Reed Community

Update on Hum 110 Course Review

Chair of Hum 110 provides overview on curriculum proposals.

By Prof. Libby Drumm | October 4, 2017

Dear Reed students,

In the past weeks, I have received many questions about the Hum 110 faculty’s consideration of proposals for a new course syllabus and thought I'd write to explain our process.

As many of you know, one point of the many RAR demands presented to President Kroger in September 2016 concerned revision of the Hum syllabus. Student sit-ins in Hum lecture every MWF last year as well as conversations between students and faculty added urgency to the Hum faculty's ongoing conversations about syllabus revision (the Hum syllabus has been revised three times in the previous 10 years) and contributed to five actions:

  • In October 2016, the Hum 110 faculty voted to move up the scheduled decennial review of the course. Instead of occurring at the normal 10-year interval, the review process was begun last spring, after nine years. 
  • The Hum faculty met for a day-long retreat in January 2017 at which we discussed possible new models for the course. We discussed issues of pedagogy in lecture and conference. Although we discussed informally many different ideas concerning course content, we decided to address first issues of course structure and pedagogy. These discussions continued throughout spring semester 2017.
  • Six Hum 110 faculty members and six students affiliated with RAR (the 6X6 group) met monthly last spring to discuss student concerns about the course, ideas regarding syllabus reform and problems with conference dynamics.
  • The College contracted an outside specialist to develop three surveys: one for all Reed faculty, one for all current students, and one for a group of recent alumni, chosen randomly. In April, a special faculty meeting was held to discuss the survey results and what the goals of a first-year course should be.
  • The Hum 110 faculty decided that a sub-committee would meet over the summer to develop a new syllabus proposal. The Hum faculty developed a charge for the sub-committee, which was informed, in part, by information from the student survey and by student concerns raised in the 6X6 group. To give one concrete example, we had wondered if Hum should be a year-long, unified course and the survey results demonstrated that most students and recent alumni (but not all) thought that it was important for Reed students to have the experience of a unified, year-long course.  

There were nine faculty members on the syllabus revision sub-committee that worked over the summer 2017, and they presented their proposal at a Hum faculty meeting on September 13th. The proposal embodies a new course structure. Instead of a geographically- and historically-based syllabus like the current one, the proposed course is organized around four separate but related themes. At present, the full Hum 110 faculty is considering this proposal as well as a second proposal, developed during the summer of 2016, that proposes a significant revision of the current syllabus that includes 4th century North Africa and the rise of Islam.

The decennial review is also proceeding. The faculty has approved a 40-page review of the Hum 110 course that will be sent to an external review team. The reviewers’ visit to campus has been scheduled for early in the spring semester. There will be opportunities for students to meet with the review team.

The Hum faculty is currently reading representative texts from the proposed syllabi and is meeting to discuss them in an attempt to determine how they would work in conference discussion. We will then come to a decision about whether to adopt one of the new proposals or stay with the current syllabus. It is difficult to predict how long this process will take, but our goal is to make a decision during the 2017-18 academic year.

We have not yet discussed how we will implement a new syllabus, should we decide to adopt one. The implementation would depend, in part, on how radical a change we undertake. If a new syllabus were adopted, however, there would be open forums for interested faculty and students to learn about it and, after a trial period of teaching the syllabus (typically, three years), the syllabus would be evaluated by the Hum faculty with input from students to determine its strengths and weaknesses and to make agreed-upon changes.

I hope this helps to clarify our process. If you have questions, I invite you to come and speak with me. I have office hours MWF 11:00am-12:00pm in Vollum 311.

Best wishes,

Libby Drumm
Current Chair of Hum 110

Tags: Institutional, Academics