Summary: What Are the Goals of a Bates Education?
Based on Faculty Discussions in Fall 2003: April 7, 2004
At many open meetings and discussions over dinner, faculty talked about their goals for a Bates education. What follows is a distillation by the Asheville group of goals mentioned very commonly. We are aware that these may not be the goals of every faculty member, but they represent the views most often expressed at our meetings.
The first two goals ( passion for learning and life-long learning) are overall goals; the next four are habits of mind (making connections, multiple perspectives, understanding contexts, and responsibility to community); then come skills, and two kinds of knowledge. Breadth of knowledge came up repeatedly as a goal, but this was the goal about which there was the most disagreement. Some faculty questioned the importance of requirements for breadth and also its definition.
Passion for Learning
We want Bates students to gain a love of learning, an expectation that it is a crucial part of life, and a passion for at least one subject while at college.
Preparation for Life-long Learning
We want Bates students to become life-long learners, able to identify knowledge needed, conduct research, and draw conclusions. We want Bates students to think for themselves, to question, evaluate evidence, and make decisions. We want Bates students to learn to take responsibility for their learning, develop confidence in their ability to learn when faced with the unfamiliar, defend their own positions and respectfully challenge others’ positions.
We want Bates students to be cognizant of the connections among their courses, their residential lives, their communities, and their extra-curricular activities.
We want Bates students to be able to bring multiple, and interdisciplinary, perspectives to complex problems, to be able to identify different perspectives and see what those perspectives bring to an understanding of the world.
We want Bates students to understand the historical and cultural contexts of their lives, including an understanding of the Bates context, and to have knowledge and experience of cultures outside the ones with which they are most familiar.
Responsibility to Community
We want Bates students to prepare themselves to play an active part in their communities, including scholarly communities. Therefore, we expect our students while at Bates to be active participants in their local, global, cultural and scholarly communities.
We want Bates students to have the skills they will need to achieve these goals and to continue life-long learning: good written and oral communication, close reading, critical thinking, the evaluation of discourse, evidence-based reasoning, and quantitative reasoning.
Depth of Learning
We want Bates students to concentrate in one discipline or area of knowledge, learning intensively both the appropriate knowledge and methods. Gaining deep knowledge in one area of study is crucial practice for life-long learning.
Breadth of Learning
We want Bates students to have some knowledge of several areas of study, so that over their lifetimes they can more easily pursue and evaluate presentations of knowledge in those areas. Even brief experience of different areas of study will facilitate the habit of viewing complex problems from multiple perspectives. Breadth of learning also encourages the understanding of new ideas, cultures unfamiliar to students, and multiple contexts.