Curriculum Prospectus - May 2002
In the fall of 1999 the Faculty Curricular Planning Committee (FCPC) was formed with elected representatives of each of Carleton's four curricular divisions plus one active member in an interdisciplinary program (the same five faculty as are on ECC). FCPC was charged to write a "Curriculum Prospectus." The following document was sent to the faculty in May, 2002. Updated appendixes are located to the right and previous appendixes are located at the bottom of this document.
Goals of the Curriculum
The "Purpose of the College" statement in the Carleton College Catalog articulates the fundamental goals for a Carleton education. These goals are in part embodied in the requirements to which we hold all students (writing, language, RAD, distribution, a major), and are directly reflected in both the nine learning goals articulated in our Assessment Plan, first developed in 1995 as part of our North Central Association re-accreditation process (see Appendix A) and in the goals articulated in the "Multicultural Goals for the Curriculum," which emerged from faculty discussions in 1994 on diversity in American society (see Appendix B). All these goals might be summarized as traditional liberal education goals: to "free the individual from the constraints of ignorance, to expose the student to multiple ways and traditions of thinking, to provide some basic knowledge and tools for continuing to explore and create knowledge in the various natural, social, and creative aspects of human life and the world we inhabit, and to help students grow into responsible, curious, contributing and mature human beings and citizens" (p. 5 in 2001-02 Catalog).
More concretely, these goals are realized through course offerings in the traditional liberal arts subjects (sciences, social sciences, the arts and humanities) and focused through attention to particular liberal arts skills: critical thinking, writing, reading perceptively, speaking, languages, and basic quantitative skills. We do not offer vocational programs or pre-professional training per se. Our majors are conceived not only as preparation for further work in the discipline, but also as the vehicles through which students acquire their liberal arts education. While we do offer teacher certification for the high school level, it is significant that we do not offer a major in education but require students to major in a traditional discipline.
Although the college has remained wholly committed to offering a curriculum that embodies both the range of disciplines and the depth of courses characteristic of the finest liberal arts tradition, Carleton’s curriculum has changed over time for a number of reasons, both internal and external. Internally, we respond to both student and faculty interests, the first manifesting itself in enrollment pressures and the second in new courses and concentrations. In the past decade, for instance, the popularity of Biology, Computer Science, Education, Media Studies, Spanish, and Studio Art courses has led to increased staffing in these areas. In the same period we have added concentrations in Biochemistry, Cross Cultural Studies, Environmental and Technology Studies (absorbing the old Natural History and Technology and Policy Studies concentrations), and French and Francophone Studies. Pressures from outside the college include: pre-professionalism (which we resist), cultural and historical developments, biotechnical developments, and changing professional disciplinary organization standards (i.e. American Chemical Society, American Psychological Association). This is not to suggest that changes in the curriculum have lacked guiding principles, or that the faculty and administration have been blindly responsive to outside influences on our curriculum. For the past decade, the chief principles shaping changes in course offerings, faculty appointments, etc. have been the college's efforts to 1) strengthen interdisciplinary studies 2) modernize as fields develop, and 3) deepen diversity (curricular as well as cultural) at the college.
Description of the Curriculum
Carleton's curriculum is rich; we offer between 900 and 1,000 classes a year, including about 30 courses offered on Carleton off-campus programs, and about a dozen courses involving service learning, but excluding PE, labs, and music lessons, see Appendix C1. Over 600 of these are distinct classes. That is, in any one term, of the approximately 300 classes offered, over 200 are courses offered only once a year. Of the remaining courses offered in multiple sections, 30 are the sequenced courses in the languages which students take largely to fulfill the language requirement.
The curriculum is rich in opportunities for independent work. In addition to regularly scheduled courses, for the last nine years the college has offered on average 569 independent studies (not all for 6 credits) per year (and only 12.5 on-campus credit internships per year, see Appendix C2 and C3)! Included in the figures for independent study are all registrations for courses numbered 290, 291, 292, 390, 391, 392, Chemistry 394, and Astronomy and Physics 356, as well as registration for Carleton off-campus studies courses which include independent study (see Appendix C4). Comps, however, is not included (most majors offer independent projects as a comps option).
Over 65% of Carleton students study off campus; over 40% of those students extend the Carleton curriculum through participation in approved consortial and non-Carleton off-campus study programs.
Changes to the Curriculum
The curriculum is remarkably fluid; Carleton faculty regularly propose new courses (although this varies by department) and new courses are easily added to the curriculum. In 2000-01, a typical year, ninety-eight courses were approved, twenty-two of which are offered by visiting faculty (see Appendix D) [compared to 15 at Grinnell, 30-50 at Pomona, and approximately 100 at Bowdoin]. A comparable number of courses were dropped from the Catalog either because the courses were no longer taught or had not been offered for three years. This fluidity of courses is a tremendous faculty-development opportunity. New interests lead to new courses, some one-time offerings, team-taught, first-year or senior seminars. Because curricularly our “statement of purpose" is inherently flexible, these changes have been absorbed by, rather than transforming, the overall curriculum of the college.
The process of creating new courses for the curriculum involves departments, programs, and the Dean of the College, although the nuts and bolts of new course approval is handled by the Associate Dean of the College and the Registrar. Ordinarily, new courses originate in departments and programs. They may reflect a department's decision to revise its curriculum or individual faculty members' evolving interests. Department reviews are frequently occasions for re-thinking the curriculum, but between reviews, there is a substantial amount of flux; the extent to which departments as a whole approve specific new courses varies, but the signature of a department chair is required on any new course proposal form. (Only one department we know of has centralized the approval of independent studies and credit internships in the chair.) In cases of new hires, the Dean approves all tenure-track and leave replacement job descriptions. In addition to approving new courses, the Associate Dean and Registrar approve all independent studies.
New programs and majors are added more judiciously. Since 1990, Integrated General Studies and the Social Thought Concentration have been dropped. Music, Philosophy, Russian, and Classics have substantially revamped their offerings. In addition to the added concentrations mentioned above, Women's Studies has added a major to its concentration and grown into Women's and Gender Studies, French and Francophone Studies added a major, and a new concentration in European Studies is under discussion.
Also for 2001-2002, twenty-six courses were approved to fulfill the Recognition and Affirmation of Differences (RAD) requirement, ten of which are offered by visiting faculty (see Appendix E).
Delivering the Curriculum
Courses are "delivered" by faculty organized into 21 departments and 21 programs or concentrations. The number of course offerings has remained relatively stable for well over a decade. Since 1990, the "teaching FTE" of the faculty has ranged from a low of 157.83 (in 1998), to a high of 168.82 (in 1999), but there has been only a slight upward trend, accountable by virtue of planned additions to the faculty. Our current student/faculty ratio is about 10 to 1, and the average class size is about 17.
The majority of courses are offered for 6 credits; a normal load for students is 18 credits and it is assumed that any one 6-credit course claims one third of the time a student devotes to academics. Courses are numbered 100-400; courses numbered in the 100s are introductory with no prerequisites; courses in the 200s are intermediate and often require prerequisites; courses in the 300s are assumed to be advanced. The number 400 is reserved for the final portion of the senior capstone experience.
Courses numbered 100 are reserved and designed for first-year students. Other introductory courses designated "sophomore priority" register sophomores and first-year students ahead of seniors and juniors. This (sometimes in conjunction with setting and adhering to prerequisites) has worked well in allowing students to explore the curriculum prior to declaration of a major.
No one course or set of courses is required for all students. It's probably fair to say that no two students experience the same curriculum at Carleton. Most students, though, fulfill distribution and skills requirements with about a third of the courses they take at Carleton; the major occupies another third. The remaining third is electives, and may include a concentration.
Well over two-thirds of our students major in something other than what they anticipated their first week on campus. Our late declaration of major combined with our trimester calendar (so students declare in their 6th term, rather than their 4th semester) encourages intellectual exploration. There's a good distribution of students among majors. Between 25-35% of students major in each of the following: social sciences; mathematics and sciences; arts, literature and humanities. Historical data on majors and concentrators is in Appendix F1, F2, and F3.
Strengths and Challenges of the Curriculum
The following outline of Carleton's curricular strengths is a testament to the college's innovative responses to significant challenges from and changes in the "outside world" as it has remained first and foremost concerned to offer undergraduates a superior liberal arts education. We present this as baseline information. The list of challenges spells out the need for our curriculum to continue to develop in meaningful and thoughtful ways.
|I. Strength: Very Rich Curriculum||Challenges|
|Many offerings allow great variety for individual faculty and many choices for students||
|Strong across the board, in all four distribution groups, without over-emphasizing one area or carrying a weak area.|
|Robust majors requiring more courses than at many colleges. This means that very few Carleton students elect double majors, compared with out colleges.|
|Many interdisciplinary opportunities through majors and concentrations providing intellectual integration, collegiality, and intellectual excitement for faculty as well as students. many interdisciplinary programs are more robust than they were a decade ago (i.e. WAGS now includes more social science offerings; American Studies has grown substantially in its ethnic studies offerings.)||
|II. Strength: Skill Orientation||Challenges|
|Writing is an important part of the curriculum. Reforms underway will further strengthen writing, which should bring greater coherence to the writing requirement and truly embody the "writing across the curriculum" emphasis traditional to the requirement. For faculty, the portfolio goal should help focus writing assignments; for students, assembling a portfolio ought to encourage greater reflection and intentionality vis-à-vis their writing.||
|Oral presentation has become increasingly important in the curriculum. Many departments have added oral components to comps in recent years.||
Strong commitment to teaching languages manifested in the size of the requirement and number of faculty.
There were 183 student enrollments in courses above 204; 22 students received an advanced certificate in a language in 2000-01.
|Rich research opportunities, especially for students between the junior and senior year. Spring of 2001, the college awarded research fellowships to fifty members of the junior class to pursue summer research projects. Roughly half of those projects were in the sciences and half in other areas, and more than half were collaborative parts of professors' research programs. Approximately $125,000 was allocated: $20,000 from the budget; the remainder from endowed funds or grants to the college and to individual faculty. Most majors offer a research-based comps option.||
In 2000, Carleton College was awarded a three-year grant by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Five departments are in the process of defining what information literacy means to each department in preparing students to successfully major in that field.
|III. Strengths: Diverse Take on Diversity||Challenges|
|Strong International Studies|
|Strong commitment to teaching languages (see above)||
|Strong off-campus study program with excellent opportunities for Carleton faculty and students through Carleton and consortial programs.
|New rubric of winter-break field trip courses offers exciting opportunities with multiple models already in place:
|Rich area and cross-cultural studies|
|International faculty and students in significant numbers.|
|IV. Strength: Flexibility and Fluidity||Challenges|
|Fluidity of curriculum tolerated well in many programs, which is a good outlet for faculty development.||
|Calendar allows flexibility for students to go off campus, to experiment before choosing a major. Allows students to take only three courses at once and faculty to teach only two at once.||
|Menu-based requirements provide flexibility and choice to students and easily accommodates shifting knowledge or emphasis in subject areas and changing faculty interests.||
|V. Strength: Faculty Staffing||Challenges|
|We have been able to add several faculty positions to the college over the past dozen years through which we have added new topics and approaches to the curriculum, including many interdisciplinary areas.||
|We have had a tradition of fairly generous leave replacement hiring, providing both continuity and innovation to the curriculum.||
- The rapid emergence of new technologies to support and extend excellent teaching offers us an important opportunity. It is crucial that we maintain active exploration of ways to integrate new resources into the classroom where appropriate, and recognize that increasingly students will expect to gather, formulate, and present their work using the new resources of multimedia. We should aim to stay at the forefront of integrating new technologies into a classroom predicated on outstanding teaching and close student contact.
Growth of the Curriculum
- Cross-cultural Studies: its impact on and relationship with the rest of the curriculum is still unclear, especially as it relates to area-studies programs.
- African/African American Studies, Asian Studies, French and Francophone Studies, Latin American Studies and Women and Gender Studies all offer both majors and concentrations. How well is this working? Do the programs have the personnel to offer a curriculum that is sufficiently broad but offers the depth we expect of majors? Does having majors draw attention away from concentrators? Is having majors and concentrations in an interdisciplinary program inconsistent with our recent decision not to offer majors and minors in a department?
- Media Studies: is this a proto-department? Enrollments are extremely strong. There are currently two full-time Media Studies faculty with eight others offering an occasional course. Media Studies faculty and the Deans have recently agreed to put the brakes on majors, focus on the concentration, and encourage special majors only for students who have a dual department orientation. With media burgeoning in modern culture and the economy, should Media Studies expand and if so, in what directions? Toward multi-media and digital technology? Should Media Studies partner with Art and Art History? Should it join with Dance and Theater?
- Building a new Art Gallery will present new opportunities and challenges for curricular development. This will be relevant not only to art and art history, but to other areas for which exhibition may be an appropriate medium of communication.
Balance Between Departments and Interdisciplinary Programs
- Should more faculty positions be defined in future with primary responsibility in an interdisciplinary program (such as Dale Jamieson's in ENTS or John Schott's in Media) or is our department-centered model sufficient?
- Should departments "contract" with programs to provide a certain number of courses per year? Should individual faculty be able to make "contracts" with programs for several years at a time?
- Faculty leaves and staffing: Faculty need to plan ahead and coordinate leaves and course offerings. The current practice of planning the curriculum two years out is more and more important as accelerated sabbatical and increased targeted opportunity grants are implemented. It does not work well for students or colleagues or for the curriculum when many faculty in a department or interdisciplinary program go on leave at once, so faculty need to coordinate their plans, even before they apply for grants.
- Class size: In trying to promote a few large classes across the curriculum (in order to balance the many small classes offered) we may need to develop new strategies with students, who seem to select for small size. Suppressing enrollment limit information at the time students register (since there now seems to be an inverse relationship between that number and the number of students who sign up!) is an option the college may want to explore.
- Pacing: Faculty need to attend to pacing class work through the term so it does not pile up for students (or themselves!) at the end. There is strong evidence that students learn more and better if work is well paced.
- We should consider offering multiple sections of popular courses and fewer one-time courses. Teaching the same preparation twice would reduce the workload and stress for faculty and more enrollment slots in popular courses would increase student satisfaction.
- Continued efforts to diversify the faculty are critical. This includes racial and ethnic diversity across the faculty and recruiting women in certain fields (such as computer science).
The Faculty Curricular Planning Committee
Dean Elizabeth McKinsey
Associate Dean Elizabeth Ciner
Professor Sharon Akimoto
Professor Steven Drew, Co-Chair
Professor Éva Pósfay
Professor Parna Sengupta
Professor Chico Zimmerman, Co-Chair Elect