High school seniors enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences this fall will have an extra decision to make this summer while they are busily selecting housing arrangements and dining plans. They will also need to decide whether or not they want to participate in the College's new pilot curriculum program, which includes a modified version of the General Requirement. College Dean Richard Beeman said the school will soon send out letters and brochures to incoming freshmen explaining the differences between the pilot program and the traditional curriculum, allowing students to indicate a preference for one or the other. From the group of students indicating an interest in the pilot curriculum, 200 will be randomly selected for the new program, Beeman said, but he added that the participant group may be somewhat adjusted to create a balanced mix of students. "We want this to be, as near as possible, a cross-section of the freshman class," Beeman said, noting that "we will pay attention to obvious categories" to ensure a balanced distribution of males and females, as well as students who indicated different interests on their applications to Penn. The most publicized part of the pilot curriculum, approved last fall by the College faculty, is the modified General Requirement, which will consist of four special interdisciplinary courses rather than the traditional 10-course requirement. One course will be offered each semester, on average, in each of the four areas: "Structure and Value in Human Societies," "Science, Culture and Society," "Earth, Space and Life" and "Imagination, Representation and Reality." The pilot program will also include a required research component for every participating student, as well as increased emphasis on the development of oral and communication skills and the use of free electives. Math Professor Frank Warner, the chairman of the Committee on Undergraduate Education, which oversaw the development of the pilot curriculum, said the new curriculum "could make a really significant difference to undergraduate education here at Penn." Classes offered this fall will include titles like, "Globalization and its Historical Significance," "The Self-Portrait" and "Life in the Universe." Students are expected to take one pilot course per semester for their first four semesters. "My hope is that we get a good number of students to select it, but that the number of students is not overwhelming," Warner said of the pilot program. Beeman said the College used focus groups of current students in developing its mailings on the new curriculum, and the participants were evenly divided about which program they would have preferred if given a choice. "I think we have crafted our [brochures] in a way that we expect a good many people will opt for the traditional curriculum," Beeman said, since the mailings will point out both the advantages and disadvantages of each program. Though the pilot curriculum's General Requirement includes only four courses, Beeman said he did not think that incoming students would choose it to avoid taking classes in subjects they do not like. He added, however, that "the pilot curriculum really does not ensure that students will be exposed to? as many subject areas." Warner noted that the experimental General Requirement would not necessarily be a reduction of six course requirements for most students, since many now fulfill parts of the General Requirement with courses in their majors or Advanced Placement credits. He said the pilot curriculum's special interdisciplinary courses -- most of which will be taught by a team of professors -- might actually get students to become interested in subjects that they might otherwise have avoided with the traditional General Requirement. In the fall of 2001, 400 freshmen will participate in the pilot curriculum, which will be overseen by a committee associated with CUE. The program will be evaluated in five years by the SAS faculty, which would have to vote to expand the initiative to all College students.Comments powered by Disqus
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