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Feedback from Departments and Programs

From fall 2014-spring 2015, CCVC invited all academic departments and programs, as well as many other stakeholders (such as Advising, Admissions, the Libraries, etc.) to participate by meeting with CCVC to discuss the Common Curriculum. Over the year, we held about 30 meetings, during which at least one of the CCVC members took notes. These notes have been made public on the CCVC public Moodle site (see Appendix A for a list of CCVC Outreach Activities in 2014-2015).

All of the academic programs were asked the following four questions. Non-academic departments were asked similar kinds of questions depending on their function.

  1. What are the strengths of your department/program? What do you already do well?  Remember that these responses will be shared with the community at large, so please use this opportunity to brag a little bit.  What do you want people outside your department/program to know about your successes and strengths?
  2. What do you wish you could do better, or do more of?  What would it take (resources, support, etc.) for you to reach those goals?
  3. Leaving aside discipline specific knowledge, in what ways does your department/program best contribute to providing our students with a liberal education for their lives beyond college, as informed and engaged citizens, productive employees, ethical beings, etc.?
  4. Are there ways in which you would like to see your department/program contribute to liberal education that so far it has not been able to?

CCVC has also categorized the information we received from the program meetings, using many of the same categories described in the "Faculty Workshop Data Analysis" section of this report because, unsurprisingly, many of the same themes occurred. In the document called "Categorization of Program Meeting Data," we have categorized information gleaned from the program notes, focusing on those issues or themes that show up in the notes of multiple programs. The reader is encouraged to read "Categorization of Program Meeting Data" to see examples of how the programs discuss Themes 1-4 discussed in the above section. Below is a description of additional themes that emerged from the discussions with departments.

Common Curriculum

As the above section notes, this is not the place for a full review of the problems with the current Common Curriculum. However, the participants in the meetings consistently expressed dissatisfaction with the distribution model in use and the lack of coherent philosophy supporting it. Repeatedly, faculty and staff noted that students (and faculty) approach the Common Curriculum requirements as boxes to be checked off.

The dissatisfaction with the distributional structure of the current Common Curriculum seems in part to be the result of a strong desire to work across disciplinary borders. Many people have indicated they would like to team teach or cooperate in other ways across programs and disciplines. The Common Curriculum is seen as an obstacle to interdisciplinary teaching. To take just a few of the examples from "Categorization of Program Meeting Data":

"I wish that we had more cross listed classes or could work on a course with a different discipline."

"Would love to teach with other faculty. Need a common curriculum that makes these kinds of collaborations possible."

"We want to be more engaged in the co-curricular teaching but are not sure in what way."

Later in this report, under the section "Vision & Design Principles," we discuss ideas such as interdisciplinary concentrations, which may help facilitate these connections.

Process and Equity

Another theme from these meetings was the desire to build a new curriculum around answers to questions like, "What do we want our students to be like (years) after graduation?" This leading question from the 2014 Fall Faculty Workshop was repeated many times in our discussions with faculty and staff. For example, again from the "Categorization of Program Meeting Data," we have the following suggestion, "Think about what type of experience a student needs to be the individual they want to be five years from now. What else is necessary to be that person?" And, again from the same document, we get this criticism, "We have the creativity and ability to think more broadly what the education should look like - but need to move away from disciplinary requirements and silos and meeting curriculum requirements through departments (boxes students in). Faculty in general do not think as much in terms of the goals of a liberal education, more topic-driven, not asking broader questions."

Finally, it was made very clear in our meetings that faculty and staff are attuned to and worried about how the needs of our students are shifting. This includes not only students of color or first-generation students, but of all students. There are concerns that we have not been as good at meeting this challenges as we could be: "There are demographic changes, but the issues that we see are not directly related to stereotypically at risk students.  Programs that are put in place should be universal programs - not bridge programs to help students at risk.  We want things that are good for everybody. Some of our most at risk students are the high achievers - they got through high school with little or no studying, don't know how to activate those skills.  They need to learn how to manage their time, how to get through that volume of work."

In Part B we discuss issues concerning equity in greater detail.