Thursday, October 29, 2020

Faculty Senate seeking Gen Ed. revisions

Each month during the academic school year, several members of the Plattsburgh State faculty gather in the Alumni Conference Room to discuss various important issues regarding curriculum.

Professors from various departments file in, grabbing their name plates and taking seats, all preparing themselves for what is referred to as the Faculty Senate.

The first meeting of the fall semester, held Sept. 1, specifically focused on the topic of general education requirements.

The current General Education curriculum is known as GE5 and is an interim curriculum used at PSUC. This was implemented during the 2012 school year and has been in effect ever since.

Now, the discussion concerns the new General Education program, GE6, and specifically the student experience in the GE6 program.

New additions will update the structure of the curriculum, including adding Gateway courses and “capstone” supplements.

The new general education Gateway courses are intended to serve the students and introduce them to collegiate academic life, serving as an easier transition from high school-level classes and curriculum to the more rigorous university level.

Many professors agreed that they find this new method to be practical and helpful and have already implemented and created the first 12 gateway courses beginning this school year.

Some of the other changes made from the GE5 to the GE6 are very similar, but will add more requirements that PSUC students must complete before graduation.

Faculty spent the most time discussing the capstone essay.

The capstone, unlike anything in the general education program before, is described as a “reflective essay” that will reflect the experience of the students’ general education experience, and is aimed at getting graduating students to reflect on how their general education classes have affected their learning experience at PSUC.

Although the idea is still rough and the final decision to approve it has yet to be determined, it could greatly change the way PSUC’s general education program functions.

General Education Program Chairman Don Maier said the capstone essay would be there as a way to get students “to focus on their experience,” and help professors and faculty evaluate the courses that are used for general education.

PSUC History Professor Jeff Hornibrook said he believes the capstone essay is a good idea, and he doesn’t understand why any faculty would fight it because it is “the first damn time” someone has ever wanted real change.

However, there is a small division of opinion between some of the faculty and how they feel about the capstone essay in particular.

The factor being debated is that there may not be any value in making a student complete an assignment that has no incentive or value after its accomplished besides the ability to graduate.

Patricia Hoffman, coordinator of the Canadian Studies program, said she doesn’t find value in giving this assessment and that “students will only throw things together” because it is mandatory for them to earn their degree. She also said she fears that this essay will “end up evaluating our programs based on students blowing it off.”

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