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Notes Towards Day 21: Imagining a New Curriculum

Anne Dalke's picture

Notes Towards Day 21 of Food for Thought:
Imagining a New Curriculum

"Putting women's bodies into high places does
little for people, and nothing for women in the aggregate."
(Peggy McIntosh)

"The bridegroom of excellence hovered over Bryn Mawr.
He never arrived to make good on the marriage contract."

Our "Common" is the one single school we have to develop, and the tragedy is that we simply can't have everything we want. That's where negotiation comes in....the Prisoner's an interesting interactive metaphor for balance of considering cooperation/communal needs and individual drive, which we can apply to the curriculum conversations we'll be having and then also to the world at large. (from the course forum)

I. today: Dean Karen Tidmarsh will join us--let's get ready!

Emily: In the Bryn Mawr context, don't we need a reason to change the current curriculum before we set out to change it?

Is the point to design a curriculum that WE think would be great, and to advertise it in such a way that convinces others that it's the point to design a curriculum that "everyone" will want to go to? Essentially, is this our "dream curriculum" or "in reality, this curriculum would 'work' for a diverse group of people." What are we working for? I'm guessing there's no uncomplicated answer to this... so I'm asking now to see if it's necessary to figure this out? Am I thinking too hard? 

The opening paragraph of today's first reading, "Designing a college curriculum," says,
The curriculum is the heart of a student's college experience. The curriculum is a college's or university's primary means of changing students in directions valued by the faculty. Curricula should be reviewed and, if necessary, revised on a regular basis, better to serve the changing needs of both students and society broadly....

This is happening here right now.
Wednesday's faculty meeting: first 1/2 a
discussion of the proposed "Thinking Forward" group;
second 1/2 on the new breadth requirements (handout).

The provost has also required all departments to list
their learning goals and methods of assessing them.

We are also facing a college-wide Middle State accreditation process this spring.

Students are usually oblivious to such on-going revisions;
we don't want you to be; we want you to contribute to them!

What this means is, first, a re-revised syllabus
(w/out Ahab's Wife; sorry).
Second: that you should question Karen: don't
let her, like Farmer Pete, do all the talking!

II. Our revised plan:
Thursday's homework and prompt:
Please read the college mission statement and current requirements. Think out loud on the course forum
about the ways in which you feel our current requirements contribute to that mission. Then read these proposed new "breadth requirements," and explain how you think they may represent (or not) an improved path towards the mission statement.

By 9 a.m. Sunday morning (so Peter and I can spend our Sundays reading 'em....)
write a three-page COLLABORATIVE analysis of Bryn Mawr's curriculum,
in light of the research conducted by your classmates last week,
our visit with Karen, reports on current local efforts,
and our readings on national attempts to revise the college curriculum.

For Tuesday, read Haidt's The Emotional Dog and its Rational Tail,"
which will do to psychology what McIntosh did to history:
offer a challenge to the way things have been done,
and talked about, and researched, and taught.

There are no reading assignments scheduled yet for week after Thanksgiving:
we're hoping you will generate some--please post links to anything you think particularly valuable/worth all our time! We'll spend a good portion of that week on collaborative reading and writing.

III. We'll talk some more on Thursday about your group work,
but in case you want to get going:

I've organized you into small groups
TOTALLY randomly, by your first initials:
Alicia, Amy and Anna
Ellen, Emily and Eva
Hilary and Hoang
Julia, Julie and Jessica
Kathy and Katie
what to do w/ Rebecca??

Learning to work productively together seems as
important to me as what you will end up saying:

--Jared Diamond's essay on the Donner party
is about the lethal effects of social isolation

--more 'relevant' example: survivor shows?
how does one/would you "survive"?

--an alternative to "social isolation"-->

The Cultural Commons (see Lewis Hyde,
featured in What is Art For? NYTimes)

--collaborative test-taking @ Penn Med School, etc.
almost all your future work will be collaborative....
--these final papers will give you practice!

IV. In preparation for Karen's coming:
what you learn from your research?
what were your reactions to the readings?
what questions did they raise in your mind?

The National Academy for Academic Leadership says to pay attention to philosophy, clear goals, theoretical soundness, rational sequence, assessment, advising

Answers Corporation reviews the trends from content to competencies;
integration across the curriculum; diversity learning; and internationalization.
It looks @ curriculum coherence and integration (using learning comunities
and interdisciplinarity); @ innovative instructional methods; and
@ assessment of student learning.

Lamar Alexander argues for the cost-cutting 3-year degree.

In "End of the University as we Know It," Mark Taylor
suggests that this updating project is shared by a number of progressive
academics, who think that the medieval university needs
to be overhauled, to become
*more responsive to the world as it is,
*less driven by faculty, more by students' interests and needs,
*less discipline-, more problem-based;
*less isolated, more integrative in  the way it "divides up" knowledge.

Peggy McIntosh uses Meg, Jo, Amy and her daughters to walk her way
through 5   "Interactive Phases of (Personal and) Curricular Revision,"
asking repeatedly, What are the shaping dimensions of the discipline?
How must they change to reflect women's experience?

1. Womanless History: those in public power
2. Women in History: the exceptional few
3. Woman as Problem/Anomaly/Absence in History:
"It's not an accident that we were left out...the gaps were there for a reason."
4. Women AS History: life below the faultline;
subject as authority on own experience
(honor particularity, stress diversity, identify commonality)
5. History Redefined/Reconstructed to Include Us All

Mcintosh calls for an "alternative value system of 'lateral consciousness,'"
working for the decent survival of all," that overturns the conventional
disciplinary divisions of knowledge.

Do you find her critique relevant and/or useful?
What "interactive phase" are/do you want to be in?