By Jose Castillo, news correspondent
Beginning this semester, four Northeastern Universitydepartments will begin testing a series of new core requirements developed by the university’s Curriculum Committee.
Faculty members in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, the College of Computer Science, the History Department and the English Department will apply 11 proposed core requirements to their respective curricula. These pilot units will test the feasibility of changing the standards and eventually lead the way for an overall university curriculum change by the fall of 2016.
Peggy Fletcher, associate dean of the D’Amore-McKim School of Business and a member of the University Undergraduate Curriculum Committee, explained the changes to the new core.
“The major change is that we went from courses required to learning objectives,” Fletcher said.“And that’s a good thing, so I think it will make it ultimately clear what you have the opportunity to learn at your time here.”
A committee of professors from different colleges sought to create standards which would provide measurable results and allow students to learn skills determined to be necessary to the world today. The committee created a list of 11 requirements that each student should strive to learn through these courses.
Under the new NU Core, students will have to fulfill a series of learning goals: Engaging with the Natural and Designed World; Exploring Creative Expression and Innovation; Interpreting Culture; Conducting Formal and Quantitative Reasoning; Understanding Societies and Institutions; Analyzing and Using Data; Engaging Differences and Diversity; Employing Ethical Reasoning; Writing Across Audiences and Genres; Integrating Knowledge and Skills Through Experience and a Capstone.
“Our job was to look at the central curricular aspects of the core and come up with categories that could be nicely defined by measurable learning outcomes and represent a breadth and depth of learning,“ Andrew Gouldstone, a committee member and an associate professor in the College of Engineering, said.
The first eight requirements allow for flexibility in selecting courses, while the last three requirements – Writing across Audiences and Genres, Integrating Knowledge and Skills Through Experience and the Capstone – will be fulfilled by specific writing courses, co-op experiences and capstone projects, respectively.
“[For example] Engaging in the Natural World; normally you would take a science course and the core would require that. So instead you have a three learning objectives,” Fletcher said. “For instance, ‘formulate a question that can be answered through investigation…so this no longer means you have to take chemistry. Any course that meets that learning objectives and show that they are assessing the students and giving the opportunity to be able to excel in those areas, those courses will meet those learning objects.”
Though these changes will be fully implemented by next year, the process of changing the curriculum has not been a quick one. In 2013, the Senate Agenda Committee proposed changing the curriculum. In 2014, a group of professors, deans and a member of the Student Government Association, economics major Noah Carville, began forming the basis of the new core requirements.
After the group settled on new standards, the University Undergraduate Curriculum Committee set out a series of steps on how to integrate the standards into each school.
According to Fletcher, the group hopes for an easier process for course proposal and subsequent approval or denial.Under the previous core, professors would fill out paper forms when proposing new courses, adding time to an already slow process.
Now, using a program named CourseLeaf, professors will propose courses electronically, expediting the process and providing students with a more up-to-date course catalog.
While the ease of proposing classes and flexibility of standards may lead to more creative courses, those in charge of changing curriculum suspect that these effects will come with time.
“Initially, I see the existing courses fitting into the new core [with] some changes in order to meet those learning objectives,” Fletcher said.
Gouldstone expressed a similar sentiment.
“We didn’t want anyone to completely overhaul their majors just to satisfy this new core,” he said. “That’s why flexibility is key. That’s why I’m so excited.”
After the results from the pilot program are examined and reviewed, the changes will be official. Students entering the university for the 2016 fall semester will be the first class to be affected by these core changes.
Rob Bond, afreshmaninternational business student, said he’s excited for the opportunity to participate in a new curriculum.
“It gives me the chance to challenge myself,” he said. “The average college student changes his college major like three times, so the new curriculum would allow me to diversify and see what the right path is for me.”
Photo by Brian Bae