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Proposed new curriculum features Duke Experience seminar, 'credit/no credit' option

<p>The Arts and Sciences Council charged the IDC committee with reviewing the current curriculum and proposing changes, which have been discussed at the council's meetings.&nbsp;</p>

The Arts and Sciences Council charged the IDC committee with reviewing the current curriculum and proposing changes, which have been discussed at the council's meetings. 

Trinity students are now closer to seeing a final version of the new curriculum proposal.

Since September 2014, the Imagining the Duke Curriculum committee—made up of faculty members—has been reviewing the curriculum currently in place for undergraduates. In January, the committee presented an initial outline of a new curriculum to the Arts and Sciences Council. Now, after months of gathering feedback, the committee has put together a revised proposal, to be debated among faculty during the next several weeks. A final draft will be submitted “for faculty consideration” in February 2017.

Here’s what you should know about the revised curriculum proposal titled, “Experience Duke Deliberately.”

New and notable adjustments to the framework:

Trinity students must take 34 credits to graduate now, up to two of which can be Advanced Placement credits. However, the committee is recommending that students be required to take 36 credits and that AP credits no longer count toward graduation. According to the proposed curriculum, an average of nine courses would have to be taken each year. Currently, students can theoretically graduate in eight semesters at Duke without taking more than four courses in any given semester.

In addition, the committee recommended a new option for courses to be taken “credit/no credit.” This would serve to “promote risk taking” in the courses students choose to enroll in. After students complete a course and receive a formal grade for it, they would have the option of converting the class to "credit/no credit," in which a grade below a C- would be labelled as “no credit” and removed from their transcript, and a grade above a C- would be labelled as “credit.” According to the proposal, up to six courses can be converted to “credit/no credit” status, but no more than one per semester.

“Experience Duke Deliberately” bases the proposed curriculum on five elements, or requirements.

  1. The Duke Experience will be a “multidisciplinary team-taught” year-long seminar that all first-years will have to take. The committee says the course will “focus on academic inquiry and the life of the mind.” It will be taken as a half credit in the Fall and a half credit in the Spring, taught by the same faculty member. Unlike other half courses offered, the seminar will not be graded on a pass/fail basis, but for full credit. They will also be organized into “themed living and learning communities” based on the themes of the seminars.
  2. Under the signature core, students will have to take one course in each of five areas before the second semester of their sophomore year. The five areas include: modeling and quantification; scientific and social scientific inquiry; humanistic interpretation and artistic creation; languages and cultures; and writing, representing and performance—which could be a Writing 101 course. In previous discussions of the proposal, faculty have voiced concerns that the Duke Experience would replace Writing 101 for first-years. FOCUS courses would all be a part of the signature core.
  3. The major, and whether the number of requirements for some majors should be lowered, has been a source of substantive feedback from faculty, said Suzanne Shanahan— associate research professor of sociology and chair of the IDC committee—in February. In the revised proposal, the IDC committee “strongly encourages” that the minimum number of courses in a major be lowered from 10 to eight, but adds that the size of the majors are ultimately a departmental decision.
  4. A secondary depth is included as a feature of the proposal in order “to ensure that students are engaging deeply in multiple areas of the curriculum.” This would be achieved through either a minor, certificate, second major or through one of two new pathways. The “P3 Pathway” is described as six courses self-designed around a theme, and the “P4 Pathway” could be a summer or semester-long program—abroad or not—paired with at least three courses taken at Duke. Both pathways would appear on students’ transcripts, and both would be designed and completed with faculty guidance.
  5. The final requirement would be a “broadly conceived” mentored scholarly experience. Examples given by the proposal include a research independent study, participation on a Bass Connections team, a thesis, a co-authored publication, a policy brief, designing a community-based intervention or a performance.

The proposal also notes that there will be several town halls to provide opportunities for additional feedback. A town hall for the humanities will be held Nov. 16, one for the social sciences will be held Nov. 30 and one for the natural sciences will be held Dec. 6.