The Curricular Parameters workgroup was charged with guiding and working with academic leaders to define key curriculum parameters (target enrollments, the weighting of different types of courses in faculty workload, course unit minimum criteria, etc.).
The university holds academic excellence as a central value and goal. Our collective aim is to facilitate rigorous learning experiences through high-impact engaged pedagogies approaches to learning that require significant interaction among students, faculty and staff, as well as personalized mentoring to guide students in forming and fulfilling learning goals and a values-inspired life. Curricula are composed of a variety of pedagogical strategies, at their best arranged developmentally so that students build upon successive learning experiences. Our challenge is to create curricula that are maximally effective in achieving learning goals, while also using our human and other resources efficiently and responsibly.
What are the different types of learning experiences that comprise our curricula? What is the optimal number of students for the different types of learning experiences that compose our majors/minors/programs? Sometimes learning can be facilitated best with 30 students; sometimes with one or two. Some of the most high-impact engaged academic learning is currently happening outside of the curriculum, and on top of assigned faculty workload. Since such learning is so important for our students, we must plan this into student curricula and faculty workloads.
Just as learning experiences must be factored into faculty workloads, so too must course type be factored into faculty workloads. While most courses will be weighted as one unit in faculty teaching loads, there may be some courses that are weighted differently for faculty (e.g., Independent Study, Individual Instruction, Internship, laboratory sessions). We must determine our guiding principles about faculty course and enrollment loads (e.g., combination of lower and upper level courses, target enrollment ranges, advisee loads, overload parameters).
We need to determine what we mean by an optimal average course enrollment for our resources and goals and what such an average target means. Target enrollments will likely vary by pedagogical approaches, both within and across programs. For purposes of illustration, let's say that we target for a particular program an average course enrollment of 18 20 students. This target could be achieved with a "diversified enrollment" approach wherein some courses, based on the pedagogical approaches employed, have an enrollment of 30, and some 10. Or the target enrollment could be achieved with most courses having 18-20 students.
A related question is the definition of the minimum criteria for a course "unit". The traditional metric has been "seat time." But seat time has become insufficient as a primary criterion for defining learning experiences. Most contemporary learning theory and research has clearly shown the relative effectiveness of engaged pedagogies that require students' active interaction with learning materials and challenges, with each other, and with faculty and other "experts," both in and out of the classroom. How will we define these minimum standards and, indeed, an optimal standard for our courses?
The work of this group and of academic leaders across all programs will be ongoing throughout this academic year.
- Cindy Bennington
- Kimberly Flint-Hamilton
- Margie Hale
- Lloyd Linney
- Patrece Robinson
- Bob Sitler