By Mireya Martinez
Although semester conversion won’t occur until fall 2018, faculty and administration have already begun to change curriculum and discuss the transition.
At the Academic Senate’s meeting on Wednesday, the senate discussed both the design of class time modules and the revision of general education student learning outcomes.
“We have to work very hard because these are important issues,” said Sepehr Eskandari, current vice chair of the senate and chair of the biological sciences department. “All issues that come to us are important but some influence a small fraction of the campus community. Some issues influence everybody.”
Eskandari says that something like class time modules ” how much time a class session will be ” affects the entire campus community.
“It will change how students will take classes,” said Eskandari. “It will influence how faculty teaches. It will influence campus culture in general.”
At first glance, time modules seem relatively simple to formulate. But Hassan Halati, chair of the technology and operations management department, can attest otherwise.
“We’ve looked at many things,” said Halati. “There is no such thing as perfect solution because when you deal with human behavior, [the amount of time] all depends on how it’s used.”
Halati and the other 11 members of the Academic Affairs committee have spent countless hours conducting the necessary research and designing the time modules for classes in the semester system.
The current design allows for two-unit, three-unit, and four-unit classes, proposes a 110-minute final and removes restrictions from scheduling classes at 7 a.m. or on Saturdays and Sundays. Departments could also design six-unit classes for their students if needed.
“Over the years there has been a lot of concerns about the lack of flexibility in our current structure, and the Academic Affairs committee really wanted to include the additional flexibility,” said Eskandari. “At the end of the day, having the additional flexibility is probably a good outcome.”
Flexibility, however, does come with drawbacks, like potentially large gaps of free time for students, the use of facilities not being maximized, and the possibility of every department clustering classes around the same hours and days.
Senator Angela Shih, like many other senators, thanked the committee for working on the daunting task and for including the much-wanted flexibility, but felt like too much flexibility might present the same problem as too little.
“From a philosophical point of view, I really like it,” said Shih, chair of the mechanical engineering department. “But from an execution point of view, I don’t think I want to be the one scheduling this in 2018.”
By the end of the meeting, the Academic Senate did not come to a conclusion of how flexible to make class modules.
In contrast, the Academic Senate unanimously and quickly approved the revisions made to the GE student learning outcomes.
The Academic Senate, Provost Marten denBoer and President Emeritus Michael Ortiz had previously approved a set of learning outcomes, but the language was found to be incompatible with the new GE area distribution and did not serve as a good guide for students or creating rubrics.
The GE Committee, along with the GE Assessment Committee, rewrote the learning outcomes to be more specific and conducive to learning by using active and direct language, splitting some outcomes and eliminating redundancies.
For example, the learning outcome “Write and speak effectively to various audiences” was divided into two: “write effectively for different audiences” and “speak effectively to different audiences.”
Wording changes, while minute, define the learning path students will be encouraged to take and the way in which they will be assessed.
One learning outcome, which once required that students “explain” the importance of active engagement, will now require that students “engage” in communities or civic activities on or off-campus.
The Academic Senate found that the new requirement aligned with CPP’s vision and values, and was worded broadly enough to not be a burden for students. Some faculty members, however, were not fully onboard with the new learning outcome.
“I know this is going to sound crazy coming from me, being the big social justice advocate, but I feel a little bit uncomfortable saying that students are required to engage in civic activism,” said Faye Wachs, a sociology professor, at the meeting. “That sort of opens this big can of worms.”
Despite the changes to GE student learning outcomes and the other changes that will occur for semester conversion, Eskandari said that students shouldn’t fear losing credits or having to retake classes.
“We have a commitment to students, especially, those students who will straddle this process [semester conversion],” said Eskandari. “The commitment to students is that they should not lose classes or time. “
The Academic Senate also nominated a new chair and vice chair at this meeting. Eskandari was nominated for chair of the Academic Senate, a position currently held by David Speak, a political science professor. Sara Garver from the geography and anthropology department was nominated for vice chair.
Elections for the new chair and vice chair will take place during the Academic Senate’s next meeting on May 13. Discussion about class time modules will also be continued.
Tagui Martirosyan / The Poly Post
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