[FUN_Mail] Questions about breadth of study requirements

Ronald J Bayline via FUN_Mail fun_mail at lists.funfaculty.org
Thu May 7 10:38:16 EDT 2015

My college (Washington & Jefferson) is undergoing a significant curricular revision at the moment.  One of the issues we are tackling is a redefinition of our breadth of study categories.  The goal of this change is to make the breadth of study less tied to specific programs (ie, natural science, social science, humanities, arts) and more tied to conceptual frameworks (e.g. artistic, behavioral, historical, literary, logical, scientific).  Right now, we are wrestling with what counts in different categories, mostly the "scientific" category.  Our approved language states the following:

"These courses teach students to investigate the natural world and the means by which scientific principles are assembled, using the tools of observation, experimentation, theoretical inquiry, modeling, and data collection and analysis."

Students will be required to complete one course in each of the 6 breadth areas, and then 3 additional breadth courses for a total of 9 breadth of study courses.  The primary questions that we are addressing are the following:

1:  Should this requirement contain a lab- or field-based component?  How much time would be required for students to spend in labs for this requirement
--our current curriculum requires students to complete two "natural sciences and mathematics" courses, one with a lab.  The new requirement will mean that many students will only complete one "scientific" course

2:  What areas should be included in the "scientific" category?  Do we include traditional "social science" areas of psychology, sociology, economics, etc, since they use the scientific method?
--we do have the "behavioral" category as well which may cover many traditional social science areas

My question to my colleagues is this:

How do you treat breadth of study in your institutions?  Do you require laboratory courses for your breadth of study?  Do you make distinctions between natural sciences and social sciences?  If so, how do you make the distinction?

Thank you for your input.

Ron Bayline

Ronald J. Bayline
Associate Professor and Chair, Biology Department
Highmark Professor in the Life Sciences
Washington and Jefferson College
60 South Lincoln Street
Washington, PA 15301
ph: (724) 250-3406
fx:  (724) 228-3802
email:  rjbayline at washjeff.edu<mailto:rjbayline at washjeff.edu>

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