June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
11.416.1 - 11.416.14
Designing a Process for Department Curricular Reform
Given pressures from various directions to improve engineering education, department curricular renewal is an important and timely topic. Often, renewal efforts focus first upon content, e.g., What topics should be added? What topics should be revised? What topics should be removed? While content receives considerable attention, recent studies of curricular reform have suggested that increased attention to the process of curricular reform might lead to broader, deeper, and more lasting improvements. With these studies in mind, the Departments of Chemical Engineering at Texas A&M University, Texas A&M University Kingsville, and Prairie View A&M University, as they begin their journeys of curricular renewal, are constructing a process through which they hope to achieve sweeping and durable improvements. The paper reports on how well the process has been realized, how faculty members have responded to the initiatives, and how prospects for continued progress appear.
The importance of departmental curricular reform is being increasingly recognized and many departments are engaged in this area1-3. In some cases, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has supported their efforts through Department-Level Reform (DLR) planning and implementation grants4–15. Typically, curricular reform efforts focus on content. This is understandable since faculty members are passionate about critical content mastery that they hope to see from their students. However, while increasing overall content knowledge merits such attention, there is more than content to be considered. How the content is presented, what students are expected to do with that content, and how the learning process is designed, modeled, and assessed are all issues pertinent to curriculum reform. Recent studies of curricular reform have suggested that increased attention to the process of curricular reform might lead to broader, deeper, and more lasting improvements1,2,16,17. With these studies in mind, the Departments of Chemical Engineering at Texas A&M University, Texas A&M University Kingsville, and Prairie View A&M University, as they began their journeys of curricular renewal in September 2005 with support from the NSF DRL program, are constructing a process through which they hope to achieve sweeping and durable improvements.
Challenges to sustainable departmental curricular reform are manifold. First, there is tension between the perspective of a curriculum as a unified whole that is intended to shape the characteristics of its graduates and the perspective of the curriculum as a collection of individual courses for which individual faculty members accept responsibility. Fisher, Fairweather, and Amey described this as “the tension between collective responsibility and the boundaries of academic freedom”2. Understandably, faculty concern regarding curriculum tends to focus most strongly on courses related to their area of professional expertise that they teach. Secondly, faculty members focus on courses that are prerequisite to courses of interest (specifically the degree to which students emerging from these courses are prepared for the next course in the sequence). From the perspective of the individual faculty member, the “curriculum” may be
Froyd, J., & Layne, J., & Yurttas, L., & Ford, D. (2006, June), Designing A Process For Department Curricular Reform Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. https://peer.asee.org/650
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