Over the last year, the Academic Leadership Group* has met many times to discuss how to improve the quality of a Wentworth education. We discussed the academic organization in detail, which resulted in the formation of the four colleges and thirteen departments. We discussed the academic calendar, which resulted in the new academic calendar being put in place in January 2012. We discussed a whole host of scheduling issues, which resulted in multiple changes that have reduced the problems that occur at the beginning of each semester and even made it possible to schedule classes in the same room for every class period. The discussions have now moved on to more detailed examination of the curricula and graduation requirements. One of the fundamental principles that guide these discussions is that we must do what is best for the Institute as a whole, not for any individual department or program.
The Academic Leadership Group spent last Thursday discussing a compelling proposal put together by the Humanities and Social Sciences faculty to change the HSS curriculum.
In brief, the proposal recommends changing all HSS courses to 4 credits instead of the current somewhat confusing mixture of 3 and 4 credit courses. The current model is a remnant of the time when the Institute offered “2 + 2” bachelor degrees: the first two years and second two years were actually taught by two separate colleges. At present, four of the courses are 4 credits and four of the courses are 3 credits, for a total of eight courses and 28 credits. The HSS proposal is for seven courses, six being 4 credits and English II being either 2 or 4 credits, which is still being evaluated. The total HSS curriculum would be either 26 or 28 credits in the new format. The proposal would eliminate the difference between sophomore social science courses and upper level HSS courses. The proposal sets new standards of rigor in all courses – averages of 20 pages of writing during the semester and 40 pages of reading per week. The overall goal is to help us produce strong writers, critical thinkers and critical readers.
The academic leadership group discussed the HSS proposal in detail and developed lists of the benefits of the proposal, challenges presented by the proposal, and questions that the group felt still need to be addressed. During the discussion, the group reviewed comments on the proposal that had been submitted by the faculty in writing, during department meetings or through discussion with the department chairs. You can still comment on the HSS proposal by sending me an email – PinizzottoR@wit.edu.
One conclusion is that the primary issue that must be resolved before reconsideration of the proposal is whether Wentworth will adopt 3-credit or 4-credit courses as the standard for the Institute. The current mix of 3 or 4 hours of lecture per course creates logistical problems, particularly for classroom scheduling. While the Institute has been on a path to a 3-credit standard, the HSS proposal makes a strong pedagogical case for a 4-credit standard. Because there is currently a mix of many credits and lecture hours, standardization would require significant adjustments to scheduling, course content and curriculum for some programs. The academic leadership group had a long and passionate discussion about the issue, ultimately leaving the decision to the deans and the provosts. A decision will be announced as soon as possible after the August graduation.
The HSS faculty were asked to address the questions that were raised by the group and bring the proposal back for further discussion at the next meeting.
The Academic Leadership Group also prioritized graduation requirement topics for discussion at future meetings. The top three issues are: (1) academic outcomes for co-ops, (2) research methods classes, and (3) First Year Seminar.
We’ll definitely keep everyone informed as these discussions take place.
* The Academic Leadership Group consists of the provost, associate provosts, deans, department chairs, registrar, associate vice president for learning and development, director of career services and the director of the library. Other individuals, for example, the vice president for enrollment management and student affairs, are invited to participate when the topics being discussed are in their areas of expertise.