Changes in general education to integrate SST experiences

Goshen College is in the process of developing a new model for general education requirements. Most colleges reassess and improve their curriculum every 10 to 12 years. The current program has been in place at Goshen since 1998 and is now undergoing analysis and revision.

The current ongoing revision began in the 2008-09 school year under the title, “Foundations of Excellence,” and was an assessment of the first year experience. Since then, the Gen-Ed Task Force has been working backwards, beginning by establishing outcomes for the program to deliver to students, and then designing a program that will achieve these goals and shaping it into a set of classes for students to take.

These objectives fall into four categories; a breadth of knowledge, intellectual and practical skills, personal and social responsibility, and integrative learning. While many courses at the college currently cover this material, the program will focus on supplying these at more useful points during a student’s career.

Under the current schema, some students are fulfilling their general education requirements right before they graduate. Ross Peterson-Veatch, associate academic dean, describes this as remodeling a house right before selling it. It may be necessary in order to get a good price, but you also wish you could have done it a little earlier and gotten a little use out of the new features, he said.

Beth Martin Birky, professor of English and member of the Gen-Ed Task Force, says that the new general education program will have an improved sequence so that skills and integrative learning are taught early and can be used throughout college.

If all runs according to schedule, the program will be implemented in the fall of 2012 and will highlight and support the Study Service Term experience as the cornerstone of a Goshen College education. Since SST  is a major way that Goshen sets itself apart from other schools, a key change to the general education plan will include a post-S.S.T. seminar about community engagement. This course will strengthen the connections between SST and the rest of student’s education.

Another way Goshen is improving the SST program is through continuing the domestic SST program that ran for the first time over the summer of 2010 as the Latino Studies Semester.

Peterson-Veatch said, “Since the first SST group returned, people have said, ‘Whoa, we should do this here.’”

There have always been reasons that students have been unable or unwilling to travel outside the country for SST, and the domestic SST program allows students to receive many of the advantages of SST that alternate classes cannot fulfill.

Additionally, it allows for students to focus on the unique culture around Goshen and gain a collective experience with a group.

Martin Birky said, “If we don’t understand the local culture, then we’re negligent.” The continuation of this program will strengthen Goshen’s commitment to local issues.

The Gen Ed Task Force also has commitments to the student body. The changes will result in no increase in the course hours required to complete the general education portion of the curriculum. The new program will have an outcome that relates to the presidential vision statement and core values.

In April, the teaching faculty will be voting on the changes decided upon thus far, and continuing refinements will be made until the plan is implemented in 2012.

People with comments or suggestions for the committee can contact the dean’s office.

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Written by Josh Delp

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