Some of you may remember many eons ago, in those halcyon days pre-pandemic, that UP’s Academic Senate approved a “revitalized University Core Curriculum.” It was approved, to be specific, in November of 2019 after several years of gathering input and information, committee work, and consultation with departments across the UP community. The intention was and is to phase in the revitalized Core for entering students in the Fall of 2021. The purpose of this post is to update the UP community on where the Core revitalization process stands and on plans for moving forward.
First, a number of people have asked whether it even makes sense to proceed with implementation plans given the extraordinary circumstances of our present academic life. This is a reasonable question. UP’s academic leadership is, however, in favor of moving forward for a variety of reasons.
For one, a University Core Curriculum is a very slow moving thing that impacts all student academic experiences and requires years to revise. The UP Core was last substantively revised over 20 years ago, and our recent revitalization process is now in year 4 of a projected 8 year cycle. To stop or delay now would put much important work, and the quality of the Core, at serious risk.
Relatedly, the Core does need to be updated. Our Core is behind the academic times in regard to coverage of key topics such as diversity, equity, inclusion, and racial justice, and our Core often lacks the sense of communal, progressive, and intentional intellectual endeavor that is essential to a quality liberal arts education. The prior Core has served UP well, and offers many excellent classes, but after 20 years it needs revitalization.
At the same time, there is a clear recognition that the Core revitalization cannot proceed as it would in “normal” academic times. As we push forward, we are also actively thinking about ways to keep forward momentum without unrealistic asks of faculty and staff. We want to be in communication about what is realistic, and we are happy to compromise.
As one example, in trade for some advance planning for the start of phased implementation in the Fall of 2021 we are working to minimize (and in most cases eliminate) Core assessment exercises this 2020-2021 academic year. We will still ask people to help lay a foundation for effective assessment of the Core in the future – but given the circumstances it seems unnecessary to assess a Core that is being phased out during such as challenging year. As we push forward with the revitalization process, we’ll continue to actively find such compromises in ways that balance the quality of the future Core with the real human needs of faculty and staff.
So, what is the future of the revitalization process? One feature of the revitalized Core is a series of progressive levels for Core courses.
For the Fall of 2021, our plan is to only start the Anchor Seminar and the new Foundation Level. Because the Foundation Level is largely comprised of courses in the current Core, the new work should be minimal for most faculty and academic staff – mostly involving new student learning outcomes that can guide course organization towards consistency and coherence with a new set of six “Habits of Heart and Mind” that should be the result of a UP education. We will also be identifying approximately eight regular faculty to teach sections of the new Anchor Seminar. We hope to identify these faculty this Fall of 2020 so that departments have time to plan for the one course a faculty members gives up to teach in the Anchor Seminar. More information about teaching the new Anchor Seminar will be forthcoming.
The next phase of revitalized Core implementation for the 2022-2023 academic year will be the new “Exploration Level” courses. While the Foundation Level courses will come exclusively from CAS as UP’s liberal arts college, Exploration level courses can come from any college or professional school – as long as the courses employ a liberal arts lens. We’ll be sharing much more information about these courses over time, and will have opportunities to intentionally plan course possibilities in the 2021-2022 academic year run-up to implementation.
The final phase of revitalized Core implementation will likely start in 2023-2024 with the new integration assignment (the completion of a portfolio) in collaboration with majors. By the Fall semester of 2024, all students should be taking the revitalized Core and the current Core will be completely phased out.
We have many practical questions to deal with within this implementation timeline, and will try to provide more regular updates here and elsewhere on the UP website. if you have specific questions please reach out to me in my role as the new Core Curriculum Director – firstname.lastname@example.org. As one near-term update priority, I am putting together a document outlining key differences between the current Core and the revitalized Core in hopes that will facilitate advising and discussions about transfer credits. I hope to post something about that here, and elsewhere, soon.
I also appreciate any follow-up questions; the essence of my job as Core Director is to generate collaborative ideas about how to make sure the revitalized Core fits our shared mission, builds on faculty expertise, and enhances the educational experience of our students!
Considering a tutoring approach for working with students during office hours
The Learning Commons at the University of Portland has made strides in professionalizing our tutors through training. Our syllabus includes 11 hours of live face-to-face training modules. In our training, trainees learn how the tutoring cycle provides structure for our tutoring sessions. As a faculty member, I’ve also adapted the tutoring cycle as a strategy for helping students during office hours.
Six basic steps make up the tutoring cycle:
How might this work in an office hour interaction?
As you practice these steps, you will learn ways to vary them and apply them to groups during office hours. Faculty office hours needn’t be about students coming in to be retaught the material. We can instead apply tools like the tutoring cycle and other student engagement approaches to support active learning, metacognition, and higher order thinking.
Jeffrey White is an instructor of German and directs Learning Commons in Buckley Center 163. For more information on the Learning Commons’ certified tutor training program, contact Jeffrey at email@example.com or (503) 943-7141.
The Learning Commons is a program of the Shepard Academic Resource Center and offers trained peer support in writing papers, math, foreign language learning, biology, chemistry, physics, managing group projects, speeches and presentations, along with hosting tutoring for several nursing courses and business courses.
UP aims to cultivate world-citizenship in its students. We see this in Vision 2020’s push to foreground opportunities and curricula that support internationalism, our robust study- abroad programs, the 69 Fulbrights students have won, as well as CISGO’s set of outcomes for Global and Intercultural Learning.
Part of such student learning depends on faculty possessing a quantitatively accurate understanding of the modern world.
Have you tested yourself lately?
An enjoyable opportunity can be found in Hans Rosling’s 2018 book Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things are Better Than you Think – a book I devoured over spring break.
Rosling was a quirky Swedish TED-talk and global affairs speaker (one known to punctuate talks with displays of sword swallowing). He died from pancreatic cancer in 2017, just as he was finishing this career-capping overview of the true state of the world, as supported by numbers.
Readers start the book confronted by a 13-question multiple-choice quiz on such things as how people are distributed across the planet’s continents, the amount poverty has decreased, rates of girls’ education, access to electricity, and global life expectancy. Sad to say, you and I will achieve a predictably bad score (as Rosling’s three decades of audience testing has determined) – a score likely worse than if we had merely guessed the answers.
Most Westerners’ concept of the world, as Rosling explains, comes from a patchwork of outdated assumptions, unfamiliarity, media sentimentality, fear of the foreign, and a natural instinct for negativity. This leads us to operate with an “overdramatic worldview.” His solution is to cultivate a factful worldview – one based on numbers, proportions, and comparisons, gathered from across our planet’s 200+ countries.
And so we learn that the majority of the world lives in middle-income countries (just 9% live in extreme poverty), 80% of humans have access to electricity, girls worldwide spend an average of 9 years in school (boys spend 10), and 80% of people around the world have had at least one vaccination (on this planet, anti-vaxxers are decidedly outnumbered). This is not a bunch of global trivia but rather the shaping of a worldview – one lit with possibility. Amid the good news, he prioritizes things we should worry about: global pandemics, financial collapse, world war, climate change, and extreme poverty.
Along the way, Rosling reminds us of basic strategies for avoiding being fooled by data (e.g. getting proportionality with your information, avoiding urgency to maintain clear thinking, questioning categories). He presents helpful charts for visualizing the world and its (often confusing) data, and offers a concrete, four-level way to categorize countries by income (to replace the long-outdated “first/third-world” mode).
While lies inevitably travel faster than facts, Rosling’s data helps fight the War on Error.
In the right course, Factfulness would be an eye-opening inclusion. Knowing that in 2100, 80% of the population will most likely live in Asia and Africa would help our students keep their eye on the future’s true continental leaders (a recognition not given by most Western popular culture). Knowing that world population is not spiraling out of control would help calm fears. Recognizing how the past century has radically reduced global poverty and increased world health and safety would offer hope as we work on more intractable problems of our planet. And re-committing to truth would help keep us from bending it amid the panic of the day’s urgencies (as Rosling insists, “Data must be used to tell the truth, not to call to action, no matter how noble the intention”).
Faculty can prepare the next several generations of global citizens by first ensuring our characteristically inaccurate and overdramatic worldviews are better tethered to Factfulness.
This essay by Heather Carpenter, Lecturer in the Department of Environmental Studies at UP, is the fourth in a series of short pieces that offer faculty across the campus an insider’s tour of one of the courses that make up UP’s Core program. Since the Core involves almost a third of the curriculum for every UP student, faculty can benefit from these discipline-by-discipline essays, to better understand the breadth of their students’ campus experience.
Everybody eats. We define ourselves by what we eat. We say: I’m a meat and potatoes guy, or I love spicy food, or even shellfish or mushroom haters unite! It’s pretty easy to answer when someone says: I’ve got kimchi or toum in the back of my fridge, or Old Bay in my cupboard, can you guess where I’m from? Clothes change, language adapts, but if you want to really know a person: find out what they eat. The personal nature of food is the starting point in ENV 160, the Science of the Sustainable Gourmet, where students explore how their individual choices shape the world we all live in. This is one of the many options students have to fulfill their science core, all of which try to reveal the relevance of science to our daily lives.
We all share an interesting emotional vulnerability when it comes to our food. If a student tells their parent to say, pump up their car tires to save gas and be better for the environment, they might not listen but they won’t get mad. On the other hand, if a student tells their parent they want to go vegetarian for environmental reasons the reactions range from confusion, disgust, to plain old guilt: is the food I cook (slave over the hot stove) for you not good enough? It’s never, is the car I drive not good enough? Friends, and even strangers get involved too. In ENV 160 I have students change their diet for a class project and almost all of them report the hardest part being the ridicule and teasing from their friends. And count the side eyes and arched eyebrows when you order no bacon bits on the salad…
What we eat is personal. It’s based on culture, family, religion, even genetics (does cilantro taste like soap to you?). It’s how we show love: chocolates for romance, cake on your birthday, or grandma’s extra serving on an already full stomach (that one goes both ways). It’s also how we show empathy during grief: food at a wake, ice cream for a break-up, or drowning our sorrows. And food is trendy right now. Chefs are household names, and young people join the culinary field with the express interest in getting famous. The only reality show that you will like everyone on is the Great British Baking Show.
But here’s the thing, food is also one of the easiest ways we interact with the environment and where our choices make a tangible difference. We have control over what we choose to eat. We can’t just place the blame on the big greedy agricultural corporations. We could just buy from our local farmer.
Modern industrial food production has ties to present-day slavery, habitat destruction, and climate change. Agriculturally, we are spending our children’s inheritance. We are losing arable soil, running out of clean water, decimating the oceans, and wasting a very limited supply of usable phosphorus. When combined with our growing population, we reach a rather uncomfortable ethical conundrum.
It’s pretty hard to be apathetic about your culpability and argue that this has nothing to do with you. Regardless of your major or career plan: english, engineering, theology, we all eat. As an informed eater, you have the real opportunity to minimize your impact and this can lead to many levels of joy. In the words of Wendell Berry “eating with the fullest pleasure – pleasure that is, that does not depend on ignorance – is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world.”
I tell my students that the point of a core education is to be able to join any dinner party and not make a fool of yourself. After a quality liberal arts education, you should be able to participate in any social level of conversation, be it about art history, social welfare, or climate change. You don’t have to be that computer scientist who only wants to debate the merits of Java vs C++, the historian that doesn’t have a clue about modern issues, or the psychology major that can’t stop psychoanalyzing their conversation partner. Instead, you could leave your dinner companions wondering just what your major was. In my sustainable gourmet class, you also learn about the impact of the dinner being served. It makes for some scintillating conversation. Just remember, people will take it personally.
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