Core curriculum in works

By Melissa Prentice

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The provost said plans for the core curriculum will continue despite criticism from some faculty members.

"The president and I will stand firm on the requirement that the university become more 'user friendly' toward our students. The details of the core curriculum remain open topics .," Provost Paul Sypherd stated in a letter to faculty members. "Each of you can make a choice; you can either join with us and influence the development of the core courses or you can stand on the side lines and not participate."

The core curriculum proposal would unify the general education requirements for all students by creating required year-long courses in natural sciences, social sciences and humanities. Students would also be required to take math and English composition and possibly a foreign language.

So far about 350 faculty members have volunteered to serve on one or more of the 11 core curriculum committees, Sypherd said. Everyone was assigned to the committee according to preference, he said.

The motivation of participating faculty members ranges from those who are very interested in either implementing or nixing the proposal to those who are just curious and want to be a part of the decision process, Sypherd said.

"Many faculty members are resistant because they have worked for some years to develop general education courses that work for them," he said. "Some people are just resistant to change, and often reasonably so."

Planning the details of the core curriculum has now been turned over to the 11 committees. Three of the committees will design the natural science, individuals and societies, and arts and humanities classes. Other committees will focus on how other skills including analytical thinking, writing, speaking and foreign language will fit with the core classes. Faculty development and advising and career planning are also topics of various committees.

The individuals and societies committee has has met twice to define the goals of the course, said Holly Smith, dean of social and behavioral sciences.

"We want the class to teach students to be informed consumers of social science research," Smith said. "We also want students to realize the social structures that influence their lives.

Smith said although not all committee members are supportive of the core curriculum idea, the group is committed to designing an effective core course.

"We are not here to debate if it makes sense, we are just going to try to do it," she said. "We are not sure if such a class can be designed and taught, but we are going to try to see if that is true."

Although most of the 45 faculty members who participate on the committee are from social science departments, other departments including astronomy and law are also represented, Smith said.

The committee makes regular reports to department heads "to get feedback from the faculty," Smith said. She added that she thinks faculty input is essential in planning and implementing the core curriculum proposal.

"Faculty members have the best ideas of what needs to be taught and how to teach it," she said.

About 40 faculty members have also developed goals, planning skills courses in computation, analytical thinking, writing and speaking. The committee plans to decide how many units will be required to teach the quantitative, written and oral skills students need and to devise a structure that would not waste students' time, said J.D. Garcia, a physics professor who chairs the committee.

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