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The Strengths of the Common Curriculum

While we believe that we can create and implement a better general education curriculum, we recognize that we are currently doing many things very well and we should build on our strengths (see Appendix B for a list of current Common Curriculum requirements). In particular, the faculty and staff at CSB/SJU are already engaged in many of the high impact practices recommended by groups like the AAC&U and the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). High impact practices have been the subject of much research and are known to improve retention rates and student learning (Kuh 2008).

The AAC&U recommends the following ten high impact practices: first year seminars and experiences; common intellectual experiences; learning communities; writing intensive courses; collaborative assignments and projects; undergraduate research; diversity and global learning; service and community based learning; internships; capstone courses and projects (see Appendix F for a list and description of High-Impact Practices). It is worth noting that many of these high impact practices are embedded in the academic life of our students. Practices such as the First Year Seminar, writing intensive courses, collaborative assignments and projects, undergraduate research, and the capstone are found in the CSB/SJU academic curriculum. In addition, other offices and areas within the colleges promote these practices. For example, diversity and global learning is part of the mission of the Office of Education Abroad and the Office of Experiential Learning and Community Engagement facilitates internships and promotes service and community based learning.

We recommend that any new curriculum maintain these high impact practices going forward. (For more details, see Part B of this report.) Again, we should celebrate and build upon our current strengths. While many high impact practices are embedded in the learning experiences we have created for our students, making sure that these practices are part of the general education curriculum will ensure that they reach all students.

Of the ten high impact practices, only two of them are not a prominent part of the learning experience at CSB/SJU: common intellectual experiences and learning communities. It is telling that these two high impact practices are ones that focus on the integration of learning, which is one of the major problems with the Common Curriculum. The committee would recommend keeping these two high impact practices in mind as we move forward in the process of building a new curriculum.