Curriculum for Liberal Education

KEY IDEA #1: Redevelop the Curriculum for Liberal Education (CLE)

The CLE is designed “to foster and develop intellectual curiosity and reasoning; strong analytic, communication, quantitative, and information literacy competencies; the capacity for collaboration and creative problem-solving; the ability to synthesize and transfer knowledge; intercultural knowledge and understanding; and ethical reasoning and action.”

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For many students, the CLE experience does not fully realize these aspirations.  The CLE provides a unique opportunity to enhance experiential learning and engage and empower students to be active, creative, knowledgeable, and ethical participants in a globally-networked society. The CLE should be redesigned to provide individualized student learning opportunities that emphasize the acquisition of writing, quantitative and qualitative reasoning, the ability and imagination of problem identification, holistic thinking, and oral communication competencies. Through purposeful integration and collaboration among departments, the revised CLE will create connections across disciplines – offering students the opportunity for both mastery within their discipline and a broad, interconnected set of competencies across disciplines – providing them with the capacity to tackle the “grand challenges” of the coming decades.

Potential Obstacles:

  • Budget/Human Resource feasibility for restructuring of CLE
  • Fostering collaboration between/across disciplines and departments
  • Redevelopment of CLE syllabi and course load structure
  • The creation of course offerings specific to interdisciplinary areas of study
  • Buy-in from faculty on redesigned curriculum
  • Overcoming the pressure on the university to act as a trade school providing just those skills necessary for employment in a predetermined field
  • Acknowledging the difference between liberal education and general education
  • Demand a deeper knowledge of the arts, classical studies, philosophy, history, literature, and languages from each graduating student

Unresolved Issues:

  • How might an interdisciplinary approach impact offering, for example, classical studies or philosophy?
  • How does this approach impact disciplinary knowledge and what it takes to be good at one or the other discipline?
  • How to incorporate meaningful experiential learning opportunities into the CLE
  • Determining which areas can be fulfilled with previous high school/transfer credits
  • Determining credit requirements for each area
  • Can we demonstrate how a good CLE does in fact make a student more employable across a wide range of professions?

Strategic Contribution:
Tomorrow’s citizens and leaders are not created overnight rather are grown and nurtured over time and with great effort.  A core curriculum that allows students the opportunity to explore possibilities and make intelligent connections is key.  An effective CLE will provide students with competencies over skills and the university, the Commonwealth and the world will benefit from these curious seekers and creators of knowledge.  The CLE will be judged successful not today or tomorrow but years down the road if it shapes learners who “problem create” and “problem solve.”

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