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The Clarkson Common Experience Curriculum: Graduation Requirements Based On Student Learning Outcomes

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Liberal Education Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Liberal Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1399.1 - 12.1399.13



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Paper Authors


Robert Meyer Clarkson University

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Robert Meyer is an Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Clarkson University. He received a B.A.(1970) in Electrical Engineering and Mathematics, M.E.E. (1970) and a Ph.D. (1974) in Electrical Engineering, all from Rice University. He has been employed by Texas Instruments, and Exxon, and since 1974, by Clarkson University. His research has been on applications of computing in communications network monitoring, including software design, development, and testing, and the application of distributed artificial intelligence to communication network management. Recently he has worked on significant curricular revisions within the university.

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Dick Pratt Clarkson University

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Dick Pratt is founding Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Biology at Clarkson University. He received his B.A. in biology (1971) from the University of Washington, M.S. in biology (1981) from Eastern Washington University, and Ph.D. in zoology from Virginia Tech (1984). Pratt was formerly Dean of Arts and Sciences at Idaho State University. From 1994-2002, he was Professor of Environmental Science and Director of the Environmental Sciences and Resources Program at Portland State University, where he also held administrative appointments in the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs and the Office of Academic Affairs. In 1998-99 he was as an American Council on Education fellow. His research interests are in environmental biology.

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The Clarkson Common Experience Curriculum: Graduation Requirements Based on Student Learning Outcomes


Traditional graduation requirements have been composed of required and elective courses in a student's major together with courses selected to meet a "general education" requirement. With the growing emphasis on student learning outcomes, Clarkson University has adopted an outcomes based set of graduation requirements. .The Clarkson Common Experience unifies each student's learning in a major field of study with learning expectations that broaden the student's understanding of our modern world. Graduates are expected to meet outcomes in fundamental academic abilities, in personal and social development, and in prescribed areas of knowledge. While some outcomes may be achieved in a single course, the Common Experience Curriculum identifies four components that serve as common threads through multiple courses. These are: (a) learning to communicate effectively, (b) developing an appreciation for diversity in both working and living environments, (c) recognizing the importance of personal, societal, and professional ethics, and (d) understanding how technology can be used to serve mankind. Each of these components is introduced early in the curriculum, reinforced in subsequent courses, and emphasized in upper division courses. This curriculum also emphasizes professional development through outcomes in professional responsibility and ethics, and by engaging the student in a professional experience such as co-op, internship, directed research or other experiential learning activity related to the student's professional goals.

This paper presents a brief summary of the development process that led to the Clarkson Common Experience Curriculum. We discuss the relationship of this process to other curricular developments in higher education. The implementation of this curriculum, including the measures we have taken to ensure that the curriculum is sustainable and kept current, is described. Assessment of outcomes-based learning is vital to determining the overall success of this curricular change. We have just begun implementation during the 2006-07 academic year, and our plan will be phased over four years. We discuss our initial efforts and results of assessment.


For many years Clarkson required all students to complete The Foundation Curriculum in addition to their departmental major requirements. It was a traditional distribution-based set of requirements intended to provide students with a broad background covering the sciences, mathematics, liberal arts, business and engineering. Prior to EC20001, it met the ABET criteria for course content in the humanities and social sciences.

With the introduction of the ABET Engineering Criteria 2000 (EC2000)1 the emphasis on curricular evaluation shifted from a prescription of topical content to assessment of student learning outcomes. As part of EC2000, engineering curricula were required to demonstrate outcomes that went beyond those that might be expected from the traditional distribution of courses in the arts and sciences alone. As a way of fulfilling this requirement, we proposed that

Meyer, R., & Pratt, D. (2007, June), The Clarkson Common Experience Curriculum: Graduation Requirements Based On Student Learning Outcomes Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2287

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