The Core Curriculum is the foundational and essential learning expected of all undergraduate students at Saint Mary's College (as articulated in Learning Goals, Outcomes and Rationales) and the processes by which students achieve that learning (i.e., approved courses and other experiences).
September 10th, 2008
As we begin this new academic year, I would like to inform you about the recent work of the Core Curriculum Task Force and its plans for the year.
As you know, the mandate for the Task Force is to determine community values and vision and to develop learning outcomes based on the values and vision. For the Task Force, this vision is derived out of the Mission of the College and its three constitutive elements: liberal arts, Catholic and Lasallian traditions.
We began with a reconceptualization of the notion of “core” to include outcomes which are able to be met beyond the classroom. This reconceptualization also sees the core experience as developmental, integrative and reflective. Our “Learning Outcomes” document was presented last spring, and the Senate approved the direction the Task Force is taking. You will be receiving a copy of this document which has some minor revisions.
In June, the Task Force met with colleagues from Cabrini College who are a few years ahead of us in the review of their core curriculum. Over the course of three days, we worked with them to develop models for the implementation of our learning outcomes. In response to the questions the Task Force was asked in its mandate, we have surfaced a number of common elements in the models under review: that the core be developmental over the course of a student’s undergraduate experience; that the core be an articulation with the major and not simply something to get done; that it emphasize engaged knowledge through habits of being; that it require reflection by the students on their education; and include on-going assessment.
On our SMCnet webpage is a document describing these common assumptions for the three models we plan to propose for the implementation of the learning outcomes. We will be discussing this very important document with small groups and at a Community Time meeting on Oct. 1. We encourage all of you to participate in this conversation by attending these meetings and visiting our webpage.
Also on our webpage is the Task Force’s “White Paper.” This is an assessment of the current core. In our meetings with you last spring, a number of you asked “What is wrong with the current general education requirements for graduation?” Our response is less about what is wrong than to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the current requirements in meeting the learning outcomes we have submitted. Clearly, the seminar and our preferred pedagogy of shared inquiry, the January Term and the approved writing across the curriculum proposal are strengths identified internally and by outside evaluators. Our response points out ways in which we can better address the needs of our future students using our strengths as the foundation for an even better educational experience at Saint Mary’s College.
Soon after our October meeting with you, we will send you three models for implementation of the learning outcomes. We will schedule campus-wide meetings to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of these models during October and November with the final goal of recommending one model.
Based on these conversations and according to our original mandate, we will submit a final document to the Senate in the spring as well as our academic plan to the provost.
Again, the members of the Task Force thank all of you who have been so very helpful. Your comments, suggestions, challenges, reflections and support have kept us energized and excited about this work. Please continue to participate. Please join us for our meetings and know that each of us is available to you to provide information and clarification on any of our documents. The review of the core has been formally given to a task force, but it is the work of the entire college community.
For the Task Force, I am
Brother Donald Mansir, FSC