Undergrad curriculum revised

Oct 31, 2002, vol. 25, no. 5
By Diane Luckow

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Courses with titles such as understanding chance statistics in everyday life, critical thinking, physics for poets and masterpieces of literature will soon be required to obtain a bachelor's degree from SFU as the university moves to establish new general education requirements.

Over the next three to five years, a task force will implement a senate-approved initiative to establish new undergraduate curriculum requirements that include an increased emphasis on writing, quantitative reasoning and breadth of study.

Under the new curriculum, all undergraduate students must take at least six credit hours of writing-intensive instruction, six credit hours of quantitative-reasoning instruction and 24 credit hours in areas ouside their majors. Senate recently granted approval-in-principle to the undertaking after almost four hours of discussion.

Psychology professor Dennis Krebs, (above) who chaired the undergraduate curriculum review committee, says the new curriculum will strive to improve the foundational abilities that students across all faculties will need for success in whatever career path they take.

“It's very clear that the ability to communicate, orally and in writing, is necessary for success in today's world,” he says. “And it's also clear in this increasingly technological world that people need to at least understand quantitative concepts.”

While some faculty and students may be alarmed at the thought of required quantitative courses, Krebs stresses that such courses need not necessarily be math courses. He says courses that teach students to understand and evaluate the statistics they encounter in everyday life and courses that teach critical thinking and formal logic would satisfy the quantitative reasoning requirement.

“I think we need to develop more creative quantitative courses,” he says. “Other universities have developed some very creative quantitative courses in dance, music and linguistics.”

Krebs foresees a need for hundreds of courses to be designated, developed or redesigned in order to meet the new curriculum requirements. Writing-intensive and quantitative courses need not be new courses; rather they could be existing courses and courses redesigned to include a writing-intensive or quantitative-intensive element.

A new committee, comprising elected members from each university faculty, will work with all university programs to implement the new plan.
“It's very important to do this right,” says Krebs. “The success or failure of this initiative will hinge on the quality of the courses designated and developed. The goal is to help our students graduate with significantly enhanced writing abilities, quantitative reasoning abilities and exposure to the ideas and methods of different disciplines.”

Krebs says the new curriculum recommendations will not be implemented in a way that infringes on the academic integrity of existing programs. All new courses and requirements will have to be approved by Senate.

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