New curriculum brings change to school’s calendar

“The new curriculum is one that we like to think of as a maker space for learning,” said Kyle Dell, chair of the Liberal Arts General Education Revision Committee and associate professor of political science.

In April 2015, faculty approved a revision process for the Guilford College curriculum developed in 1998.

“The process for revising the general education curriculum began in 2011, when the Curriculum Committee began surveying the faculty based on direct experiences and assessment data on the student learning experience,” said Dell.

“The revision was meant to address strategic needs of the College, significant faculty interest in revising learning delivery through the curriculum, dissatisfaction with the performance of some elements of the current curriculum and a number of deferred proposals that would have made smaller changes to the current curriculum.”

A revision committee, the Liberal Arts General Education Revision Committee (LAGER), was assembled to deliver a proposal to the faculty for approval no later than the end of spring semester 2017.

“LAGER has worked with the administration, the senior team, the president’s office, student affairs, alumni and advancement services, external consultants, student government groups and external experts in general education programming from national higher education associations,” said Dell. “Since last year, LAGER has developed a series of draft proposals that have been vetted and discussed by many different groups of faculty, staff, students, administrators and external consultants.”

“We’ve developed an entire curriculum and are close to approval,” said Caleb Anderson, junior and student representative of the clerk’s committee. “Last year, we were still in the process of gathering information for drafting, but now we are in the final stages.”

The new curriculum incorporates changes to allow students to explore their educational passions.

“One of the largest changes is the implementation of ‘Communities in Practice,’ where students will work in campus groups to pursue interdisciplinary topics through experiential learning, projects, off-campus partners and much more,” said Anderson.

In addition to “Communities in Practice,” the revision committee voted to remove a graduation requirement.

“Another large change is the curriculum will no longer require a minor for graduation,” said Anderson. “A third large change comes in the form of ‘Community Week,’ which will be a week in the semester (when) there will be no classes. As a result, the community will have the opportunity to come together to focus on one or more core values through seminars, lectures, games, concerts – the opportunities for where this week could go (is) endless.”

Dell believes the most visible element of the revised curriculum is “Community in Practice” or CiP.

“CiP is a series of common courses and experiential opportunities culminating in a signature individual work by each student around a common theme that transcends the expertise of any one discipline,” said Dell. “For example, a CiP could address suburban sprawl in the Triad or the international response to refugees by nations around the world. These CiPs could leverage existing expertise on campus as well as work with other practitioners to supplement the related courses of a given community.”

The key reasoning behind CiPs is to foster the true interests of students at Guilford.

“The structure of the upper parts of the curriculum is such … that a student is not confronted with random course requirements to check off as you go,” said Dell. “Rather, the experiences and courses cohere (with) a theme, and students can work in teams with others that have a passion for that CiP.”

After considerable discussion and evaluation, LAGER’s proposal was approved unanimously by committee members and has been given to the clerk’s committee to be presented to faculty.

In the meantime, committee members express excitement for the organic nature of the new curriculum.

“Right now, our curriculum for 1998 is a one-size-fits-all approach where choice, coherence and innovation are fairly bounded,” said Dell. “We have built a structure for innovation to happen for many years ahead within the ‘Communities in Practice.’

“Guilford’s seal has a tree on it. We like to think of our new curriculum (as) being rooted in Guilford’s mission, but also growing branches in new and exciting directions in the years ahead.”

With approval from the faculty, Guilford will implement the new curriculum beginning in the Fall 2017 semester.