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CHAPTER 22 Breaking Traditions in CU'TiCUlUm Design C. Eugene Allen Diana G. Oblinger, Rapporteur In this discussion on breaking traditions in curriculum design, 1 plan to share some observations, raise some questions, and chal- lenge us to think about some improved ways of designing and delivering a curriculum that is appropriate for the challenges of this decade. it is not the purpose of this chapter to provide a literature review on curriculum development. This is a decade that has acquired many labels that are relevant to undergraduate education. Some of the following terms have been used to describe this era: the information age, the global and international era, the biological age, the decade of the undergradu- ate, and the environmental decade. Each of these labels implies that there are educational needs to be addressed. When agricul- ture passed from the labor to the mechanical era and then from the mechanical to the chemical era, it was necessary to make numer- ous adjustments to the agricultural curriculum. This decade, with its multiple advances and challenges, will tax our abilities to ad- equately prepare undergraduates for the complexities of the world in which they will live and work. The recognition of this fact and what we plan to do about it are the basic reasons for the national conference. Bringing About Change Observations at my own institution and others have led me to conclude that bringing about a major change in courses and cur- riculum at the undergraduate level is similar to confronting death, 188

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BREAKING TRADITIONS IN CURRICULUM DESIGN but unfortunately, in the curriculum area, even the seriously ill fre- quently hang on and achieve another birthday. If this is as com- monplace as I suspect it is across many disciplines and colleges, then the problem of adequately addressing undergraduate educa- tion is made even more serious. When the world around us is rapidly evolving, it seems appropriate that our curricula must do the same. Kenneth Christiansen of The Defiance College (Defiance' Ohio) has brought a perspective to curriculum change that seems helpful (Christiansen, 1988, 1989). In working with curriculum change and studying the feelings that were a part of it, he concluded that cur- riculum change is an "emotional as well as an intellectual process." As such, the emotional feelings are part of the normal reactions to grief over the loss of familiar ways. Christiansen (1988, 1989) ad- vises that administrators working with the emotional part of curricu- lum change can assist the process by understanding the three stages of Grief work" described by Eric Lindemann (1944). These have been summarized (Christianson, 1988, 1989) as follows: 1. Give up the past. Form a realistic view of what was lost by talking with another about the conflicts and pain of losing the past. 2. Build a realistic picture of the present. Understand that noth- ing is definite or enduring. Change is natural. Curriculum must change as times, knowledge, students, and needs change. 3. Form new relationships for the future. Focus ahead. Decide how personal, professional, and institutional needs wild be met. I have found this linkage to the grieving process to be useful in more fully understanding some of my own successes and failures in changing what 1 do or in working with course and curriculum changes either as a faculty member or a college dean. With this in mind, it should not be surprising that there are deep emotions tied to the curriculum because of ownership and what has become accepted as The way it is done., In this sense, the changing of curriculum really is challenging a tradition with the idea that some- thing different could be better. Such a challenge can easily put many faculty in a very defensive mode. In 1984, when I was interviewing for the position of dean of the College of Agriculture, I was asked what 1 would do if I had one wish as a new dean. My response was that I would have a button that could eliminate all courses and the college curriculum each decade. The reason for this response was to be able to do something meaningful in rede- signing the curriculum and that this could best be done when fac- ulty are in an offensive rather than a defensive mode. My assump- tion was that if there was no curriculum to defend, then everyone would be more likely to contribute to the vision for the new curricu- lum. After becoming dean, this concept became known as the 189

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AGRICULTURE AND THE UNDERGRADUATE Dean's Sunset Wish," and from this evolved Project Sunrise in the College of Agriculture at the University of Minnesota. The term sunrise was chosen to depict a new day or a new curriculum. Project Sunrise was funded by the Kellogg Foundation and resulted in some significant changes in curriculum, how faculty teach, and how the college's majors are structured. For example, there is much more emphasis on active learning, decision-case studies, in- terdisciplinary approaches, the need for breadth in undergraduate education, and the way that student advising is done. (Additional details about this project can be obtained by writing to the Dean, College of Agriculture, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108.) Curriculum Content Issues The Project Sunrise experience and other experiences as a fac- ulty member, administrator, and external program reviewer at other institutions have led me to the following observations and conclu- sions about undergraduate curricula, majors, faculty attitudes, and education needs in general. The first of these addresses issues relevant to the content of the curriculum. Too many faculty at research universities view the needs of the undergraduate primarily from a discipline point of view rather than recognizing the equally important aspects of interdisciplinary education. Undergraduates should be viewed as future alumni who will pursue multiple careers in their lifetimes, rather than as future professors who devote their entire careers to the narrow confines of a disciplinary area or subdiscipline. Only a small percentage of undergraduates will work in the narrow confines of a discipline for most or all of their careers. In too many departments and colleges, the primary changes that occur in courses and the curriculum are determined by who is retiring and who is hired. With the rapid expansion in new informa- tion, this is an increasingly unacceptable way to shape the curricu- lum. There is a need to more widely recognize that everything cannot be taught in an undergraduate program, but that certain concepts and principles must be taught as part of an appropriate foundation for present and future learning that is a part of how we define an Educated person." Among these "musts" I would include as examples the areas of communication skills, problem solving, cross-cultural understanding, important disciplinary concepts, and sufficient grounding in liberal arts and interdisciplinary courses to serve as a foundation for further personal or professional growth by the individual. The liberal arts and general education requirements of the cur- riculum should not be viewed just as requirements but as ways that 190

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BREAKING TRADITIONS IN CURRICULUM D=iGN truly enhance the intellectual growth of the individual. These courses should include not only the important aspects of the social, physi- cal, and biological sciences, as well as the humanities, but also interdisciplinary courses that address major societal or world is- sues. in the latter regard, this is a natural way to improve rel- evancy and to involve faculty from professional and liberal arts colleges in jointly taught interdisciplinary classes. With some cre- ative efforts by faculty, fewer students would view these courses as Just requirements toward a degree," and it would also serve to demonstrate the necessity of multiple considerations in addressing complex, real-world issues. The courses that may be most critical to setting the stage for an undergraduate education are not necessarily the introductory- level courses for a number of departments or disciplines. in other words, the sum of a series of disciplinary courses is not, in my view, equal, for general education purposes, to a few well-struc- tured interdisciplinary courses that integrate material from a variety of disciplines. For example, an interdisciplinary course(s) on world food and hunger taught in an integrated way by faculty from differ- ent disciplines and taken by students from many majors should be a very different experience from the sum of disciplinary courses on introduction to food science, field crop production, and economic aspects of food distribution. These disciplinary courses may also be important to the curriculum, but in general, they would not be appropriate for the broader integrated understanding that many people believe is increasingly important. Improving the communications skills of undergraduates in all areas is a very high priority of many employers, and it is a respon- sibility that must be visible in many parts of the curriculum rather than just in a few courses offered by the English, speech, or rheto- ric departments. Improving our communications skills comes from repetition that has the benefit of a helpful critique. When the cur- riculum does not emphasize communications and computer skills across the curriculum or in many courses, it seriously reduces the chances for improvement through practice. Likewise, when faculty require no essay test questions or give full credit when students use sloppy grammar, they are reinforcing poor communications habits. Research papers, oral presentations in class, student class- room discussions and debates, organizational activities, and labo- ratory or field trip reports are some of the ways that communica- tions skills can be given some attention beyond the few credits that may be required in the curriculum. Finally, it goes without saying that any undergraduate today who is not at least semicomfortable with using a computer at the time of graduation will probably be at an immediate disadvantage. in general, our educational system from the elementary to the doctoral levels places a high premium on individual accomplish 191

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AGRICULTURE AND TfJE UNDERGRADUATE meets. However, we increasingly hear that there is a need for employees to work as teams or in cooperative ventures that ac- complish an organizational goal. This need should not be lost on how we teach or how we structure some classroom or laboratory activities. Some group projects can be built into the curriculum and can range from relatively simple to much more complex and time- consuming tasks or projects. There is a need for appropriate struc- turing and monitoring, but when they are done well, group projects can be a very positive addition and a stimulating and different kind of learning experience. There needs to be more integration of significant issues into the regular courses of the curriculum. Examples from issues like water quality, food safety, animal welfare, global markets, climatic effects, government policies, ethics, and the impacts of new tech- nologies can frequently be integrated into regular courses as highly relevant considerations, even though these subjects may be entire courses by themselves. Such a practice helps to tie courses to- gether and to demonstrate that most significant issues cannot be solved by simple answers. From these examples, I have tried to address some curriculum issues that pertain to content and philosophy. In considering such issues, one should always be mindful of questions like the follow- ing: What are the highest priorities and goals for students in this curriculum? How can this curriculum be improved to meet the lifelong per- sonal and professional learning needs of the students who are en- rolled? What is the feedback from alumni and the employers of our graduates about this curriculum? Process Items in Curriculum Revision Next, I will address some issues that seem relevant to the pro- cess of bringing about curriculum change. We can have the best ideas around, but if we cannot get them incorporated or imple- mented, then they can only be discussed rather than tested. Too often, good ideas are never tested because the process for imple- mentation and sustaining the change is inadequate for the chal- lenges that must be addressed. Major curriculum change is sometimes approached in a revolu- tionary rather than an evolutionary way. My sense is that although revolutionary change may be needed, there is a significant chance 192

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E3REAKING TRADITIONS IN CURRICULUM DESIGN of failure if a sufficient number of faculty have not bought into the changes in a sufficient way to sustain them. Two points can be made. First, getting people to buy in takes time, and saving time at the beginning may destine the curriculum change for failure either in the short or long term. Second, fewer revolutionary changes are necessary if a meaningful evolutionary process Is in place and is operating each year. A revolutionary process is usually necessi- tated when meaningful evolution in curriculum is absent. In this situation, even small curriculum changes may be difficult. Further- more, it is difficult to imagine an administrator or administrative team that can change the curriculum in the absence of significant faculty support. The key is how one gets the faculty to buy into the need for change, determine the process to be used, and develop or take ownership of the concepts that are to be incorporated into the curriculum. Creative group thinking and brainstorming about many issues, including undergraduate curriculum and education, are affected by the people, the surroundings, the timing in relation to other issues, and the time allowed for the discussion. it is for this reason that the department or college conference room seems to be such an ineffective place to achieve creative group thinking, at least in the beginning of the process. In this regard, I believe that a significant part of the success of Project Sunrise must be attributed to a few very productive joint faculty and administrative retreats that were held off campus with the specific purpose of discussing various dimensions of this project. These retreats were a critical part of bringing many people ton board" and developing a collective vision of where we were going. Picking the right people to lead the curriculum change effort is a critical first step. Even though there may be a great temptation for the leadership on such a project to come out of the dean's office, I believe that there is a more ideal model. There is always a significant risk that if the leadership is from the dean's office, it will become the "dean's project" rather than a more widely adopted "college curriculum project." it should not be difficult for the dean to pick key and respected faculty, a few interested students or recent alumni, and one or two key administrators to serve on the curriculum revision committee. The dean and the deans office can then serve by providing a vision for revision, by inspiring and sup- porting the committee so that this vision expands throughout the college, and then by serving to challenge the committee and other faculty to achieve certain goals. The dean must also be a cheer- leader for the change and set sufficiently high standards so that what is done makes a read improvement for the customer, which, of course, is the student. in bringing this about, the following thoughts may be useful. Remember that: 193

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AGRICULTURE AND THE UNDERGRADUATE 1. Most faculty are very proud and, as such, will not fol- low someone on a committee whom they do not respect. Therefore, this committee should consist of the most re- spected faculty who are involved in undergraduate teaching. 2. Although many faculty do not like to be told by their peers or administrators that it is time for some change, they are frequently more willing to listen to respected alumni and key employers of their students. The input and interest of such key groups should be sought early in the process. 3. The dean or whoever appoints the curriculum revision committee must be an avid supporter of the project through words and action. If the committee is appointed, given their charge, and basically told to report back when they are done, you can almost guarantee that nothing significant will happen except the probable wasting of much time in com- mittee meetings. There is great need for faculty to feel that the time they spend working on curriculum change is not wasted. Remember that it would be unusual if many of them were not grieving and asking themselves, What is in this for me?" A good administrator should be sensitive to these feelings and provide assistance and answers to these kinds of questions through actions, support, and enthusi- asm for the project. When it is time for annual evaluations, the faculty who have made important contributions should receive ap- propriate praise and salary adjustments. The collective vision for what is needed and what can realisti- cally be achieved in curriculum revision for any unit is very depen- dent on the process that is used. Curriculum revision by its very nature requires that faculty give up some of the old curriculum, assist in creating a new curriculum, and then deliver the new cur- riculum to the students. Thus, whereas the administrators are theo- retically in charge of distributing financial resources, for all practical purposes the faculty are in near complete control of the curriculum as givers, creators, and distributors. This means that the process for bringing about a change in the curriculum is more dependent upon leadership and less dependent upon the allocation of finan- cial resources, as sometimes happens in bringing about a change in a research program. With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that it is sometimes very difficult to make significant changes in the curriculum. With regard to the process for curriculum change, the following questions may be helpful: Who are the key faculty who can provide the leadership for this change? What are their rewards for doing a good job? 194

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BREAKING TRADITIONS IN CURRICULUM DESIGN How can faculty come to be owners and believers in curricu- lum change? What is in this proposed change for students, faculty, and the college or unit? What are the challenges and disincentives to bringing about significant curriculum change? Conclusions I hope that this discussion has challenged the reader to think about some of the process and content considerations involved in curriculum revisions. I would like to conclude by sharing a few quotes from a sobering and thoughtful special report from The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching by Ernest L. Foyer ( l 990). 1 have chosen the following: The 1 990s may well come to be remembered as the decade of the undergraduate in American higher education. What activities of the professoriate are most highly prized? At no time in our history has the need been greater for con- necting the work of the academy to the social and environmental challenges beyond the campus. Disciplines have become increasingly divided. The educational experience of students frequently lacks coher ence. Should some members of the professorial be thought of prima- rily as researchers, and others as teachers? Designing new courses and participating in curricular innova- tions are examples of yet another type of professional work deserv- ing recognition. These quotations serve to emphasize some of the points that need to be considered in designing a curriculum and providing appropriate incentives for the faculty who create and deliver the curriculum. if this is to be the decade of the undergraduate, there is much that remains to be done with the ongoing process for curriculum evolution and the real and perceived values assigned to teaching compared with those assigned to research. References Moyer, E. L. logo. Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professori- ate. Princeton, N.J.: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Christianson, K. 1988. Core for anyone; on coping creatively with the needs of a faculty that is undergoing major curriculum changes. Paper 195

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AGRICULTURE AND THE UNDERGRADUATE presented at the Association of Integrated Studies Meeting, Arlington, Tex., October 1988. (Available from K. Christiansen, The Defiance Col- lege, Defiance, Ohio.) Christiansen, K. 1989. Professional growth through curriculum develop- ment; coping with the pain of change. Paper presented at the Fresh- man Year Experience Conference, Cincinnati, Ohio, November 10, 1989. (Available from K. Christiansen, The Defiance College, Defiance, Ohio.) Lindemann, E. 1944. Symptomatology and management of acute grief. American Journal of Psychiatry 101: 1 41-1 45. RAPPORTEUR'S SUMMARY Context AS a basis for the discussions, Eugene Allen described Project Sunrise at the University of Minnesota. Their process of curriculum revision spanned 3 years, during which time 17 departmental ma- jors were reduced to 11 interdepartmental ones. The process in- volved a coalition of faculty, the dean, and the vice president. In developing a mindset toward curriculum change, the experi- ences at The Defiance College were reviewed. Curriculum change should be considered both an intellectual as well as an emotional process. To cope with the emotional side, we were reminded of the death and grieving process. The central role of the faculty is a key element in curriculum change. Because the curriculum Belongs" to the faculty, it is their tradition(s) that is being challenged. They are the ones being asked to make changes. Curriculum tends to be a reinforcing process; that is, it is repeated year after year. Research, on the other hand, is constantly changing. This tends to make it more difficult to accept challenges to and changes in the curriculum. Process Faculty must take the lead in curriculum change. it is best to select respected faculty leaders. Consider only one representative from a department. This makes it easier for faculty to see the points of view of faculty in other departments. The administration should be involved as Cheerleaders.'' Recall that in the delibera- tions, the question of what is in this for me?" must be answered either directly or indirectly. The group process is extremely important in facilitating curricu- lum change. It is the group, not an individual, that develops the vision that will be articulated to the rest of the faculty. To encour- age the development of effective groups, consider using retreats to begin the process. The following is an important reminder: devel 196

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BREAKING TRADITIONS IN CURRICULUM DESIGN aping group cohesiveness and formulating a plan will require sig- nificant time. Most colleges invest 2 to 3 years in curriculum change. To foster the impetus for change, it may be useful to bring in outside groups or individuals. Employers and alumni can provide useful feedback on the preparedness of graduates and suggest programmatic changes. The techniques used include focus groups and "executives in residence." In implementing curriculum change, provision should be made for faculty development. Most curriculum changes require the cre- ation of a new awareness in faculty, the acquisition of new skills, and the need for alterations in the current modes of faculty-student interactions or classroom presentations. Universities that are willing to discuss their processes with oth- ers include (but are not limited to) the University of Minnesota, the University of Hawaii, the University of Nebraska, and the University of Wisconsin. Content The amount of disciplinary content in revised curricula may ap- pear to be reduced. However, recall the frequency with which professionals change careers. The focus of the undergraduate cur- riculum should be on developing well-rounded professionals rather than teaching future professors. The content of degree programs should be based more on the principles and skills that will serve graduates over a 40-year professional life rather than on fac- ulty research topics or the current mix of faculty expertise. His- torically, colleges of agriculture have tended to offer courses based on what faculty are interested in rather than what the students need. While revising curricula, attention should be paid to the contribu- tion that colleges of agriculture can make to nonmajors. The gen- eral educational value of a course on, for example, world food and hunger, taught in an interdisciplinary mode, can be substantial. Core competencies can be woven into courses in colleges of agriculture. Components of writing, speaking, the development of teamwork, discussions of ethical issues, and the incorporation of real-world examples will enhance the quality of graduates from col- leges of agriculture. Criteria for Assessing Success in assessing the success of curriculum changes, two measures are suggested: (1) the attitude toward teaching and (2) the change in graduates, as perceived by the students as well as by employ ers. 197

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AGRICULTURE AND THE UNDERGRADUATE Key questions Throughout the curriculum change process, it is important to recall some key questions: Who are the key faculty7 What are the rewards for doing a good job of curriculum change? O How can faculty be owners of the process of change? What are the challenges and disincentives for change? What will the curriculum be? How will the curriculum be designed? Who will deliver the new curriculum? 198