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Senate Minutes

March 17 , 2005
Holy Cross House Conference Room
7:00 p.m.



Academic Planning Committee
Report to Senate on the CORE Programme
Submitted March 2, 2005

Background:

At its meeting of April 24, 2003, Senate approved pilot versions of two proposed CORE courses, one on theoretical reasoning (CORE 2013) and one on ethical reasoning (CORE 3013). In April, 2004 a review team, “Senate Review Committee on the Core Course 2013 Critical Reasoning” submitted an evaluation of the first CORE 2013 pilot that was offered in the Winter Semester of 2004. On Sept. 24th, 2004, Dr. James Gilbert-Walsh submitted a report to Senate on pilot courses he devised and taught for the CORE Programme. At the same September meeting, the Senate directed the Academic Planning Committee to review the report and make recommendations concerning the CORE Programme. (The Sept. 24th Gilbert-Walsh report is available as an electronic attachment for distribution, that includes the review team’s report of April 2004.)

Outcome of APC Discussions:

The Academic Planning Committee met at least three separate times on the topic of the CORE Report, to explicate and deliberate the results of the CORE pilot project, the report to Senate, and to determine suitable recommendations to bring forward to Senate. Out of those discussions, a number of points emerged:

  • APC recognizes the substantial efforts already put into creating the two pilot CORE programme courses in Ethical Reasoning (CORE 3013) and in Theoretical Reasoning (2013) by Dr. James Gilbert-Walsh.
  • APC also recognizes the substantial efforts put into steering the development and evaluation of the CORE programme through the “APC Subcommittee for STU CORE Course Development” (Dr. Colm Kelly, Dr. Patrick Malcolmson, Andrew Moore, Dr. James Gibert-Walsh), and of the “Senate Review Committee on the CORE Course 2013 Critical Reasoning (Dr. Michael George, Dr. Sheila Andrew, Dr. Alan Bourassa, and Dr. Michelle Lafrance).
  • Reflections and conclusions provided by the “Senate Review Committee on the CORE Course 2013” suggested that “a critical thinking course which explores the boundaries and limitations of disciplinary thinking is both functional and valuable,” and took a “significant step towards meeting The Goals of a Liberal Education at St. Thomas University” published in the STU Calendar. The Committee expressed concern for future offerings of this course given that “complex realities and arguments might be inadvertently overlooked or conflated both within and between disciplines” and that faculty members teaching this course would need careful preparation – and “adequate resources would need to be available if the course is to become a regular part of the St. Thomas curriculum.
  • Despite some cautionary remarks about the nature of measuring learning outcomes in the CORE 2013 course, the APC suggests that we do not have to achieve perfection before we offer it again.
  • APC noted the necessity to have faculty from different disciplines offer the courses.
  • While the course descriptions and objectives for the two CORE courses will ultimately conform to their respective themes (theoretical reasoning, ethical reasoning) such courses will reflect the instructors who teach them.
  • APC suggests that the implications of enacting a CORE curriculum requirement are enormous from resource and staffing perspectives. Will the courses be restricted to fulltime faculty? Are these faculty to teach no more than one section of a given course in a given year? Will there be course releases to develop these courses which are necessarily outside of most disciplinary traditions?
  • APC discussed the creation of a Senate ad hoc CORE committee to develop other models for the programme -- maybe not to replace the piloted model but to generate other ways of approaching a common experience for students.

On the topic of the piloting of courses in the CORE Programme, the most immediate issue concerning the continuation of the two CORE courses seems to be the extension of mandate to pilot both a 2000-level and a 3000-level CORE course. APC notes that:

  • faculty interest in offering the courses is crucial, and that there is a meticulous process in realizing a CORE curriculum.
  • student interest in taking these courses is central to evaluating the successful piloting of the CORE courses.
  • Developing a track record in successful delivery of the courses is essential if the CORE curriculum is to be adopted as a general undergraduate curriculum reform.

Recommendations from APC to Senate:

  1. APC recommends continuing the pilot programme of CORE course development, to offer one section each of CORE 2013 Theoretical Reasoning and CORE 3013 Ethical Reasoning per academic year, for the next two years. Ideally CORE 2013 would be offered in Fall semester, and CORE 3013 would be offered in Winter semester, for piloting purposes.

    Motion 1: Senate continue developing the CORE Programme with a two-year pilot of CORE 2013 and CORE 3013, to be overseen and evaluating by an appropriate steering committee.

  2. APC recommends establishing a CORE Steering Committee that would:
    i. Oversee and evaluate the continuing piloted courses.
    ii. Consider variations on the models being piloted.
    iii. Make recommendations at the end of each of the two years of the pilot period.

    Motion 2: Senate establish an ad hoc CORE Steering Committee to evaluate the CORE programme, develop variations on the CORE courses currently piloted, and make reports and recommendations to Senate (or an appropriate body within Senate) at the end of each year of the pilot programme.

  3. APC recommends that Senate establish a committee to continue developing undergraduate curriculum reform, with constituent members from Groups A,B,C,D and CORE, as well as the student body, since this is well beyond the scope and mandate of the Academic Planning Committee.

    Motion 3: Senate establish an ad hoc committee to continue developing undergraduate curriculum reform with constituent membership from across the curricular groups (A, B, C, D) and the CORE programme, as well as a student representative.