Core curriculum changes affect 2014 freshman in Texas
Published: Monday, January 28, 2013
Updated: Monday, January 28, 2013 10:01
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is mandating all state universities revise their core curriculum for the first time in almost 15 years.
The core, the basic courses all students are required to take regardless of their major, is currently composed of 42 to 46 hours and 37 exemplary education objectives. The new core will only comprise 42 hours and six core objectives.
The new core will go into effect for freshmen students in the fall of 2014. At that time, all incoming freshmen will be required to use it. Upperclassmen will have the option to remain under the current core or switch to the new one.
To students, this means the current core classes that are mostly taken during freshman and sophomore years will be revised to form a new and improved set of core courses that will help future students better develop a set of life skills and capabilities that are wanted from employers post graduation.
The new core is based around six specific components— critical thinking skills, communication skills, empirical and quantitative skills, teamwork, personal responsibility and social responsibility. The purpose of implementing this new core is so students can gain knowledge of human cultures and the physical and natural world. It will also assist students in increasing their level of personal and social responsibilities along with their intellectual and personal skills.
The revision of the Core Curriculum was initiated at the state level, coming directly from Austin. This is not being done solely by SFA nor is it coming from the Legislature.
“This is not the University’s decision, it’s actually the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board that regulates all public Universities in the state of Texas,” according to Dr. Don Pratt, SFA associate professor of biology, who chairs the advisory committee overseeing the core curriculum revision.
The revision process will require a large amount of work by universities across the state. Schools will have to revise courses and assess what classes meet what objectives.
It will affect all state universities in Texas, but each university has the opportunity to mold its curriculum based on the courses its committee decides need improvement for their particular university, as long as everything fits within the prescribed rules and guidelines.
Pratt said he is not entirely sure what process has necessitated revision of the current core curriculum, however he’s certain with revision comes new focus on a different aspect to learning. The way it will begin to affect students is that instead of simply checking off basic courses on a set list, students will begin checking off a set of skills to be mastered.
SFA’s committee members are partly concerned with students graduating without certain base skills that are valuable after graduation and in the job field. That is why the new core curriculum focuses on mastering applied skills, Pratt said.
Dr. Richard Berry, SFA provost and vice president for academic affairs, said the revision of core curriculum is necessary, although it will be a large undertaking.
“I think that it’s needed because the current core and supporting elements that this will be replacing is very dated,” Berry said. “We’ve been needing a revamping of the basic structure of the core curriculum of state universities and colleges for quite some time.”
Berry said he didn’t want students to only take courses that focused on these objectives in their first two years, but rather work on these skills throughout their college career and be able to apply them to their field of study.
“The core is something that is not a set of courses you take your freshman and sophomore year, but a set of objectives we have to continually work on from the freshman all the way to the senior year,” Berry said.
The school’s proposed core will have to be submitted to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which works closely with policy-makers and education stakeholders to develop and implement a higher education framework for public universities in the state. According to its website, the board’s initiatives aim to increase the number of students who complete a postsecondary education, to keep college affordable and accessible for all Texans, and to align higher education outcomes with current and future workforce needs.
The new core objectives are based on what employers expect college graduates to have a good understanding of upon graduation and to implement in the work force. Each core course must meet at least three core objectives. Critical thinking and communication are required, and various other objectives must be met depending on the foundational component area.
Berry listed accountability of universities to provide a good education as well as the rising cost of tuition as reasons he believes the state is mandating a change.
“The folks who give us money want to know and have some assurance of saying, here’s what we’re paying for,” Berry said.
The revision process will be an opportunity for many departments at SFA to examine their courses and make sure they are meeting the objectives.
“The core is the central part of what we do. Our accrediting agency requires that we find out how well our students achieve core competencies at the college level,” Berry said. “In other words, how good are our students at critical thinking, at communication skills, and numerical literacy. Of course we want to be good, and to be good and get better at it we have to make sure that we have courses in the core that address all of those areas.”