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Duke will review Curriculum 2000

Faculty are revisiting Curriculum 2000 to identify potential areas for improvement.

The Arts and Sciences Council will review the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences curriculum during the 2012-2013 academic year to identify strengths and areas in need of revision. This is the latest in a series of periodic revisions since the curriculum went into effect. Lee Baker, dean of academic affairs for Trinity College, said faculty are concentrating on how to best address learning in the classroom and beyond.

“What I think we need is a way to better recognize the way students learn in the classroom and outside the classroom, to better align and integrate the experiences between curricular and cocurricular activities,” Baker said. “We’re thinking about ways to do that, whether it’s certificates, scholars programs, minors or concentrations.”

Some potential changes would create ways to fulfill requirements outside the classroom, Baker said. For instance, one revision would empower students to engage in social inquiry research opportunities with faculty, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Another idea would be to allow students to fulfill language requirements through programs like DukeEngage.

Baker also noted that some modes of inquiry—particularly cross-cultural inquiry and science, technology and society­—may be in need of updating to provide clearer definitions.

The revision process will begin when an ad hoc committee convenes to make a recommendation to the curriculum committee, which then makes a recommendation to the Executive Committee of the Arts and Sciences Council. From there, it will go to the full council.

The implementation of the original Curriculum 2000 was overseen by history professor William Chafe, then dean of the faculty of arts and sciences, who believed students were not being sufficiently exposed to the full values of a liberal arts education.

“We sought to correct all of these [weaknesses] by making three courses in the humanities, social sciences and math and science compulsory, by requiring competency in a foreign language, ratcheting up the writing program to require three courses and creating a brand new writing staff and introducing new categories of courses such as cross-cultural inquiry and ethical inquiry,” Chafe wrote in an email Oct. 9.

Nearly half of all undergraduate students were taking no courses at all in one of the Areas of Knowledge when Chafe assumed his role as Dean, he said in a speech to faculty in 1998.

The curriculum drew criticism from students, namely due to its confining nature and pressure on students to enroll in courses they might not want to take in order to fulfill the requirements.

In 2004, a modification of the curriculum added a fifth Area of Knowledge, Quantitative Studies, and reduced the total number of required courses in the Areas of Knowledge from 12 to 10.

The most recent adjustment, approved this February, requires students to fulfill one of their Quantitative Studies requirements in either the mathematics, statistics or computer science departments.

These refreshments of the curriculum are natural products of a constantly improving curricular structure, Dean of Arts and Sciences Laurie Patton wrote in an email Oct. 11.

“We need to ensure that the best traditions of liberal arts learning are preserved even as we respond nimbly and creatively to these new environments,” she said. “Duke can take the curricular lead in thinking about rigor, responding to new educational needs, flexibility and access for our students.”

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