that the act of assessing and is to be individualized. It is coordinated and systematic, but it is to be interpreted according to individual programs. Departments determine how they will define and demonstrate that student learning outcomes are being met.
Throughout the Academy, there is a trend from content-and instructor-centered to student- and learning-centered experiences. This is transforming how we interpret higher education and what we expect of it. It is moving us beyond counting fiscal and campus resources or cataloguing curricular offerings and faculty credentials. The focus has now turned to the experience of student learning: Not only what students are learning but how students learning, how effective the learning process is, what kinds of learning experiences accomplish what kinds of results, and what evidence there is that learning is taking place .
Researchers, practitioners, consumers, policy makers, are focusing their attention beyond documenting achievement to charting the complicated processes involved in creating an effective learning environment or student learning outcomes.
Strategies for curricular coherence and learner-centered environments can and do employ an array of pedagogical approaches across the curriculum while focusing on specific objectives in the overall learning environment. Through directed curricular effort, students can experience not separate courses in a fragmented educational experience but an intentional Program of Learning. They get a map of their total educational experience, both fundamental and complementary that links core-curricular and co-curricular programs as well as extra-curricular and supplementary educational experiences. Assessment can provide an ongoing look into how well educational objectives are being met.
A necessary first step is linking the mission statement, educational objectives and curricular offerings to student learning goals. A necessary next step is gathering, analyzing and using information on the learning experience to support and sustain learning environments.
The process of defining student learning would assist faculty in their teaching, assist students in managing their own learning, assist students and consumers in selecting institutions, assist institutions in planning and supporting the learning environment and students within that program and it would demonstrate to outside constituencies that students at graduation have achieved appropriate education goals.
First, develop meaningful, clear and realistic goals for student learning. Then, build the plan on what are already successful practices, such as those at the institutional level (surveys, tests, statistics, program reviews and reports) and at the program level (senior Capstone theses, papers, group projects, performances, presentations, student portfolios). There are also those at the course level including embedded assessments (syllabi, curricula, instructional materials), direct assessments (student products and performances, exams, quizzes and grades) and indirect assessments (surveys, placements, focus groups).
The assessment of student learning has the student as its primary focus. The systematic assessment of student learning is essential to providing a sound basis on which to monitor the quality of the educational experience, offer evidence of student learning, sustain effective practices and to gain insights that can lead to improvements. But it starts with defining the Learning Goals on which the Assessment is then based.
First, the FSCC was very deliberate in arriving at the final version of the document that was approved and presented to the FS and the faculty. Throughout the revision process, the FSCC took great care to convey the proper spirit of the document as a whole as well as the meaning of each individual outcome.
Second, he discussed some of the individual objectives. Christoph advised people to look at the original document at coreout.pdf. The document posted by the Faculty Senate is a summary in which the points made in the original document were broken down (by the Faculty Senate) into 22 items and each given a heading. The original document only has three headings: Knowledge, Thoroughness, and Experience. The objectives under Knowledge were to refer to goals or skills that would relate to or provide the basis in terms of discipline-related skills that students would take with them. The objectives under Thoroughness refer to generic skills students apply in going about their learning in a thorough manner. The implication was not that the students would have "thorough competence" in all these objectives after two years. Experience objectives refer to how students synthesize and integrate what they do and reach beyond the school.
The interesting heading is that of Thoroughness. He pointed out that, in his opinion, if only what’s on the Faculty Senate website regarding the Core Curriculum is read, one could get the wrong impression. Many have responded to what they saw on the first page and not in the original document.
In some places it says that students should have “thorough competence” to do something. This language is not in original document. Currently, the Leadership objective is “Graduates will have developed leadership skills that embrace cultural diversity and world citizenship.” The other version is “Students should have thorough competence in the leadership skills that embrace cultural diversity and world citizenship.” There is a significant difference than in original document but he believes that this objective and the others under Thoroughness are somewhat generic skills that students should acquire and have now and beyond to do a good job. “I don’t think anyone on the committee really expected that after two years in a core, to have thorough competence anyway.”
The Entrepreneurship objective reads “Students should have a basic understanding of how organizations turn ideas, services, and technology into value.” This is not about entrepreneurship and is a much more general statement. In fact the word entrepreneurship is nowhere in original document because it was too specific of a skill to be incorporated as a core outcome for all students.
The Top 4 Discussables were determined by using the final column “Changes Not Appropriate”. Chair Peter Persans then opened the floor to discussion and comments of the Top 4 Discussables- Entrepreneurship, Values, Outreach and Leadership.
I want to second what Christoph said but when I tried to answer these questions for the interdisciplinary science program, I had a great deal of difficulty because they were different than the discussions I participated in during the FSCC meetings. Are we voting on the document as approved by the Curriculum Committee or voting on recommendations?
Bruce Nauman, Vice President of the Faculty Senate said that we are voting on 22 objectives as they are here. I heard some things in discussion today that I didn’t understand. Gary Gabriele said these represent outcomes of the core curriculum, Christoph suggested that each individual department would have substantial latitude in deciding their own curriculum making. What I understand we are voting on are the 22 objectives, yes or no, approve or disapprove.
Gary Gabriele- I don’t think it’s too difficult to imagine how you can have a similar objective or outcome but have a different emphasis. For example in Engineering, all students take chemistry. In some engineering disciplines, it’s the only exposure had to chemistry and some wonder how important it is. There are places and opportunities for each curriculum to interpret this outcome and define what it means for them and what the outcome means for them in their own context. That is the important part of what we’re trying to do here. We opened up the latitude on how we will achieve these.
These goals are outcomes, and not whether the curriculum will change? Are these appropriate goals for the core curriculum? Will we be voting on each individual outcome? (Yes- from Executive Committee Member) So for example if one outcome received 35 votes for and 33 against does that mean the one that got 35 is in, the other out?
Mike Hanna, Biology
One of the things I find slightly different is similar to both Gary and Christoph suggestion is that the document reads as a whole, as the US Constitution with amendments later, it seems that line item vetoes make things much more difficult if set up as a bunch of goals. I find this a little counterintuitive.
Gary Saulnier, ECSE
I also served on the committee that came up with these outcomes. I believe in an outcome-based approach. However, it seems like we’re putting the cart before the horse. The process in how we’re going to use these objectives needs to be defined. We have to do this assessment and convince them we’re meeting the outcomes but who do we answer to? Who will ultimately decide if a particular program meets a particular outcome? It seems to me that we need a process to do that. I’m reluctant to approve a set of outcomes until I know what the process is and how it will be used. I think the scenario that Christoph described in that individual departments get to use these outcomes and decide for themselves how to reach them is a terrific approach. It allows freedom that we don’t have now. But there is nothing in place that says that is how it will work. There’s nothing in place that says what will happen once we approve this. That has to be done first.
It seems we’re concentrating on a rather irrelevant issue. If we want to provide better teaching then we want to make teaching more important at RPI, provide resources and we want to stop jerking around the instructors by changing the rules every year and then we’ll have better courses for the students. The 22 requirements are very uneven and for example, nothing related to Engineering.
Gary Gabriele- I’ll try to address both of those
Peter Persans, Chair of the Faculty asked how the process will
move forward if an objective is voted down.
Bill Hart-Davidson, LL&C
If one of these gets adopted, what is the possibility that something that came to an unfunded mandate. For example, Communication seems to be universally agreed upon but right now the way the requirement might be satisfied through writing is varied. If we said they need to take 1 of 3 courses to complete that requirement, there are implications for resources for teaching and staffing. Was the possibility of meeting these addressed or a timeline for bringing in these resource issues addressed?
Gary Gabriele- Bill has raised a central issue. How do we make a case for some very important things that need to be done with the curriculum? One of the things we need to do is to collect data against an outcome and show it’s not meeting it and that it needs some help. I always envisioned this as a starting point. The Provost is supportive of this as we identify important areas. We’ll need to find ways to invest in this. My hope is that this makes a stronger case for us. It comes up in curriculum committee that students can’t do certain things like speak or write effectively. Most of this can be anecdotal. Do we have a good handle on the extent to which they can speak and write effectively? I’ve talked to some recent graduates and they feel they are equal to or better than their peers. The evidence is unclear. Either they don’t know how bad they are or they are better than we think.
I wonder if more could be said about assessment because there are some items that I can’t imagine how to assess? One was a “thorough competence in leadership skills that embrace cultural diversity and world citizenship”. I’m lost at what would be considered an assessment for that. There is an item regarding revision. That’s an ongoing practice that students do all the time in their courses. There is a peculiar texture in what might be involved in assessing them which isn’t always very clear.
Pamela Theroux - Assessment will be individually interpreted and have to start with the learning goal. If we decide there is a particular component of leadership that needs to be documented, we have to have a plan. We have to answer to these accrediting institutions and they are focusing on whether we have addressed the objective, come up with a plan to attempt to meet goal and some sort of documentation or assessment to evaluate whether that goal was relevant. If we decide entrepreneurship doesn’t work after one or two years of data, then there is evidence that it needs to be revisited. There are fuzzy areas of how to do these assessments but there is a lot of room for interpreting. It could be as simple as student portfolios and that is evidence. It can be as complicated as a senior thesis and any in between such as focus groups, self evaluations and survey. These are all up to interpretation but we can’t decide those until we have an idea of what it is we are measuring. We have to prioritize what the learning goals are then come up with an assessment.
Linda Caporael - Are you saying that everything is measurable?
Pamela Theroux - There are definitely ways to measure most
things both qualitatively and quantitatively.
I have a PhD in Sociology and Education from
Henry Scarton- No one has spoken about values. It says that “students should have thorough competence in a personal value system that respects self, others and society, and speaks to the societal impact of differences among people.” Along with 8 other people, I put “not appropriate”. Eight voted no changes needed and 7 some changes needed. Here is the comment I submitted: “While it is attempting to try to impose or even discuss the value systems of many diverse groups, this very private matter should not be imposed as a requirement for our students.” And “A personal value system is the choice of the individual, is highly personal, and must be separated totally from any institutional requirements, as it is fundamentally in this country, where we separate church and state.” I have had students come to me who have taken certain H&SS courses in which they talk about values and this particular professor would impose their value system by bullying students into having certain values and by disagreeing it could negatively affect your grade. Values are great, but go to your mosque or church or synagogue, but not here, not at our Institution.
Bruce Nauman, Vice President of the Faculty Senate
I still am concerned about the flexibility the individual programs will have. Let’s say the Science objective is passed. Does that mean that the Mathematics program could think about it and say they don’t want their students to take the required course in Biology, will they be able to opt out? 14 programs say no changes needed which suggests students in 14 programs have an adequate background of the biological world. I’m surprised at that.
Do programs really have flexibility to opt out?
I’m a great believer in the principle that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. I wonder if the Chair or President would entertain a motion to vote on the document as a whole as opposed to the individual pieces that are presented here.
Peter Persans, Chair of the Faculty- It was brought up in the Faculty Senate and the Faculty Senate Executive Committee that the document as a whole would not pass and we wouldn’t know why if voted on as a whole?
Sam Wait- Would it be possible to vote on it as a whole and individually? I am convinced from the meetings I’ve had with the Science Curriculum Committee that many of these would be voted down.
Peter Persans- The vote was intended to take place over a long period of time and faculty understood that people would view on line and vote at a later date. I did not come to this meeting to hold a vote on any item.
Sam Wait- My suggestion would be to modify the ballot as currently intended.
Peter Persans stated that it is a general Faculty Meeting and believed there was a quorum.
Sam Wait made a motion that the faculty vote on the Core Curriculum document as a whole as submitted by the Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee. It was seconded.
President Geisler explained that the proposal would not be passed or not passed today with the group in the room. The vote was to determine whether to vote on the proposal as a whole or on the individual objectives. She also stated that the full proposal is on the Core Curriculum website.
Achille Messac- MANE
I would like to return to the discussion that Bruce mentioned regarding flexibility. It would be interesting to know the degree of flexibility. If such flexibility allows for a program to opt out, then this would be a futile exercise. If we can say no, then why do this vote. If we can’t say no, then our departments will be bound.
Gary Gabriele- Right now the situation is the same as it would be under any new outcomes. Any degree program can propose an exception for their program to the Core requirements that has to be approved by FSCC and FS. Any exception would be carried through the same way and it would not change. If a program wants to opt out of a particular requirement, it would have to be approved by FSCC.
Carl McDaniel, Biology
Several speakers have indicated that there is a course in biological science that will be required. Students should have a fundamental understanding of the scientific method of inquiry with basic understandings of both the physical and biological world. What I believe in the group I’m working in having a pilot course is we are providing one way in which students can meet this goal and how it comes out is clearly not known yet. We will see five years from now what that really means. I do not believe I’m designing a course that is required on this campus now and is for everybody.
Mike Fortun, STS
I am bothered by the majority rule and if that’s how the Faculty votes on everything then that’s the end of the story. I was pondering Mike Hanna’s analogy to the U.S. Constitution and if this is a fundamental document, if it’s a good proposal, you would get 2/3 vote and if it’s divided so closely, there may be a need for something further.
Peter Persans- The Faculty Senate Constitution simply states quorum and majority and the Constitution is currently being re-worked.
I’d like to go back to Sam’s motion. I also think of myself as a holistic thinker but if you look at the document, it’s whole but some of it is hidden from us. As I see the kind of votes that have already been taken by the representatives it doesn’t look as if it stands a chance to be voted on as a whole because of the sum of its parts. Therefore if one wants to be a holistic thinker, you have to look at the overall principles to see if we can agree on those which will then allow us to see what is behind some of these further breakdowns.
Mike Hanna - The original document is more holistic and what has happened there’s been an interpretation on what can go up or down on. Most documents such as policies are not subjected to accepting a certain piece and not accepting others or it ends up looking piece-meal. If someone does not like the document, then vote against it. You either vote that you like it or you don’t. Voting on individual objectives provides greater confusion as opposed to lesser confusion. The original document has been through all of the curriculum committees on campus and as a member who has looked at it, it looks better as a whole.
Provost Peterson requested that Christoph comment on what his intentions were for this document when it went to the Faculty Senate Executive Committee. Christoph stated that in his opinion, it was done as a whole document although never debated directly. It was the Faculty Senate Executive Committee’s decision to break it up into line items. The Curriculum Committee met to discuss the document as a whole.
Bruce Nauman- I understand your point about the whole, but these items do appear as individual line items, how would accrediting agents assess us against individual items and how would they assess us against a whole document? Christoph replied that he didn’t know.
Peter Persans called the motion to a vote. After a quick count and clarification of who can vote, it was determined that there was a quorum.
Sam Wait made a motion to modify the ballot that has been prepared to have a single vote on the document as a whole by the entire faculty.
Vote: 17 in favor, 9 against, 4 abstentions
The FSXC will create a single item document.
Bob Block recommended since the intent was to get feedback on these issues, he recommended that in addition to voting up or down, the balloting process has ample space to show particular problems in a certain objective. The Executive Committee will have to work out the details since the vote will be delayed.
Bruce Nauman added that he will be sending out an email to the entire faculty explaining the procedure for voting.
Meeting adjourned at