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Serving the Greater Good: Delivering General Education Outcomes in a Small Liberal Arts College
Unformatted Document Text:  As the faculty confronted the challenges associated with adapting and developing courses consistent with these learning outcomes, the faculty also confronted the stark reality of attempting to serve both College-directed learning objectives as well as sustaining and even building disciplinary competency for majors. The curricular revisions also introduced a variety of new policies which dramatically changed the enrollment dynamics across the College. The new General Education Curriculum encouraged participation from a broad range of programs to meet distributional requirements; but it did not single out specific classes or programs for exclusive coverage of these requirements. The preferred culture reflects an emphasis on maximum student choice and experimentation. Further, to discourage advanced students from filling 100 level courses, access to these courses was prohibited for juniors and seniors. 3 The Office of Academic Affairs and the faculty Curriculum Policies Committee (CPC) thus encouraged faculty to create junior and senior level courses accessible by non-majors. These policies required programs to contemplate increased enrollments of non-majors in upper-level disciplinary specific courses. The POLS faculty at Morningside consists of two FTEs as well as some cross-listed courses shared with History colleagues. Furthermore, the enrollment demands of the College anticipated that at least 30-50% of faculty load would serve some component of general education. With such apparently meager resources, the POLS program obviously faced a potential identity crisis. Would the program merely comply with College policies and focus exclusively on serving the general student body and forfeit the development of a strong political science curriculum or would the program insist on a disciplinary-focused developmental curriculum that emphasized pre-requisites and a strong sequence moving toward specific disciplinary competency? Whereas the former suggested a future POLS program without identify, the latter might lead to severely diminished enrollment and threatened programmatic viability. In the process of developing a new curricular model and course re-design, the Morningside POLS faculty decided this scenario presented a false dichotomy and opted for an approach that both serves the greater College good while maintaining disciplinary integrity. This debate occurs against the backdrop of several other developments. First, higher education in the United States generally is struggling with concerns regarding accountability, especially in the face of demands from both state and federal government. Political science is not immune from this increasing concern with demonstrating student learning. Also, the discipline recognizes the need to maintain relevancy (and enrollment) in the face of a changing higher education marketplace. These two macro-trends introduce sometimes conflicting imperatives. Second, another development in higher education is the increasing concern for encouraging students to perceive, appreciate, and apply learning across disciplinary boundaries. How we teach politics influences how students integrate that learning with other disciplinary approaches. How can political science better adapt its pedagogy to encourage this cross-disciplinary dialogue? Finally, political science as a discipline has itself grasped the increasing importance that must be given to disciplinary pedagogy itself, for the sake of the discipline. This concern is evidenced by American Political Science Association’s commitment to the Section for Undergraduate Education and the creation of the Teaching and Learning Conference within APSA itself. While our research here will focus on several specific courses (and their respective curricular designs), these innovations have been implemented with these broader issues in mind. 3 Juniors and seniors may apply for admission to 100 level courses, especially if they are transfer students or if they require the course as a prerequisite to another course. Lopez & McKinlay, 3

Authors: Lopez, Lillian. and McKinlay, Patrick.
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As the faculty confronted the challenges associated with adapting and developing courses
consistent with these learning outcomes, the faculty also confronted the stark reality of
attempting to serve both College-directed learning objectives as well as sustaining and even
building disciplinary competency for majors. The curricular revisions also introduced a variety
of new policies which dramatically changed the enrollment dynamics across the College. The
new General Education Curriculum encouraged participation from a broad range of programs to
meet distributional requirements; but it did not single out specific classes or programs for
exclusive coverage of these requirements. The preferred culture reflects an emphasis on
maximum student choice and experimentation. Further, to discourage advanced students from
filling 100 level courses, access to these courses was prohibited for juniors and seniors.
The
Office of Academic Affairs and the faculty Curriculum Policies Committee (CPC) thus
encouraged faculty to create junior and senior level courses accessible by non-majors. These
policies required programs to contemplate increased enrollments of non-majors in upper-level
disciplinary specific courses.
The POLS faculty at Morningside consists of two FTEs as well as some cross-listed
courses shared with History colleagues. Furthermore, the enrollment demands of the College
anticipated that at least 30-50% of faculty load would serve some component of general
education. With such apparently meager resources, the POLS program obviously faced a
potential identity crisis. Would the program merely comply with College policies and focus
exclusively on serving the general student body and forfeit the development of a strong political
science curriculum or would the program insist on a disciplinary-focused developmental
curriculum that emphasized pre-requisites and a strong sequence moving toward specific
disciplinary competency? Whereas the former suggested a future POLS program without
identify, the latter might lead to severely diminished enrollment and threatened programmatic
viability. In the process of developing a new curricular model and course re-design, the
Morningside POLS faculty decided this scenario presented a false dichotomy and opted for an
approach that both serves the greater College good while maintaining disciplinary integrity.
This debate occurs against the backdrop of several other developments. First, higher
education in the United States generally is struggling with concerns regarding accountability,
especially in the face of demands from both state and federal government. Political science is
not immune from this increasing concern with demonstrating student learning. Also, the
discipline recognizes the need to maintain relevancy (and enrollment) in the face of a changing
higher education marketplace. These two macro-trends introduce sometimes conflicting
imperatives. Second, another development in higher education is the increasing concern for
encouraging students to perceive, appreciate, and apply learning across disciplinary boundaries.
How we teach politics influences how students integrate that learning with other disciplinary
approaches. How can political science better adapt its pedagogy to encourage this cross-
disciplinary dialogue? Finally, political science as a discipline has itself grasped the increasing
importance that must be given to disciplinary pedagogy itself, for the sake of the discipline. This
concern is evidenced by American Political Science Association’s commitment to the Section for
Undergraduate Education and the creation of the Teaching and Learning Conference within
APSA itself.
While our research here will focus on several specific courses (and their respective
curricular designs), these innovations have been implemented with these broader issues in mind.
3
Juniors and seniors may apply for admission to 100 level courses, especially if they are transfer students or if they
require the course as a prerequisite to another course.
Lopez & McKinlay, 3


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