Changes come to university core curriculum

11/20/2019

Jessica Lincoln | staff writer

Two years into the three-year revision process, Duquesne now has a draft in development for a revamped university core curriculum.

The new draft is called the Bridges Common Learning Experience, and the process of designing it has involved the work of hundreds of faculty, staff and students, as well as cooperation with the Student Government Association (SGA).

“The Bridges program will provide students with significantly more flexibility when choosing courses for their general education,” said Darlene Weaver, the associate provost for academic affairs, who directs the core curriculum program.

“It will be simpler and easier for students to understand than the current core. It is also designed to make it easier for students to connect general education with their majors and to articulate the value of general education for prospective employers or graduate programs. The Bridges program will make it easier for students to pick up certificates minors or secondary majors.”

Justin Filbert, SGA’s vice president of academic affairs, notes that the draft includes six new competency areas: communication and creative expression, intercultural competency and responsibility, scientific and computational reasoning, critical thinking and problem solving, social and historical reasoning and ethical reasoning and responsible leadership.

The Bridges program is also set to include other new features, including a life skills management course, opportunities for students to develop a portfolio and a university-wide small seminar course.

The program, which is set to go into effect in the fall of 2021, started out with a series of events designed to gather input from faculty and current students who wished to contribute. This culminated in a Design Day event last spring, in which teams of faculty, staff, and students developed prototypes for new classes. Over the summer, the Design Day ideas with the most support were integrated into the Bridges program draft.

In order to keep the feedback process going, the new President’s Committee on Curriculum Re-design is being established by President Gormley and Charles Megginson IV, the current SGA president. The group will meet throughout the spring semester to advise the administration as it begins the process of implementing the curriculum.

“Our goal is to share our experiences and feedback with the administration, so that we might learn from the flaws in our old curriculum, and use that information to help develop a stronger, more diverse and innovative curriculum for the future,” Megginson said.

The new curriculum is meant to adapt the core curriculum to the demands of the 21st century while also maintaining a commitment to Duquesne’s values.

“The old UCOR has done a good job of introducing students to unfamiliar subjects, ideas, and areas of study, but it hasn’t given students, or faculty for that matter, many choices in the courses they take or the courses they teach,” Megginson said.

“This hasn’t been great for either party – many faculty are forced to teach courses outside of their areas of specialty or interest, and students have, in many cases, been jammed into these ‘UCOR mills,’ which a lot of people regard as obstacles or hurdles that they just have to ‘get through’ in order to move on and graduate.”

The Bridges program, Megginson says, will be different, addressing the concerns of students and faculty and providing access to concepts not covered by the previous curriculum.

As it heads into its third year, which will involve ensuring a smooth transition for students and faculty, Weaver says that the process has been very productive so far.

“Revising a core curriculum is a complex process and is often fraught, because it affects so many different stakeholders and because there are so many divergent needs to balance, such as allowing flexibility while also promoting a coherent learning experience.”

Megginson declined to comment on whether he has faced any roadblocks in the process. He said that his priority continues to be making sure that students remain central to any conversation on the subject of the redesign.

“We’ve done a lot of work and still have a lot to do, but I am confident we will meet our goals,” Weaver said.

For students who have questions on the new core curriculum or wish to provide feedback, Megginson will be moderating a town hall discussion on Nov. 21 with President Gormley and Provost Dausey. The event will take place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Wolfe Lecture Hall in Bayer Hall. A mock class selection will also be offered next semester in order to gather student input.

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