New proposed General Education revision to reshape curriculum

Kelton Holsen, Staff Writer

new proposal was released on Monday that detailed sweeping changes to the General Education requirements for Augsburg students. The proposal will go into effect in the fall of 2021 pending approval by Augsburg’s Faculty Senate. If passed, students who enter or have entered the University before then will have the option to change to the new requirements once they take effect.

According to Jacqueline DeVries, the revision contains “some things [that] look a little familiar” such as “an emphasis on skill development [and] … the liberal arts.” She says that the philosophy behind the revision is based on the pedagogy of experiential education. “Community-based learning is embedded in key pieces here,” says DeVries.

The proposal also seeks to find what DeVries describes as “the best practices surrounding classroom inclusivity … helping both faculty [and] students to understand themselves, the social positions that they occupy and how those social positions might be different from other students that they’re encountering.” One requirement of the new guidelines is that students take coursework that emphasizes inclusivity, which will be usually found within the Signature Curriculum and Global Awareness part of the new curriculum.

The most significant change to the General Education requirements under the new proposal is the new sequence of Signature Curriculum courses. Under the new proposal, students will usually take one Signature course during each year of study.

The first of these courses, AUG 101: Big Questions, would replace the Augsburg Seminar classes previously required for first-year students. According to the proposal, AUG 101 courses will be “cross-listed with disciplinary courses” and “are designed around ‘big questions’ and inquiry-based learning, develop students’ understanding of social identity and cultural difference and incorporate significant experiential or community-engaged components.”

The second Signature Curriculum course will be a religion course very similar to the first-year religion course currently taken by Augsburg students. Instead of following it up with a second religion course, however, students will follow it up with Living Ethically: Beliefs and Commitments in Public Life, a course that explores “the religious and/or nonreligious worldviews that shape ethical judgments on personal and social issues through case studies or applications within particular fields.” Like AUG 101, this course would have several options within different departments that fulfill the requirement.

Finally, students in their final year at Augsburg will take AUG 401: Designing the Future, a keystone course which DeVries describes as “an integrated, problem-based kind of course.” Keystones may be interdisciplinary or may be contained within a single major and will focus on a specific and complex goal: DeVries says that students in the course will “solve a problem, produce an exhibit, do a major project, a collaborative project with the community.”

“[The curriculum is] moving from questions to answers,” says DeVries. “By this point, you’re actually taking the skills and the knowledge that you have to do something real.”

The proposal also entails a slight redesign of Augsburg’s liberal arts requirements. While before students were required to take two Liberal Arts Foundation (LAF) courses in each of four areas as well as two semesters of a language and some physical education courses, the new proposal lays out eight LAAP (Liberal Arts Areas and Perspectives) disciplines in which students must complete at least one class. The LAAPs generally line up with the previous requirements, but they have descriptive names that reflect the skills that students will get out of them (such as “Communication and Expression”) and generally are more focused around a specific skill. The language requirement has also been changed to an “Intercultural and Global Awareness” requirement, which can be met with “two courses of language study,” “two courses that explore diversity in society and culture” or “an approved semester-long study abroad.”

Students will also be required to take one course that “emphasizes environmental sustainability,” which can be an LAAP course and/or part of a major or minor.

Not everything in the proposal is set in stone. One concern that was raised in early versions of the proposal was that it would have negative ramifications for transfer students, who make up a significant proportion of Augsburg’s population. To combat this, many of the Signature Curriculum requirements have been waived for transfer students with a significant amount of credit.

Another concern of the proposal was that it reduced the number of religion classes taken by Augsburg students, which the department of religion opposed. DeVries says that the new revision has met with approval from the religion department, who she says suggested the progression of a religion class followed by a class on ethics found in the proposal. “That’s one of the success stories,” says DeVries. The report also notes that many religion courses that are currently in the catalogue would count for the ethics requirement.

This article was originally published in the March 8, 2019 issue.