November 08, 2004

ICP "minors": student-initiated integrative curricula (#50)

Idea:
Students present closely argued proposals that articulate a selection of courses from multiple departments around a problem, issue, question, or topic. These ad hoc “pods”* are an alternative to traditional departmental minors or established concentrations.

Benefits:

  • Pods encourage students to explore the curriculum broadly and meaningfully.
  • They encourage and reward integrative thinking and student initiative.
  • Pods liberate interdisciplinarity from the structure of the course (i.e., interdisciplinary learning as distinct from interdisciplinary teaching).
  • Pods provide a way for students to substantiate “liberal arts moments” as intentional rather than purely serendipitous.
  • Pods are an attractive credential for prospective employers, demonstrating independence, creativity, and the ability to contextualize and synthesize disparate knowledge and information.
  • Pods can be linked to an electronic portfolio initiative to further foreground and enhance the reflective and integrative experience for students and to further substantiate their experience. (Portfolios are generally not compellingly or effectively linked to curriculum; Furman could define the new standard for portfolio implementation.)
  • They can be linked to engaged learning experiences, such as foreign study, internships, or research.
  • A database of pods can provide a useful resource for curricular review and design, for funding opportunities, and possibly for institutional planning.
  • Pods offer a significant yet realistic way to reposition Furman among other liberal arts institutions.

Open questions:

  • Do all students do pods, some, or a select few as part of an “honors”-type program?
  • How many courses are required for a pod? How many departments or divisions must be represented?
  • Can students do pods in addition to traditional minors or concentrations?
  • At what point do students propose a pod?
  • What role do advising, mentoring, and support play in relation to pods?
  • Should or could pods be tied to an integrative capstone experience?
  • What if some configurations of courses become “standardized” pods?
  • What threshold determines which pod proposals are accepted?

*I’ve adopted “pods” as a provisional term here to avoid precipitate conflation with majors or minors, which aren’t predicated to the same degree on student intention. (I also happen to like the metaphor of courses as “peas” for which students fashion “pods.” And, of course, “pod” as in “foot” or “feet,” as in students standing on their own.)

Posted by love at November 8, 2004 02:27 PM
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