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Core curriculum to be updated around competency areas

The core curriculum at The University of Toledo is being updated and framed around a set of core competencies that will put more focus on learning outcomes.

Last week the Faculty Senate approved a resolution that endorses the work of two committees —
the Senate Core Curriculum Committee and one organized by the Provost’s Office — to reframe the core experience around five competency areas:

Communication: UT students must demonstrate abilities to communicate meaningfully, persuasively and creatively with different audiences through written, oral, numeric, graphic and visual modes.

Scientific and quantitative reasoning and literacy: UT students must demonstrate the capacity to apply mathematical reasoning and scientific inquiry to diverse problems.

Personal, social and global responsibility: UT students must demonstrate understanding of and critical engagement in ethical, cultural and political discourse and capacity to work productively as a community member committed to the value of diversity, difference and the imperatives of justice.

Information literacy: UT students must demonstrate the ability to find, organize, critically assess and effectively use information to engage in advanced work in a challenging field of study. Students should demonstrate responsible, legal, creative and ethical use of information.

Critical and integrative thinking: UT students must be able to integrate reasoning, questioning and analysis across traditional boundaries of viewpoint, practice and discipline.

In endorsing the core competencies, the Faculty Senate acknowledged that they are not fully defined and could evolve as they are implemented. A full complement of general education courses will be in place for fall 2012.

The University hasn’t evaluated its core curriculum in approximately 20 years, and it is important to make sure that the general education is providing students with necessary knowledge, said Dr. Lawrence Anderson-Huang, professor and chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the new president of Faculty Senate.

“We need to be clear our general education courses are doing what they are supposed to do and that is not really assessed now,” Lawrence-Huang said. “Many other institutions across the nation are going to a small number of competencies rather than a plethora of courses to fulfill requirements.”

Assessment is a major component of the updated core curriculum, and student portfolios are planned to be part of the process.

The faculty commitment to updating the core curriculum is strong, with Faculty Senate forming a committee to work during the summer to develop criteria for course admission into the core. Pilot courses, such as English composition and mathematics with the communication and scientific and quantitative reasoning and literacy competency areas, will be offered in fall 2011.

In order to have the general education curriculum ready for the fall 2012 schedule, courses proposed for inclusion need to be submitted to the Senate Core Curriculum Committee by Oct. 15. The structure of the core will be finalized by the end of December.

The courses in the general education curriculum will be fewer than the more than 250 now offered, but an exact number will not be known until the process is complete, said Dr. Steven LeBlanc, UT professor of chemical engineering and senior associate dean of academic affairs in the College of Engineering, who served on both committees that developed the core competencies.

General education courses also will no longer be level 3000 and above.

“Core classes provide the foundations of the core competencies, and the courses in the student’s major will reinforce them and continue to contribute to the student’s development,” LeBlanc said.

The University’s update to the core curriculum is in line with the national conversation and the direction of the Association of American Colleges and Universities to identify clear learning objectives and outcomes for students to have when they graduate, said Dr. Penny Poplin Gosetti, interim vice provost for academic innovation.

The core curriculum update is also key to continued accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission, a process in which the University is engaged, Poplin Gosetti said.

“Updating the general education curriculum has been in discussion at the University for some time, and the accreditation process sped along the efforts,” she said. “There has been a strong showing of support from both faculty and administrators to move to core competencies.”

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