COMMITTEE: Academic Standards Committee
MEETING DATE: February 18, 2008
PERSON PRESIDING: Linda Wolfe
REGULAR MEMBERS IN ATTENDANCE: Stacey Altman, Linda Mitchell, Mark Richardson, Nancy Spalding, and Yazid Finn (Student Body President Representative)
EX-OFFICIO MEMBERS IN ATTENDANCE: George Bailey, Michael Brown, Linner Griffin, and Mark Sprague
OTHERS IN ATTENDANCE: Dr. Ellen Arnold (Director of Ethnic Studies), Dr. Scott Curtis and Dr. Ron Mitchelson (Geography), Dr. Michael Spurr and Dr. David Pravica (Math), Dr. Andrew Morehead (Chemistry), Dr. James Joyce and Dr. Jeff Shinpaugh (Physics), and Dr. Catherine Rigsby (Geological Sciences)
CALLED TO ORDER: 2:00 PM
ACTIONS OF MEETING
Agenda Item: Approval of the minutes from the 1/14/08 meeting
Action Taken: Minutes approved
Agenda Item: Review of the discussion from 1/14/08 meeting regarding the acceptability of ETHN 3501 Selected Topics in Ethnic Studies, Humanities and ETHN 3502 Selected Topics in Ethnic Studies, Social Science for Foundations credit.
Discussion: Dr. Ellen Arnold, Director of Ethnic Studies returned to answer follow-up questions regarding ETHN 3501 and ETHN 3502 for Foundations credit. After summarizing the courses and foundation goals of each (and with a quorum of the committee now present), a motion for approval was made.
Action Taken: Motion approved.
Agenda Item: Discussion of teaching outcomes and assessment
Discussion: Discussion of the Outcomes Assessment of Foundations Courses prepared by George Bailey with the support of others on the committee and its new revision. Dr. Bailey explained the initiatives of the general administration as well as the independent group formed for the UNC Tomorrow will likely have an impact on our Academic Standards committee. He hopes that we can begin to integrate these initiatives within existing courses. This will likely mean that the assessment of Foundations courses will need to be more detailed with regard to critical thinking skills and writing skills, and we need to think about what could be built into the guidelines. Dr. Bailey suggests that we need to distinguish standard outcomes from special circumstances that occur from time to time (particular projects that the university administration wants to monitor for a particular time such as writing assessment). He is aware that the group is concerned with students learning about global issues and leadership. Dr. Bailey stated that he would make changes to the outcomes guidelines according to the results of these committees. He is working with the UNC Tomorrow group and is also interested in our suggestions as he states that it is important that we be proactive. When the question of remedial courses was raised, Dr. Bailey clarified that SACs states that credit cannot be given for remedial courses—all credited courses must be at the university level. It may be possible for Student Life to take over and organize remedial courses. The UNC Tomorrow’s report is recommending that Foundations courses address globalization—but the recommendations are rather broad and not pointing to any specific group. The skills that the administration wants us to access are not just those for the Foundations courses, but also those that involve mastering skills at the major’s level. This will mean that the university will have to assess at the senior level in each major to assure that all graduating seniors in each major master writing skills. Some of these assessments, however, do not fall on our shoulders; foundations courses are designed for the first 2 years of study, while improvement of these skills (and mastering these skills) is conditional with progress within the major.
Action Taken: Dr. Bailey will keep our committee informed of the recommendations of the UNC Tomorrow group and the university administration; the topic of outcomes and assessment will be revisited at a future meeting.
Agenda Item: Consideration of the request for GEOG 1300 (Weather and Climate) to receive Basic Science Foundation Curriculum credit
Discussion: Dr. Scott Curtis (an Atmospheric scientist) and Dr. Ron Mitchelson (Chair of ECU’s Geography Department) presented the background of the course and the department’s desire to seek Foundations credit. Dr. Mitchelson explained that the study of meteorology has been under the direction of the Geography department for many years—in fact, many of the faculty in his department are trained in meteorology. Dr. Curtis, an instructor who would teach this course, explained that most of the work would be field-oriented (i.e. outside study of climate conditions). He stated that his background as well as that of several of his colleagues in the department (4 other colleagues are also atmospheric scientists) makes him well suited to teach such a course. He shared with the committee the textbook (Meteorology Today) that he would use for the course as well as several technical instruments that the students would have access to for field study. Dr. Curtis explained the course proposal and how the course would meet each of the Foundations credit goals.
There were a number of faculty present from other departments that came to speak in opposition to the proposal. The majority of the college apparently did not approve the course, and many were present in the room to voice their concerns. Faculty members from the Math department (Dr. Michael Spurr and Dr. David Pravica) are concerned that there are problems that need to be worked out with the science department before Basic Science credit can be given. Could the Geography department not work out this course in collaboration with the Geology department? How can Geography (a Social Science discipline) bring forth a course for Basic Science credit? Another member explained that five members voted against the course from the same area. Dr. Andrew Morehead from the Chemistry department also raised his concern regarding the classification of the course. What exactly IS a Basic Science course vs. and Applied Science course vs. a Social Science course? Drs. Jim Joyce and Jeff Shinpaugh from the Physics department stated their concerns about teaching outside the boundaries of the discipline without the input of other experts in the field (suggesting the such a course should perhaps be cross listed and team taught). Dr. Joyce drew an analogy to campus courses made into distance education courses—who exactly monitors these courses for integrity? He explained that that the Physics department has opposed any foundations courses that were interdisciplinary, and the department also opposes any course that is not broad enough for a Foundations course. He explained that Physics 1050 covers much of the material in this course. Dr. Shinpaugh stated that if the course were listed as a Basic Science course, students would gravitate toward this new course rather than physics and chemistry because it is less demanding.
Dr. Catherine Rigsby from the Department of Geological Sciences voiced her opposition to the course as currently proposed. She studies climate change—it is the specialty of her field—and she states that this is more of an Applied science and not a Basic Science. She was involved on the Academic Standards committee in the past when the Foundations goals were being defined, and she explained that Foundations courses were designed to be a broad introduction to a specific discipline—not specialized. If you are going to allow such as designation for this course, then you are going against the declarations of the written Foundations guidelines and need to rewrite them. The GEOG 1300 as proposed is more of an applied science course with overlap with other courses in other disciplines such as Physics, Chemistry, Math, and Geology. Why could the course not be cross-listed and an effort be made to teach it jointly with other departments?
Dr. Mitchelson said that he had attempted to reach out to other departments as he sought approval but his request was denied. He explained that these types of meteorology courses are being offered at other schools as Foundations courses and also taught by their geography departments.
It was generally agreed that all of the disciplines seem to have a blurring of the lines and a tendency to overlap in subject matter. Dr. Mark Sprague, a specialist in underwater and atmospheric physics, stated that he teaches a physics course for non-science majors that already covers many of the same subjects proposed in this new course. He is concerned that the text chosen for the course doesn’t even introduce the scientific method—how can such a non-scientific text be used for a Basic Science Foundations course?
Additional opposition to the GEOG 1300 course was introduced in the form of two memos: one from Steve Culver, chair of the Department of Geological Sciences, who states that Geography is NOT one of the core disciplines in the Basic Sciences and that the course is actually not a basic science but rather an applied science in atmospheric physics.; the other from John Sutherland, chair of the Department of Physics, who states that the subject of GEOG 1300 is atmospheric science which is an application of both physics and chemistry to atmospheric processes which is already covered in PHYS 1050 Physics and the Environment course.
Action Taken: A paper ballot was distributed to each voting member of the committee to vote for approval of the course for Foundations credit. The response from the Committee was evenly divided with 5 admitting the course and 5 denying the course. Because there must be a majority for approval, the proposed course GOEG 1300 was denied.
ADJOURNED: 4:00 p.m.
NEXT MEETING: March 17, 2008
ITEMS TO BE DISCUSSED: Discussion with Michael Poteat on a revision of the statement on the SOIS and new courses for Foundations Credit.