Ideas about a Process for Going Forward (November 18, 2003)

Ideas about Process for Thinking about All-Student Requirements

Successful general education design and implementation processes…

1) Have broad participation from the faculty, at least at the consultation level (not necessarily at the detailed design level)

2) Begin with abstract or general discussions of the goals of the curriculum and general education program

3) Use a bottom-up, rather than an administration-down approach

4) Are very open, with frequent communications between those doing the designing, and the rest of the campus community

5) Rarely make heavy use of faculty meetings for discussion

6) Culminate in a vote usually after extensive discussion has achieved broad consensus

7) Rarely rely on standing committees for the bulk of the work

Some models that other institutions have used:

  • The standing committee model: faculty assign an existing policy committee the responsibility to organize faculty discussions, collect any appropriate information, and design new ideas for all-student requirements. Advantage: no new faculty committee. Disadvantage: usually such committees already have a great deal of business.
  • The elected committee: faculty elect some of their own members to carry out all necessary tasks. Advantage: faculty have opportunity to choose members for this particular job; the committee has no competing responsibilities. Disadvantage: sometimes those elected feel a responsibility to represent the views of a particular constituency, putting committee members at odds; sometimes those faculty likely to be elected are not the same as those who are creative designers of curriculum plans.
  • The appointed task force: the Dean of Faculty or a Committee on Committees appoints faculty to a task force which carries out all the necessary tasks. Advantage: the Dean or Committee on Committees can choose faculty good at the job of designing a curriculum plan. Disadvantage: faculty may not feel represented, may not feel confidence in process or the proposal which develops.

The Augsburg process made use of a Design Team and an Oversight Committee. The design team was not chosen on the basis of representation of various campus interest groups, but rather on the basis of the individuals’ talent for, and interest in, curriculum design. It consisted of six members. The twelve-member oversight committee was intended to be made up of representatives of the various faculty constituencies. They serve as the “sounding board” which the design team uses to refine its design. The design team and oversight committee communicate frequently. The design team also sought out programs, departments, individuals, standing committees, and other groups whose activities were expected to be impacted by particular features of the evolving design. The design team actively maintained a public record of their activities so that all interested faculty would know when features of particular interest to them were being discussed. This allowed them to make their ideas and concerns known, and served to reduce any suspicion among the faculty that secret plans were in the offering.