January 20, 2000.
You will perhaps recall that at this time last year SCAPA floated a proposal for fairly sharp restructuring of Western's undergraduate programs, and sought the community's reactions to it. The reactions were vigorous, extremely diverse, and in many cases very thoughtful and useful.
In the intervening months SCAPA has worked quietly on the proposal, and it now brings it to you in a revised and augmented form, in the White Paper which is attached.
The proposal falls, really, into two parts. The first is a reform of the structural matrix of our bachelor's level degrees; the effect of this reform is to introduce a four-year non-Honors degree, called the Advanced Baccalaureate, alongside the four-year Honors degree and the three-year degree, and to construct these various degrees out of programs of disciplinary study at three different levels of concentration: Honors, Major and Minor.
The second part is the introduction of a Core Program of study as part of all undergraduate degrees, modelled on the Core Program at Harvard University.
A proposal of this scope will rightly engender many technical and administrative questions. I should mention that this present document does not attempt to address all of these: it is not written in Calendar language.
SCAPA will be consulting the community as widely as possible about this proposal, through this present document distributed to Deans and Chairs, through its publication in Western News, and through oral presentations in Senate and to open meetings called for the purpose. A serious consultation process of this sort imposes its own rhythm, but our hope is to receive reactions by March 13, so that we can be guided by those reactions as we prepare a Calendar document for consideration by the Senate at its meeting in May.
Yours very truly,
Chair of SCAPA
THE UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN ONTARIO
SCAPA White Paper
THE REFORM OF THE UNDERGRADUATE PROGRAM
There has been widespread feeling in the University community for a few years that it is time to work some fairly deep changes in the overall structure of our undergraduate programs. In particular,
B. History of the Process
In 1997 the Provost put together a small committee of colleagues who were known to be working on program reform in the various core faculties, the Provost's Advisory Committee on Undergraduate Degrees and Programs (PACUDP), chaired by Prof. David Bentley of the Department of English. In the summer of 1998 the Committee submitted its report, recommending a revision of the structure of academic programs leading to the Baccalaureate degree at Western; the essence of its recommendation was that a middle level of concentration be introduced, between the Honors and the Area of Concentration. This report was transmitted to SCAPA in the autumn of that year. SCAPA formed a subcommittee to study the report, to consult in the University community, and to return with specific recommendations. SCAPA received a draft report from this subcommittee in January 1999, a report which was widely circulated in the University, and which drew a great deal of comment, both negative and positive. With the results of that consultation under its belt, the subcommittee returned to its work in the summer and autumn of 1999, delivering its report to SCAPA in December. SCAPA accepted that report, with some minor modifications, and approved its circulation in the University community in the form of the present White Paper.
C. Overview of the Recommendations
SCAPA's recommendations fall into two parts. The first part, a revision of the structural matrix of the baccalaureate programs, is, in essence, a proposal to introduce, alongside Western's traditional 3-year General and 4-year Honors degrees, a new 4-year non-Honors degree called the Advanced Baccalaureate. These programs of study leading to these various degrees will be built up out of modules of study at three different levels of concentration: Honors, Major and Minor.
The second part, a substantive revision, is to work into the fabric of all three baccalaureate degree programs a Core Program modelled on the very successful Core Program at Harvard University; in essence this is a requirement that, during their program of study, students use some of their courses which are not dedicated to a field of concentration to secure exposure to a broad range of forms of intellectual inquiry.
D. The Recommendations with respect to the Structural Matrix
The various degree programs will be composed of the Core Program plus modules of disciplinary study as follows:
Honors: 9-11 courses
Major: 6-7 courses
Minor: 4 courses
The Honors, Major and Minor modules will be structured programs of study in the discipline, not haphazard collections of loosely related courses.
The degrees will be as follows:
The Baccalaureate with Honors
a four-year degree program composed, after first year, of 15 post-first-year courses as follows:
Core (3) + Honors (9-11) + Options (2-1)
The Advanced Baccalaureate
a four-year degree program composed, after first year, of 15 post-first-year courses as follows:
Core (3) + Major (6-7) + Major (6-7), or
Core (3) + Major (6-7) + Minor (4) + Options (2-1), or
Core (3) + Major (6-7) + Options (6-5)
a three-year degree program composed, after first year, of 10 post-first-year courses as follows:
Core (3) + Major (6-7) + Options (1-0)
Notes to these Structural Recommendations
(a) Academic units may offer whatever modules they wish. Thus a given department, History for example, might offer just three: History Honors, History Major, History Minor. Or it might offer two different Major modules - World History Major and Canadian History Major, say -, or it might elect to offer only an Honors module. A department like Classics would probably want to offer nine modules: an Honors, a Major and a Minor in each of Greek, Latin and Classics. And so forth.
(b) The modules are highly permissive. Except for the maximum or minimum number of courses in each, and the requirement that they be structured programs of study, academic units are entirely free to stipulate such matters as course sequences, module-specific course sections, and the like. In particular, academic units would be free to structure the modules cumulatively, or not. And it remains perfectly possible for a unit to specify, as part of one of its modules, courses offered by another unit. Thus FIMS could include in its Honors module, for example, courses offered by the Department of Computer Science.
(c) Interdepartmental or interfaculty modules are invited.
(d) No proposal is made here for the revision of performance bars which must be met for entry to Honors or Major programs, progression requirements in the programs, or the system of "strikes before you're out" presently in place. It may be that the University community will want to alter these, and SCAPA will be eager for advice on this subject during the consultation about these proposals.
(e) Discussion in the University has shown a strong general desire to keep our Honors programs intact. These programs are a distinctive feature of Western because they typically involve a much higher degree of concentration in a discipline than is the case in Honors programs at other universities in Canada. (For example, an Honors degree at the University of Toronto is simply a four-year degree; it may be composed merely of three minors.) The Honors module as here proposed preserves this traditional feature of study at Western.
(f) The Major module is essentially equivalent, in number of courses, to our present Honors requirements when they figure in Combined Honors programs. The intention of this structure is that students would be entirely free to combine any Major module with any other, subject, of course, to the not insignificant constraints of the timetable.
(g) The Minor module is less than our present Area of Concentration (which would, of course, disappear). It would still be expected to be a structured program of study.
(h) The Core module is an essential feature of this reconfiguration; it will be discussed in a separate section below.
(i) It would be rare indeed for a curriculum plan to work out tidily in every respect. One possible bulge in this proposal could occur for a student seeking a double Major in two very similar disciplines. If both Majors required seven courses, and if the Majors did not between them cover off four required areas of the Core, then the student might have to take more than 15 courses to achieve the Advanced Baccalaureate.
(j) Some members of the University community have expressed the hope that this reform of the program might see the simple elimination of 3-year degrees. Others have said that, whatever we do, the 3-year degree is likely to disappear when the Ontario secondary-school program really becomes a four-year program. 3-year degrees, however, seem to have a useful place in some disciplines as a preparation for professional schools. And the examples of Manitoba, of Saskatchewan and of Nova Scotia suggest that there is no essential incompatibility between a four-year high school program and a three-year degree. Moreover the probable enrolment pressures of the Double Cohort years may lead us to be grateful for a 3-year degree option. The SCAPA has therefore preferred to strengthen the 3-year program at Western by insisting that it contain a Major module.
(k) Honors, Major and Minor modules would be mentioned on the degree parchment: examples: Honors BA in Economics, Advanced Baccalaureate in Arts, with Major in Anthropology and Minor in English; BSc. in Earth Sciences.
(l) The Baccalaureate with Honors and the Advanced Baccalaureate would be conferred summa cum laude (over 90% average), magna cum laude (80-89% average), cum laude (70-79% average) or simply. The Baccalaureate would be conferred simply.
(m) Students who graduate with a Baccalaureate could enrol for a fourth year of study to achieve either the Diploma in Honors Standing, or a Diploma in Advanced Standing.
(n) This matrix is proposed as the default matrix for the baccalaureate degree at Western. It is understood that some baccalaureate programs - e.g., the hermetic professional baccalaureate programs such as BMus, BFA, BESc - might need to bend the matrix.
E. The Recommendations with respect to the Core Program
The Core Program is a device - modelled on the very successful device of the same name at Harvard - to ensure that all students graduating with a UWO baccalaureate degree will have some serious exposure to the following seven fields of human enquiry:
Literature and Arts
(This is the Harvard list.)
All students will be required, for graduation, to have had at least one half-course in each of these fields.
The student's Honors or Major or Minor program would exempt him or her from at least one of these fields; hence for any given student at most six of the seven fields would have to be addressed by taking Core courses.
The body of courses satisfying the Core Program requirements would be courses offered for that purpose. They would be designed to give students a serious, if introductory, engagement in one of the seven fields. The common aim of the Core Program courses will be to lead nonspecialist students to a sympathetic appreciation of how each field contributes to the human intellectual endeavour.
The Core requirement would be satisfied by Core courses on a limited list approved annually by Senate. Approval of these Core courses would be based on their adequately addressing the requirements of the field, and on their being offered by seasoned instructors. A maximum of 20 half courses would be approved in each field each year. Typically, these will be 100-level courses, though some courses at the 020 level might be permitted (e.g. introductory language courses)
Many courses which would clearly qualify as Core courses are already in existence.
There should be serious pedagogical investment by the University in courses offered in the Core Program so that it becomes a highly distinctive, much publicized, well-known and attractive feature of undergraduate education at Western.
Notes to the Recommendations regarding the Core Program
(a) The intent of the Core Program is to affirm, at a time when programs of study in our University and in all universities are becoming increasingly specialized and job-oriented, that a university education is fundamentally different from a community college education. A university education is to be understood as education not just for work but for leadership, and leaders in any field are those who can take the larger view, or - to slip into management lingo - who can think outside the box. A university education should thus be distinguished by the fact that it provides some breadth of intellectual exposure absent from mere technical or professional training. For this reason the Core Program is conceived by SCAPA as truly central and essential to the various degrees, and not as a piece of peripheral tinkering.
(b) The essence of the Core Program lies in the full definitions of its fields, and these will be set out below, after a discussion of technical matters.
(c) The Core Program is a pedagogical challenge, but one to which we are surely equal. It will engage the efforts of some of our very best teachers, and it will survive and prosper by their excellence. Apart from anything else, the Core Program will ensure that all students at Western receive some part of their instruction from our very best teachers.
(d) Courses for the Core Program could be proposed by any unit. There is no intention in these proposals to favour any part of the disciplinary geography of the University over any other. Thus a course for the Science field could as well be proposed by the Department of Earth Sciences as by the Department of Physics, as by colleagues in Human Ecology. A course for the Historical Studies field could as well be proposed by the Department of Visual Arts as by the Department of History, or by the Department of the History of Medicine. And so forth.
(e) Approval of courses for the Core Program would be based, as has already been noted, on their meeting the stated objectives of the field, and on the basis of their being assigned to seasoned and successful instructors. Reapproval of courses for the Core Program would reflect the success of the course in previous years as measured by the Student Evaluation of Teaching.
(f) Units would be encouraged to propose courses for the Core Program by a significantly higher Enrollment Contingent Funding (ECF) weight being given to Core course enrolments.
(g) Students will, as noted above, be excused at least one Core Program requirement by virtue of their Honors, Major or Minor program. Thus students doing a Major in Mathematics would be excused the Quantitative Reasoning requirement; students doing an Honors degree in Politics would be excused (at least) the Social Analysis requirement. It would be part of the definition of each disciplinary module to say which Core requirement(s) that module covers off. Students who are excused more than one Core requirement by reason of their field(s) of concentration must still complete the equivalent of six half-courses in the Core Program.
The Fields of the Core Program
(It is understood that the pedagogical aim of the Core Courses is the engagement of students in the field. It follows that courses whose whole character is that of a mere descriptive survey would be unlikely to be approved.)
Historical Studies: To develop students' comprehension of history as a form of enquiry and understanding; to help the student understand the historical background of some major issues of the present world - whether political, economic, cultural or intellectual. Examples of courses filling this requirement might be a course in the history of the relations between Québec and the rest of Canada, or one on the history of the development of the European Union.
Quantitative Reasoning: To introduce students to mathematical and quantitative modes of thought; to lead students to appreciate the power of quantitative methods in any enquiry. To reduce students' fear of symbolic systems. This requirement might be filled, for example, by a course in statistics, a course in calculus, a course in symbolic logic, or a course in game theory or decision theory.
Moral Reasoning: To introduce students to disciplined reflection on significant and recurrent questions of choice and value. To develop the reflex of ethical assessment of planned actions or policies. Courses in theoretical ethics or in the various parts of applied ethics - biomedical, media, environmental, business etc. - would be examples of courses which would fill this requirement.
Science: To give students some grasp of the physical or the biological sciences, their power, their methods, and the current state of their questions. (Because of the number of students involved, it is unlikely that these courses in Science could have a laboratory component.) Examples of courses under this head would be courses in evolutionary theory, in genetics, in cosmology, in chemistry, etc.
Literature and Arts: To foster a sympathy for, and a critical understanding of artistic expression, whether verbal or nonverbal. Examples would be courses in literature or literary theory, in the visual arts, or in the performing arts: music, drama, film making, dance.
Foreign Cultures: To expand students' understanding of the importance of cultural factors in shaping people's lives through the study of cultures significantly different from that of the Anglophone countries of Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand - to provide fresh perspectives on one's own cultural assumptions and traditions. One way of meeting this requirement would be a course in a foreign language; another would be a course in cultural anthropology, or in social history.
Social Analysis: To familiarize students with the central approaches of the Social Sciences and to do so in a way which gives students a sense of how those approaches can enhance their understanding of human behaviour in present-day society. Courses satisfying this Core requirement would be ones which illustrate the work of the social sciences by relating empirical data to coherent theories.
SCAPA proposes an implementation date of September 2002.
After discussion in the University community through the winter months of 2000, the proposals should come before Senate for approval in the spring.
After the approval of these proposals by Senate, SCAPA would immediately form two working groups, one for the Design of Modules and one for the Core Program.
The Working Group for the Design of Modules would meet with undergraduate officers from the various units to work out how they wish to accommodate their programs to the modules. In many cases the present programs will slide across without change. In some cases some adjustment will be needed. The module which may need the most work in each case is likely to be the Minor, since minors are now a relatively rare thing at the University.
The Working Group for the Core Program would solicit courses for the Core Program from academic units, would work to achieve balance in the offerings, and would submit the proposals to SCAPA for approval.
It is understood that resources would be made available to academic units by the central administration to help with the extra administrative work involved in making these adjustments.
The task that was entrusted to SCAPA by the Provost was that of devising a reform of the baccalaureate programs which would add significantly to the attractiveness of study at Western, without entailing a wholesale razing of what is now in place.
SCAPA has devised a structural matrix which will
a) accommodate existing Honors and Combined Honors programs with minimal adjustment;
b) introduce a 4-year degree which, while a rich an desirable program of study, is not a highly concentrated Honors program, as Honors programs have traditionally been conceived at Western;
c) lead to the creation of structured Minors, giving students the choice of a better organized exposure to a discipline than is available through the helter-skelter use of optional courses;
d) (subject to the constraints of the timetable) allow free combinations of Majors;
e) give units great liberty to preserve features of their current programs which they deem important;
f) require no new resources beyond those needed for implementation.
Moreover, in the device of the Core Program, SCAPA is proposing something which will
a) add significantly to the palette of study that is available at Western;
b) lend a distinctive and desirable character to Western's baccalaureate programs;
c) ensure that all Western's baccalaureate students have some of their instruction from the most seasoned of our undergraduate teachers;
d) not entail massive new resources, since the Core program consists basically in giving new organization, new value and new prominence to 100-level courses, many of which are already in existence.