The Education and Curriculum Committee (ECC) at Carleton College is currently spearheading one of its most auspicious projects in the last half-century. Under the auspices of the ECC, a select number of Carleton faculty and students are undertaking a curricular review, a process that Carleton last did forty years ago. While curriculum is tweaked with each year, the curricular review is intended to examine Carleton’s curriculum, including graduation requirements, on a holistic level.
“This has been something that has been in the wind among Carleton faculty for quite awhile. There has been a lot of faculty interest in taking a holistic look at the curriculum,” said Scott Bierman, Dean of the College and co-chair of the ECC, describing the importance of a curricular review. “The curriculum is never static. It changes every year, but as a collective entity, we don’t evaluate where we are very often.”
As part of this process, three faculty task forces composed of six members each are individually examining the curriculum with the intention of delivering final reports at the February campus-wide faculty meeting. In addition to the faculty task forces, there is a perspective forth task force composed of twelve students that will deliver its own report at the February meeting.
According to Bierman, “It’s a bigger picture than the classes being offered specifically. This is connected at the hip to the continuing accreditation process that we’re a part of. If you look at the college catalog, we actually have almost no rationale for any requirement that’s in there. Everybody can articulate a type of rationale, but institutionally, we just have not confronted this issue of why it is we require what we require and might there be a better way of accomplishing some set of goals.”
“I think of us as more of a sounding board. It gives the opportunity for [the task forces] to talk to faculty and students to get some input,” said Bill Titus, co-chair of the ECC, describing the relationship between the ECC and the faculty task forces. “It’s very important for them to hear what each of them are doing. They are not supposed to have a lot of contact with each other. The idea is to do something independent.”
For Brandon Walker ’09, serving on the ECC and on the planned student task force offers an opportunity for student input into the curriculum process. “If there are problems with the curriculum that should be tweaked or should be revisited, this is the opportune time to get it done. In fact, this is the only time that you can tweak and make changes to the curriculum.”
However, one of the problems that the ECC has faced is a lack of overall involvement from Carleton students. In addition to the planned student task force, the ECC has set up an email address for students to voice their input in the whole process.
“I think that there are a lot of students here at Carleton who are concerned about their curriculum and would like to see changes are most likely pretty vocal about it. However, it’s about [students] knowing what’s going on,” said Walker. “There has been and there continues to be a communication problem between administration and students. The ECC is charged with overseeing and redrafting our curriculum, but what role do students play with it. It should be said that this student-driven task force was an idea of the students on the ECC.”
“I think that we’ll get a lot of suggestions. From our end, the main purpose of this is to let the faculty know that this is what the students are thinking,” said Dillon Muth ’08, a member of the ECC and the student task force, describing the relationship between the student and faculty task forces. “We will not necessarily come up with our own plan for curriculum change, but they are going to take input from us, listen to it, and incorporate it into their ideas to a certain extent.”