Amanda Morris | News Editor
Several months after faculty members voted down a proposal for a new general education curriculum, the Wheaton College administration has created a General Education Summit composed of faculty, student, administrative and staff representatives to move general education reform into its next phase.
The revised general education curriculum presented for faculty vote in January 2014 was formulated over several years by the General Education Reform Committee (GERC).
Following the ‘no’ vote, the GERC committee disbanded and the Summit will step in to take further steps on reforming general education at Wheaton, something the administration has strong intentions to bring about.
“What we’ve done is set up a next process,” Wheaton College Provost Stanton Jones said. “We haven’t done anything in terms of shaping a curriculum, per se, but rather (are) try(ing) to shape a process.”
The Summit has a total of 18 representatives, seven of whom were elected. Members include faculty representing specific departments, a student representative, administrative representatives and staff representatives that will serve as observers and support for Summit participants.
In addition to the list of summit representatives, the Wheaton College administration has created a document entitled, “Administrative Parameters for General Education Revision” a list that was handed out to faculty members at April’s Faculty Business Meeting. These parameters will serve as a guide to help shape the process and tasks on the representatives’ agenda.
“Our hope is that, by bringing together elected representatives of faculty from the academic divisions … if we can bring people together and really devote the time to immersive sessions during the summer, that we can identify the next steps,” Jones said.
Some elements presented in the administrative parameters document include a goal of retaining the identified strengths of the current general education curriculum, “Essentials of a Christian Worldview,” while addressing the weaknesses and deficiencies that were identified in the November 2011 General Education Review Committee report to the faculty, which included concerns such as the lack of “deeply shared faculty vision for the program,” a lack of clarity and coherence in the program, inadequate interdisciplinary connections and limitations in addressing diversity.
Three “key elements” that the administration said need attention include “effective treatment of domestic diversity that touches all students,” expanded preparation for and access to globalized experiential learning and consistent attention to vocational awareness and calling.
Jones explained that the work and progress of the new General Education Summit, which will meet once in May and once in late July, could end in a variety of different results. “In an ideal form, it will take the form of a comprehensive plan for curricular reform,” Jones said. “It could be more modest than that — it could outline, ‘Here’s the next steps that we advise,’ and we could be looking at a longer time frame. I don’t want to pre-judge what the outcome is going to be.”
Jones stated that the content described in the Administrative Parameters document is there with the hopes of providing more specific guidance to the summit on what the Administration hopes to see in the curricular changes that come upon the finalization of the reform proposal.
“What you see in that (Parameters) document is more specific administrative guidance of what we feel that we would like to see in the curricular reform that comes forward, including things that we insist that we see, and then some of the things that we hope to see,” Jones said.
Jones stated that the content in the document will provide a more specific form of guidance from the administration than the content that the previous general education committee was working with.
“Our hopes are to encourage and focus the faculty members without hindering both the faculty ownership of the curriculum ... and also not shutting off faculty creativity of considering strong alternatives,” Jones said.