Senate passes curriculum proposal

February 21, 2012

The University Senate approved a proposal for the framework of an undergraduate outcomes-based core curriculum and the structure for its administration and oversight at a meeting on Monday (Feb. 20).

Teri Reed-Rhoads, chair of the Educational Policy Committee, and Teresa Taber Doughty, chair of the core curriculum committee, presented the proposal on the core curriculum, which has been changed to be called the undergraduate outcomes-based core curriculum to better reflect the scope and goals of the initiative.

As outlined by the proposal, students will acquire competencies established within a common set of foundational and embedded learning outcomes. Common coursework focuses on foundational outcomes in written and oral communication; information literacy; science, technology, and mathematics; and human cultures.

Embedded learning outcomes, which would be addressed within courses typically taught within a specific discipline or major, are creative and critical thinking; ethical reasoning; global citizenship and social awareness; intercultural knowledge; leadership and teamwork; quantitative reasoning; integrative knowledge; information literacy; and oral and written communication.

Faculty would determine where and at what level embedded outcomes would be met within their programs and for assessing student learning on embedded outcomes within their courses. The proposed curriculum would apply to students starting at Purdue in the fall of 2013.

Other changes to the proposal include:

* Emphasizing that rubrics provided within the proposal are guidelines. The rubrics, adapted from those by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU), indicate levels of knowledge and skill development increasing from "developing" (Level 1) to "emerging" (Level 2) to  "proficient" (Level 3). Faculty may use these when determining the appropriate level of knowledge at which students would meet outcomes.

* Further definition of the role and responsibilities of the Undergraduate Curriculum Council (UCC), which is charged with the administration and oversight of the outcomes-based curriculum. The proposal recommends establishing the UCC by no later than the spring 2012 semester. The council would address issues including approval of foundational courses, establishment of guiding rules, regulation and monitoring of approved courses, and resolution of issues related to transfer students.

At least one faculty representative from each college/school and Purdue Libraries would serve as voting members for three-year terms. The faculty in each college/school would select their representative to the UCC. In addition, ex officio members would be added to include representatives from the University Senate, regional campuses, Office of the Registrar, Office of the Provost, and Purdue Student Government, and a head academic advisor.

* Providing background and rationale for adopting an outcomes-based curriculum, including the need to better prepare students for future employment success by providing a broader skill set beyond discipline-specific abilities. Additional factors are new accreditation requirements from the Higher Learning Commission as well as legislation under discussion in the Indiana House that would require state educational institutions to create a statewide transfer general education core for implementation by May 15, 2013.

The task force now will begin working with units to nominate courses for the foundational outcomes and to map out programs of study to achieve the embedded outcomes.

In other Senate business:

* The Senate heard a legislative update from Julie Griffith, vice president for public affairs.

* The Senate heard from Natalie Carroll, chair of the Nominating Committee, about a nominee for the vice chair of the Senate for 2012-13. The nominee is David Williams, professor of medical illustration. The Senate will vote for the vice chair at its March 19 meeting. The vice chair for 2012-13 would serve as chair of the Senate for 2013-14.

* Under new business, Senate chair Morry Levy discussed the creation of an ad hoc committee that will focus on advancing the University's research agenda. The committee is a joint effort of the Senate, Office of the Provost and Office of the Vice President for Research.

* Levy also reported on a new group created to study the University's trimester plan. The joint effort of the Senate and the Office of the Provost, which will either be a task force or ad hoc committee, will discuss plans for next summer and examine faculty workload.

* Tim Sands, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, provided an update on the academic program assessment.