District studies requiring a ‘learning framework’ course for all students

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literature_9755_CC_10-2-13 copyThe change could further reduce enrollment in literature courses.

By Bleah B. Patterson and Emily Rodriguez

The Alamo Colleges is considering a change in the core curriculum to require all students to take a three-hour student development course.

Although the proposal is still in the planning stages, students would be required to take EDUC 1300 or PSYC 1300. Both are titled Learning Framework in the 2013-14 catalog and are cross-referenced.

Christa Emig, director of coordination and transfer articulation, said Thursday that officials have not decided which of the courses would be required.

Unlike the current student development course, SDEV 0170, required for students with fewer than 15 semester hours who are at college level, the learning framework courses are transferable to universities that accept them.

Emig said that the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has redefined the core curriculum for associate of arts programs, which has given the Alamo Colleges a chance to rethink and restructure that core.

“We really are thinking of the core as a collection of core objects that we want to make sure students are obtaining, such as critical thinking, communication, empirical and quantitative skills, teamwork and social and personal responsibility,” she said.

In 2012-13, Alamo Colleges streamlined and standardized the associate of arts core curriculum. Faculty discipline teams had to justify all courses included in the 42-hour core and write common learning outcomes, which went into effect this semester.

Students working on associate of applied science degrees also would have to take the learning frameworks course.

“We want all students to have the opportunity to take the courses,” Emig said. “We do want students on the technical side, if they’re earning an A.A.S. or a certificate, to be able to take the SDEV or the learning framework class.”

The course cannot be added to the core curriculum because the THECB will not allow a core curriculum to exceed 42 hours, Emig said.

That means the course would have to replace a current core requirement.

English Chair Mike Burton believes “the most likely outcome” and a disturbing option to the English department would involve replacing either of these courses with one of two humanities options the core now requires.

Those in the English department fear that when the core is once again revised, it will “continue to erode enrollment in sophomore literature,” Burton said.

In fall 2011, the core required students to take two humanities classes. One was selected from about 40 options and one was literature.

In fall 2012, the revised core has two humanities requirements and both offer the same options, including English, humanities, foreign languages and philosophy.

Should the core be cut and fewer humanities credits be required, Burton said the need for literature classes would continue to decline because students would rather take a class requiring less reading and writing.

Writing center Director Jane Focht-Hansen, English professor, said the drop in enrollment in literature classes has faculty “struggling to have enough classes to be full time” and predicts a continued drop if the core is cut and literature class enrollment continues to suffer.

Focht-Hansen believes literature classes will assist in advancing a student academically no matter their major.

Literature classes enhance reading, writing, and critical thinking abilities, she said.

“When we narrow the way people can expand their thinking, it says something awful about our culture.” Focht-Hansen said. “Education is supposed to make you a better person.”

She said her courses at this college prepared her for upper-division work.

“What I did here at San Antonio College with the expanded core prepared me for the additional work I had to do at Trinity University. I was well-read enough to understand the professors.”

Burton said students need writing-intensive classes.

“Students shortchange themselves when they don’t take writing-intensive classes” Burton said. “Eventually, all education comes to research and writing down that research.”

Psychology Chair Thomas Billimek has given suggestions on how to fit in the learning framework course.

“What I had suggested for that is in the associate of arts degree major, there is an opportunity for 18 hours. One of those is a directed elective,” he said. “What I had proposed is that we would include PSYC 1300, Learning Framework, as one of the possible directed electives.”

Billimek said he is fine with the implementation of PSYC 1300 as long as students receive college credit for it.

“Those directed electives have to be outside of the discipline,” he said. “Although it is psychology, it wouldn’t be like, for example, taking one of our regular courses. I would be willing to accept that as an option because of the nature of the course.”

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