Modes of Inquiry (MOI) FAQs for students

1. What are “modes of inquiry” and what is the Bates requirement?

Modes of inquiry refer to the ways in which people identify and explore questions of interest. They are the systems and methods by which humans create, construe, and convey information. While there are more that could be enumerated, the Bates general education program emphasizes exposure to five Modes of Inquiry, which are called Analysis and Critique [AC], Creative Process and Production [CP], Historical and Social Inquiry [HS], Scientific Reasoning [SR], and Quantitative and Formal Reasoning [QF]. As part of the degree requirements at Bates, students must take at least one course in each of the five Modes of Inquiry prior to graduation.

2. How does the Modes of Inquiry requirement fit into a liberal arts education?

While college is a time for vigorously seeking knowledge and expanding upon a knowledge base, we believe that a vital quality of the life of the mind is continual reflection on how we know what we know. Thus, the general education program at Bates encourages students to develop not only competencies and depth of understanding in primary and secondary areas of scholarship (a major and a minor, GEC, or second major) but also an appreciation for the breadth of methodologies and frameworks with which we construct knowledge. This latter feature of the general education program is called the “Modes of Inquiry” requirement.

Courses that satisfy the Modes of Inquiry requirement are designed to foster development of analytic skills, ranging from critical analysis to scientific reasoning, while promoting conceptual thinking, attention to context, creative production, and reasoning from evidence. Through intentional exploration of “ways of knowing” across scholarly disciplines, the Modes of Inquiry requirement encourages students to think about thinking with greater intentionality and self-awareness. As cultivation of these skills enhances one’s capacity for knowledge generation, we believe that student engagement with multiple ways of knowing will prepare them for a rapidly-changing world that requires complex and imaginative problem-solving, perspective-taking, and multidisciplinary collaboration.

3. What Modes of Inquiry does Bates require? 

To acknowledge the importance of the entire scope of the liberal arts and to ensure additional breadth of education beyond the major and the secondary area of study, Bates College requires students to complete five courses with distinct approaches to scholarly inquiry. These five domains are defined below:

  • Analysis and Critique [AC]: This mode examines cultural products and processes to consider how and why meaning is created and contested, arguments are constructed, art is produced, and values are established.
  • Creative Process and Production [CP]: This mode provides the skills requisite for the creation and production process and ways to express, test, and/or give form to ideas.
  • Historical and Social Inquiry [HS]: This mode of inquiry explores the history and complexity of the individual, human societies, and social interaction, from the intimate to the global, across time and space.
  • Scientific Reasoning [SR]: Scientific reasoning is an iterative process that uses empirical observations to develop and test theories about the natural world.
  • Quantitative and Formal Reasoning [QF]: Quantitative reasoning is the application of basic mathematics and statistics to interpret data, draw conclusions, and solve real-world problems. Formal reasoning involves constructing and evaluating arguments or algorithms according to a set of established principles in a variety of contexts.

Courses that satisfy these requirements, which are labeled as such in the Bates College Catalog [insert link], significantly engage students with the particular mode of inquiry. In addition to providing opportunities to develop facility with the mode of inquiry, instructors encourage students to evaluate the values, strengths, and limits of mode-specific methodology. Students can then reflect on the differences between these varied approaches to constructing knowledge.

4. What will I learn in Modes-designated classes?

There is a wide variety of courses associated with each of the five Modes of Inquiry, and course instructors create learning objectives that are specific to their classes. However, at a general level, students can anticipate the following:

  • Analysis and Critique [AC]: Courses with this designation help students understand how forms of representation create and communicate meaning as they explore the workings of language, rhetoric, informal reasoning, and systems of belief. Students analyze, for example, aesthetics patterns, artistic traditions, philosophical argumentation, and rhetorical strategies to acquire the critical skills to identify and investigate the complex dynamics, norms, beliefs, and agencies at play within cultural products and processes.
  • Creative Process and Production [CP]: Whether making art, composing music, writing creatively, producing film, envisioning the world in a new language, or performing in various ways, courses with this designation enable students to engage with and develop their ideas and imagination. Students enter into a dialogue with past and current practices, reexamining them and gaining an understanding of the fields from a maker’s, experimenter’s, or performer’s point of view.
  • Historical and Social Inquiry [HS]: Courses with this designation pay attention to the diverse tools scholars use to examine systematically the way in which humans experience, construct, and behave within the social worlds they inhabit, around the world and across the millennia. They often consider how social structures define and distribute wealth, power, and status among different human populations. As students investigate the bidirectional relationships between individuals and groups, groups and societies, and societies and nations, they note how contextual variables at each level of analysis influence how people understand themselves and others and foster an empathetic understanding of the human condition.
  • Scientific Reasoning [SR]: Courses with this designation teach students the utility of scientific reasoning when developing explanatory models that unify a broad range of systematic observations. That development includes testing theories by comparing their predictions to further observations and subsequently refining or abandoning them when new information demands it. By gathering, analyzing, and interpreting empirical measurements, students learn the value of reliable data when drawing scientific conclusions.
  • Quantitative and Formal Reasoning [QF]: Courses with this designation sharpen students’ facility with numerical, logic, and other symbolic systems. By applying basic mathematics and analysis tools (e.g., graphing, simple statistics), students learn to extract meaning from real-world data. Experience with formal systems such as logic, computer programming, and mathematical proofs hones students’ ability to make valid deductions in abstract contexts and sound judgments in everyday life. Learning how and when to engage explicit rules for decision-making will enable students to formulate and assess quantitative arguments and logical constructions.

5. Does the Modes of Inquiry requirement pertain to me?

The Modes of Inquiry requirement takes effect with the Class of 2023 and beyond.

6. When should I complete the Modes requirement?

Students in graduation years 2023 and beyond must complete the requirement prior to their graduation. Thus, students have all four years of college in order to complete the requirement. However, as a goal of Modes-designated classes is to encourage exposure early in college to different approaches to scholarship, it is suggested that students complete the requirement prior to the junior year.

7. How do I find courses that satisfy the Modes of Inquiry requirement?

Students should consult the Bates College Catalog for a list of classes. Courses that satisfy a Mode of Inquiry are marked with the following abbreviations in the course description: AC, CP, HS, SR, and QF. Some Bates courses may satisfy two different Modes of Inquiry, in which case the course description will feature two of these abbreviations instead of one. If a course is designated by two different Modes of Inquiry, the student can apply one mode or the other, but not both, toward the graduation requirement.

8. How do I keep track of my progress toward completing the Modes requirement?

In addition to regular consultation with their faculty academic adviser, students should check their DegreeAudit, which can be found in Garnet Gateway under the Student Records menu. DegreeAudit gives students a complete profile of their progress toward completing graduation requirements. DegreeAudit updates automatically with each registration change, and there is a “what-if” feature to see how progress would change if a particular course, major, minor, or GEC were undertaken.

9. I took a course that fulfills a Modes of Inquiry requirement and also counts toward my major (or minor or GEC). Can I use the course in both ways?

Yes, but with limits. Students may apply a total of two courses from their “major + 1” — which is the combination of courses taken to satisfy the major and a second area of study (i.e., a GEC, minor, or second major) — toward the Modes of Inquiry requirement. Consequently, students must fulfill at least three Modes of Inquiry from courses that are outside the major and outside the second area of study (i.e., a GEC, minor, or second major). The DegreeAudit system helps students keep track of their courses, including how and where they satisfy graduation requirements.

10. I took a Bates course that is listed as fulfilling two different Modes of Inquiry. How do I specify the Mode for which I would like the course to count?

No double-dipping is allowed among AC, CP, HS, SR, and QF courses; these requirements must be met by five distinct courses. If an individual course is designated by two different Modes of Inquiry, only one of these Modes can be applied to the graduation requirement. The DegreeAudit system automatically tracks which courses a student takes and which Modes those courses satisfy. The DegreeAudit system will always apply a “best fit” model when reporting a student’s progress such that it takes into account the appropriate double-dipping rules described above while also taking into account courses that have more than one Mode designation.

11. Can I elect the pass/fail option for a Mode of Inquiry course?

No. Given that all general education requirements at Bates must be taken for a letter grade, students cannot elect the pass/fail option for a course that is to be counted as fulfilling a Mode of Inquiry.

12. Can I petition that a non-designated Bates course be counted as fulfilling a Mode of Inquiry?

No. The process by which a Bates course is designated as fulfilling a Mode of Inquiry is initiated by instructors, with a faculty-governed review process. Although students themselves cannot initiate the process for determining eligibility of a course, they may ask the course instructor to consider whether the course is suitable for fulfilling a Mode of Inquiry.

13. Can I apply non-Bates credits toward the Modes requirement?

Yes, non-Bates courses (e.g., summer courses) as well as courses from study abroad) can be applied to the Modes of Inquiry requirement if they are determined to be directly equivalent to a Bates course that is already tagged with a Mode designation. During the process of transferring credit from an outside institution, the student requests the appropriate Chair (in the case of the credit being relevant to a major or minor) or GEC coordinator (in the case of the credit being relevant to a GEC) to consider the suitability of the non-Bates course. If the Chair or GEC coordinator determines that the non-Bates course is a close match to an existing Bates course and the credit is successfully applied to the student’s Bates transcript, then the DegreeAudit record will be updated to reflect that the student has satisfied the Mode of Inquiry associated with the Bates version of the course.

14. Can I petition that a co-curricular or extracurricular experience count toward the Modes of Inquiry requirement?

No. Experiences that do not result in course credit cannot be applied to the requirement.