Strategic Planning

Working Group A: Foundational Curriculum fall 2013 progress report

Members: Melinda Brown ‘06, Suzanne Cassidy ’65, Arthur Glasfeld (co-chair), Paul Gronke, Archit Guha ‘14, Alex Hrycak, Laura Leibman, Julie Maxfield, Jay Mellies, Mary Ashburn Miller, Nigel Nicholson (co-chair), Julia Selker ‘15


The Foundational Curriculum working group held its first meeting on September 23rd, and has since met four more times. Summaries of meetings are circulated to those who are unable to attend, and discussed either on-line or at the next meeting if there is disagreement.

The group shares a central depository where a large number of college documents (ad-hoc reports, faculty motions, accreditation materials, program reviews, etc.) is stored, as well as any documents we are using to shape our discussions.

In addition to gathering together data that was already available, individual members have collected data, and requests for new data have also been made to the Office of Institutional Research.

A consultation process has been agreed and is underway. In addition to the general open forum later this week, there will be the following efforts to gather broad community input: the group will hold smaller sessions, some for faculty and staff, and some for students; individual faculty and staff who have expressed an interest in the group will be individually interviewed; chairs of programs, departments and offices will be encouraged to submit concept documents (some already have); and written submissions are and will be encouraged.


Conception of Task. At this stage, we have first sought to answer the broad question of “what learning and skills should students gain in foundational or first-year courses in order to flourish in their subsequent years at Reed and their lives after Reed?” The committee has been constructing a broad, and ideal sense of what a foundational education should provide. We have also begun asking what goals we are currently meeting or missing, what courses should or do meet particular goals, and what constraints and costs there are to any potential changes.

We had extensive discussion about what constitutes our foundational curriculum. For the purpose of this committee, we defined the foundational education as the distribution/group requirements and Hum 110.

We have thought of this question both in terms of the acquisition of particular skills, competences or intellectual dispositions (e.g. writing, collaborative learning, data analysis, quantitative reasoning, creativity, the ability to critique arguments or navigate complex or different cultures) and in terms of exposure to different sorts of academic or intellectual practice (e.g. different fields, approaches, methods, or learning environments – i.e. seminar, lecture, lab); we have also considered it in terms of a longer list of specifics and a shorter, more general list.

Areas of discussion have included whether our foundational curriculum should provide or develop: exposure to variety of disciplines, contents, methodologies; writing (form and critique arguments through writing); speaking & presentation (form and critique arguments orally); other conference skills such as collaboration, listening, and the ability to debate respectfully; critical reading; data analysis; quantitative reasoning; digital competency; foreign languages; multicultural competence or exposure to non-western material; artistic performance and expression; creativity; exposure to a variety of learning environments; physical education; and community-based learning.

At present, the aim of the committee has been to get everything on the table, but we have also considered how well we are meeting these goals, both through our general requirements and through Hum 110.

Our next goals are (1) to find out from the community if there are other goals we might or should be interested in, and what support there is for these different goals; and (2) to explore through our data collection and community input how well we are meeting these goals, and (3) determine, given our constraints and costs, where we might want to strengthen the foundational curriculum.