The College last conducted a formal general education curriculum (GEC) review in 2006. The study was performed by the Committee on Academic Planning (CAP). In an effort to give students greater flexibility and agency in structuring their own path through the curriculum, that review resulted in a significant reduction in the number of divisional courses required (from 12 to 8). Interestingly, the review noted that some schools (e.g., Princeton) were instituting new ways of grouping requirements based on “modes of understanding” as opposed to traditional departments/disciplines. The CAP study concludes:
“While the CAP strongly recommends revising the current structure as a first step, we hope that at a date in the near future the core structure can be reexamined. The CAP urges that within 5 years (2010) the CAP should form an ad hoc committee to consider an assessment and revision of our core structure.” (p. 5, CAP Report, April 2006)
We are now seven years beyond CAP’s recommendation. A prior curriculum review conducted in 1999 resulted in a number of changes including course credit hours, cultural diversity and quantitative reasoning requirements, and divisional structure, among others. So it has been almost twenty years since the College conducted a thorough review of its GEC structure.
In the intervening years, numerous prominent and peer schools have conducted major GEC reviews with a notable shift toward greater emphasis on measurable student learning outcomes (SLOs) and particular learning skills, as opposed to traditional distribution requirements. In addition, the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU) has taken a leading role in surveying college and university curriculum structures, defining the aim and purpose of a liberal arts education, and identifying key SLOs and assessment criteria. See, for example, this organization’s extensive literature on its ongoing initiative, Liberal Education and America’s Promise: Excellence for Everyone as a Nation Goes to College (LEAP). Among many of our peer and aspirational schools, Wake Forest stands virtually alone in not having conducted an in-depth review of its general education curriculum for almost two decades.
- In August of 2016, Dean Gillespie announced the creation of a Best Practices Curriculum Task Force charged with reviewing the “state of the field” in general education thought and practice. The Committee was divided into working groups and met monthly during the 2016-17 academic year. One key finding was that there is no consensus on best practices. But clear patterns do emerge, including:
- A general shift from strict distribution requirements to greater emphasis on key learning skills
- Greater emphasis on:
- indisciplinarity (in the sense that courses from a variety of disciplines and sub-disciplines could meet the requirement for a particular learning outcome)
- integrative learning
- engaging big questions
- fostering civic, intercultural, and ethical learning
In the end, the Best Practices Task Force was unanimous in recommending that the College initiate a major general education curriculum review. The Committee presented its findings to Department chairs at their May, 2017 retreat and received overwhelming support for this recommendation. Accordingly, in the September College Faculty Meeting, Dean Gillespie announced the formation of a College Curriculum Review Committee (CCRC) with faculty representation from all divisions, the office of the DOC, the undergraduate School of Business, and students.