Assigning Course Tags

This document summarizes the approach used by the Curriculum Committee during the 2015-2016 academic year to review the initial round of course tags in preparation for the implementation of the new distribution requirements in Fall 2016. We expect that this same approach will be used to review proposed course tags for new courses. This will ensure that the tags are being applied consistently across campus.

For new courses introduced after the initial tagging process (completed in 2015-16), the course tag(s) should be included in the course description that is presented to the faculty for two readings and a vote. Now that the initial tagging process is complete, the tag(s) assigned to a particular course cannot be changed; instead, the course will need to be deleted and a new course created, with a new course number.

During our review of the tags, we began by examining the course description for the course in question to determine whether there were clear connections to the Learning Outcomes for the tag. In situations where these connections were not obvious, we asked the department chair to provide us with a syllabus, sample assignments, or other materials that would illustrate the relevance of the tag. This process involved looking for relevant content, determining whether enough of the course addressed content related to the tag, and examining how students would be assessed on their understanding of the tag-related content. In some cases, we asked departments to redescribe courses to make these connections clearer. We also encouraged instructors to highlight the connections to the tags in their syllabi.

For each tag, more specific considerations were also addressed also as described below.

Civic Learning (CL)

We looked for course content that addressed civic issues of a local, regional, national, or international kind. Here, we distinguished between civic engagement (requiring a community service project, for example) and civic learning. In order for a CL tag to apply to a course, the course must contain content that helps students to appreciate the ethical, social, and political dilemmas that citizens face when making decisions that affect communities. Courses with a civic engagement component would only meet the requirements for a CL tag if such content was integral to the course and the community engagement project. We also looked for assignments that asked students to reflect on their experiences in the community and draw connections to the civic content of the course.

Human Experience (HE)

We examined whether the “texts broadly defined” were representational in nature and whether they involved metaphor, images and expressions beyond literal description. The content of the courses needed to consider human experiences of a general nature, rather than those that are limited strictly to a single individual or group. In other words, courses should discuss the human experience as opposed to a human experience.

International and Intercultural Perspective (IP)

We looked for content that would introduce students to aspects of another culture or country. This was generally clear so this tag was easy to apply in most cases under consideration.

Modes of Expression (ME)

We focused particularly on examining how courses “interrogate the act of communication itself.”  For us, that meant that simply creating some kind of product (e.g., written, oral, artistic, etc.) needed to be accompanied by some examination of how meaning is being conveyed in that particular act of communication.  This might require an understanding of both the medium being used for communication and the effect of that communication on those who receive it.

Power, Privilege, and Difference (PD)

We looked for indications that the course has a sustained focus on interrogating issues of class, race, gender and sexuality, or disability and requires students to examine the issues (contextual and ethical) of power, privilege, and difference in a particular context or contexts, such as civil rights movements, African American history, women’s history, Latino/a history, gender roles, colonialism, post-colonialism, social justice, poverty, and other issues related to gender, class, race, disability, or sexual identity.

Quantitative Reasoning (QR)

We primarily checked to see whether the interpretation of “numerical, symbolic, and graphical information” formed a sufficiently large enough component of the course.

Social Behavior and Institutions (SB)

We examined whether, beyond the study of social processes, these courses provide an understanding of methodologies to describe, explain, or predict human behavior, and institutional structures. Attention was paid to course descriptions to confirm that the word “social” was being properly understood because this tag can encompass a broad range of disciplines.

Scientific Process and Knowledge (SP)

We felt that it was not sufficient for a course simply to include scientific findings as part of the information – rather, the course should address the “nature, approaches, and domain of scientific inquiry.” In other words, students should gain some understanding of what science is and/or how it functions.