The Educational Policy conducted the following business during the 2005-06
||Proposed changes to the Definition of University Honors. This motion was presented
to the Faculty Council (see D 4524 and D
||Considered a proposal from the McCombs School of Business to
offer half-credit courses. It was the opinion of the committee
that such a change was not needed University-wide, and so no action
|| Discussion about the DemTex Project (brought to the committee
by students) is ongoing. Where it stands is an issue regarding
students leading these classes. It will require consultation with
the provost’s office to finalize. A copy of the proposal
can be found below.
|| Working on recommendations to Faculty Council on the core curriculum.
This will be completed in August and presented to the Faculty Council
during the 06-07 academic year.
DEMOCRATIC EDUCATION AT TEXAS
FOR-CREDIT PILOT PROGRAM
Revised April 15, 2006
By Kan Yan
DemTex Coordinating Director
A group of outstanding students have established a program for student-initiated
courses at The University of Texas at Austin. The program, Democratic
Education at Texas (DemTex), would enhance our curriculum and improve
our undergraduate academic experience.
Extensive student-initiated course programs have functioned for decades
with great success at UC Berkeley, Tufts, and Oberlin. Similar programs
have recently sprouted up at UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, UC Los
Angeles, and Stanford University. Student leaders at the UT San Antonio
have contacted students involved with DemTex to learn about UT Austin’s
progress toward a program because UTSA administrators have expressed
interest in a student-initiated courses program.
The model for DemTex is adapted from The Program for Democratic Education
at Cal (DeCal) at the University of California Berkeley.1
proposed DemTex For-Credit Pilot Program (DemTex Pilot) would offer
University faculty members and capable students a chance to create
Under the direct supervision and mentoring of a faculty member, who would
act as the instructor of record, students would produce course proposals
and syllabuses. If the faculty member certifies the proposed course to be of substantive academic merit, she may offer to act as the Faculty
Sponsor for the proposed course by establishing a contract stipulating
the relationship and division of responsibilities between the faculty
sponsor and the student facilitator(s) in the operation of the course.
If the DemTex Joint Student-Faculty Advisory Committee selects the
proposed course, the course would then be offered the following semester
as a One-Hour Pass/Not Pass
seminar. This system of accountability
is comparable to independent or group study courses where faculty members
guide students with autonomous academic projects. The major difference
between these two models would be that, since the faculty sponsor will
not directly choose the students who enroll in the course, a Pass/Not
will be assigned rather than the grade which would normally
be assigned in an independent or group study course.
Student facilitators will propose a pass or not pass and present their
reasoning to the faculty sponsor, who will ultimately be responsible
for assigning those grades. This is similar to group work in classes
where students rate each other’s performance and the professor
accepts their evaluations. Moreover, existing courses at the University,
such as John Trimble’s Rhetoric 325M course, allow students to
determine one another’s final grades in this fashion.
The DemTex program includes an ideological component which promotes
democratic, egalitarian pedagogical theory, and practice through the
development of peer-learning communities. Students are encouraged to
evaluate their educational experience by taking an active role in deciding
the method and content of courses. Although the self-selective process
of becoming a student facilitator usually draws outstanding students
with great interest and experience in their fields, the student is
not the “teacher” of the course. The student is the facilitator
of a peer-education course, and the facilitator’s main role is
to spark discussion, encouraging peers to ask and answer their own
questions. The experience allows students to explore an area of common
interest in a community of peers.
The students involved in DemTex have already implemented a number
of successful non-credit courses but ardently believe that for-credit
courses are necessary to fulfill the potential benefits of a successful
In spring 2005 the University’s Student Government passed a motion
in support of Democratic Education at Texas proving student interest
in the program. In fall 2006, the Senate of College Councils will add
DemTex as an agency and is in the process of providing a physical space
for the program.
The Task Force on Curricular Reform
The October 27, 2005, Report of the Task Force on Curricular Reform focused on
the necessity of improving the “learning experience of undergraduate students,
especially in their first and second years.”2
the University’s difficulties in addressing this issue, the task force
stated, “Enrollment and funding pressures have created a high student-faculty
ratio, which limits the number of available courses, especially those that focus
on writing and speaking and on other instruction intensive skills.”
UT’s Commission of 125
- DemTex courses, at no cost to the University, would circumvent
the pressures of the high student-faculty ratio, to provide small seminar-style
courses to undergraduates from all majors and backgrounds.
- These peer-facilitated courses are intended to be socially engaging with
a strong emphasis on interpersonal communication, allowing learning environments
where students are encouraged to engage the pedagogical process as well as
the subject matter. As such, these courses not only provide intimate communities
for learning but also encourage critical thinking and public speaking.
- Because faculty-run seminar courses at the University are generally offered
for upper-division students, first- and second-year students rarely have
the opportunity to be inspired by seminar-style courses. The availability
of DemTex courses to these students could prove extraordinarily valuable
to their educational development.
In its 2004 study, UT’s Commission of 125 announced "Strategic Initiative
One: A New Core Curriculum" — among other motivations for a new core
curriculum, the Commission believed that shared academic topics should be implemented
so that undergraduates could benefit from increased intellectual interaction,
resulting in discussions outside the classroom and the formation intellectual
bonds between students. In their announcement, the Commission outlined what every
student should experience to "receive a first-class educational experience:"
- Receive a broad education that includes exposure to culture, literature,
foreign languages, the humanities, and the arts.
- Explore mathematics, science, and technology.
- Learn to think and read critically, write cogently, speak persuasively,
and work both independently and as part of a team.
- Engage in open discussion, inquiry, discovery, research, problem-solving,
and learning to learn.
- Examine questions of ethics and attributes of effective leadership.
- Acquire a sense of history and the global community together with a
respect for other cultures.3
The Boyer Report
- DemTex directly addresses the goals of discussions outside the traditional
classroom as well as the formation of bond between students in a learning
- At universities with comparable student-initiated course programs, the
bulk of student-initiated courses traditionally fall into the Commission’s
subject areas that necessitate broadening, including courses that promote
- The format of the seminar class is particularly conducive to critical thinking
and public speaking, and the ideological component of DemTex strongly encourages
all participants “to learn how to learn.”
- The student-facilitator of the DemTex course necessarily undergoes a practical
and demanding exercise in leadership.
The Task Force for Curricular Reform’s report also cited the 1998 report
of the Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University,
which described undergraduate education shortcomings as a phenomenon shared by
public research universities across the nation. 5
|By admitting a student, any college or university commits
itself to provide maximal opportunities for intellectual and creative
development. These should include:
||Opportunities to learn through inquiry rather than simple
transmission of knowledge.
||Training in the skills necessary for oral and written communication
at a level that will serve the student both within the university and
in postgraduate professional and personal life .6
- The spirit of DemTex is undoubtedly captured in this Bill of
Rights. The experience of researching, designing, and facilitating a class
is perhaps the ultimate opportunity for undergraduate intellectual and creative
development at the University.
- One of the principles of DemTex is to promote egalitarian education. Influenced
by the pedagogical thinker, Paulo Freire, DemTex courses are encouraged to
promote sharing and constructing ideas rather than what Freire calls the “banking
concept of education,” in which ideas are simply transmitted.7
- Not only would the experience of facilitating a course certainly provide
the student facilitator with communication training, but the seminar format
and ideological approach would also produce a classroom conducive to practice
The report further proclaimed that the student in a research university has additional
rights, including the following:
||Expectation of and opportunity for work with talented senior researchers
to help and guide the student’s efforts.
||Options among fields of study and directions to move within those
fields, including areas and choices not found in other kinds of institutions.
||Opportunities to interact with people of backgrounds, cultures, and
experiences different from the student’s own and with pursuers
of knowledge at every level of accomplishment, from freshmen students
to senior research faculty.8
- The student facilitators are granted a unique opportunity to
work with talented senior researchers on a project that is of common interest
to the facilitator and the faculty sponsor.
- A prominent goal of DemTex is to fill holes in the current curriculum as
well as to innovate new and interdisciplinary ways of addressing issues.
Stanford's Student-Initiated Course program produced student-designed courses
that eventually turned into faculty-taught courses.9 This spirit
of innovation has the potential to vastly broaden the available fields of
study as well as the latitude within disciplines; UC Berkeley alone is offering
121 student-initiated courses for the fall 2005 semester.
- The peer-learning environment created in DemTex courses would provide an
ideal situation for interacting with people of differing backgrounds. In
fact, a large number of classes offered through programs at Berkeley and
Stanford focus on cultural education. A student at Berkeley described his
freshman experience with one of the more popular DeCal courses as an introduction
to understanding other people.10
The Boyer Report’s concluding recommendations are encapsulated in the section
entitled, “Ten Ways to Change Undergraduate Education.” DemTex courses
would further seven of the ten proposed changes.
||Make Research-Based Learning the Standard
||Build on the Freshman Foundation
||Remove Barriers to Interdisciplinary Education
||Link Communication Skills and Course Work
||Use Information Technology Creatively
||Culminate with a Capstone Experience
||Cultivate a Sense of Community11
- DemTex courses would provide the student facilitator with the
opportunity to engage in an in-depth academic endeavor that will require
collaborative research with a faculty mentor.
- As the report notes, freshmen have the least options in terms of available
courses. This is unfortunate because freshmen need “new subjects that
broaden their horizons and give them a sense of the adventure of learning.” 12 DemTex
courses make available small-size seminar courses that will prove valuable
to the educational development of first- and second-year students.
- As mentioned above, innovate interdisciplinary approaches are common and
encouraged in student-initiated courses.
- Almost all the courses requested media capable rooms to experiment with
educational technology. A number of the courses proposed during the fall
2005 semester were based on computer programming.
- A capstone project would serve as the highlight of undergraduate education,
and the teaching of a class would serve as an excellent project. At a Berkeley
end-of-semester debriefing session, “25 student course facilitators
said that their DeCal experience had been among their most challenging and
rewarding at Berkeley.” Unsurprised, Berkeley’s Vice Provost
for Undergraduate Education Christina Maslach responded by saying, “As
every faculty member knows, teaching is one of the best ways to learn.”13
- DemTex is fundamentally a program intended to create intellectual communities.
Designing and facilitating a student-initiated class provides students just the
kind of mentorship, sustained, applied research, oral communication skills, and
interaction with diverse members of the campus community recommended by the Boyer
report. Enrolling in a course provides opportunities for critical thinking about
the educational process as well as the subject matter in peer-learning seminars,
which are of particular value to first- and second-year students who would be
otherwise unable to enroll in seminar courses.
The Necessity of Credit
[C]redit is the strongest form of incentive—without credit, these classes
will be sparsely and sporadically attended, and would not gain the committed
attention of any student. Serious academic pursuits are not built around ‘auditors’.
Also, 1 hour is a small number and does not create competition with standard
courses. Finally, if activity classes—which have no academic components—are
offered for hours, student-initiated courses rightly should be too.14
—Stanford Student-Initiated Course Program
Qualitative interviews with former DemTex participants have consistently shown
the need for credit. After initially offering courses under the auspices of
a for-credit program, fourteen courses were proposed in the first semester
when the least publicity was available. When credit was removed, only four
of these classes were able to continue as students stopped going to the courses,
citing lack of recognition.
The courses that continued had to adjust their curriculum to produce less-demanding
work to justify spending time on the non-credit venture. Facilitators of the
courses often said they were unable to achieve their intended goals because
of this hurdle.
Accreditation is the basis upon which the potential success of DemTex rests.
As DemTex course facilitators and potential students learned of the loss of
credit during the fall 2005, interest decreased and courses did not attract
enough students to continue. The loss of educational potential is well illustrated
by the many possible benefits listed above in this proposal.
Concerning Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) accreditation
requirements, the designation of the faculty supervisor as the instructor of
record has proven adequate for programs at comparable universities. The program
is comparable to an independent or group study course where the faculty member
is ultimately responsible for the structure and outcome of the course but does
not participate in the day-to-day educational processes. This is the method
by which Berkeley and other UC schools have run their programs for decades
operating under the similar accreditation rules of the Western Association
of Colleges and Schools (WACS).
Concerning the payment of tuition for student-facilitated courses, students have
paid flat-rate tuition since fall 2005, ensuring that full-time students will
not pay additional costs for DemTex courses. Even in situations where students
would pay for the DemTex credit, those students should also be allowed to knowingly
pay for such a course.
Plan for the University of Texas at Austin
Below is the plan for a three-year pilot of for-credit DemTex courses at The
University of Texas at Austin. The plan includes a final review process concerning
the continuation of a permanent for-credit DemTex program.
Table 1. Summary of Responsibilities for the Academic Year
Role of the Student Facilitator
Semester A: Proposal and Training
||Identifies a faculty sponsor and prepares course proposal
Writes course syllabus and establishes the nature of faculty sponsor relationship.
Attends facilitation seminar.
| Facilitates proposed course and works with faculty sponsor
as stipulated in their course contract.
||Agrees to sponsor Student Facilitator, advises on seminar
concept for course proposal.
Aids in syllabus development. Discusses the nature of faculty sponsor relationship.
| Supervises and advises student on facilitating the proposed
course in their agreed upon method.
|DemTex Coordinating Board
|| Facilitates the day-to-day operation of the program and
prepares documents for departmental processing.
|| Implements evaluation methods.
|Joint Student-Faculty Advisory Committee
|| Reviews applications and meets to discuss the on-going operation
and long-term sustainability of the program.
||Meets to discuss the on-going operation and long-term
sustainability of the program.
Reviews evaluations from prior semester and produces semester report on
The student facilitator would be the initiator of the DemTex course. She would
be responsible for developing a class and filling out the Class Proposal Form
as well as finding and garnering the support of a faculty sponsor. Producing
a course description and syllabus, she would collaborate on the proposed class
with the faculty member and secure the faculty member’s sponsorship with
a Faculty Sponsor Form. The student facilitator and faculty sponsor would draft
a contract detailing the extent and method of their collaboration.
If the DemTex Coordinating Board accepts the proposal, the student facilitator
will be required to attend a training seminar. The Center for Teaching Effectiveness
would develop and administer the seminar as a Special Interest Workshop, which
the center offers on demand. 15
seminar would include an orientation to university classroom policy and instruction
on facilitating small, peer-education seminars.
One week after the release of the course schedule, the student facilitator
would turn in a room and meeting time request to the Humanities Department.
Semester B: Facilitation
The student facilitator would conduct the proposed course, working with her faculty
sponsor in the manner
agreed upon in the contract, established during Semester A.
Role of the Faculty Sponsor
The faculty sponsor is the instructor of record and is responsible for the
caliber of academic content in the course. The faculty sponsor would meet with
the prospective student-facilitator to discuss the course concept and consult
on the course syllabus. If the faculty sponsor agrees to sponsor the course,
she fills out the Faculty Sponsor Form, affirming her position as instructor
of record for the proposed course and assuring the University of the validity
and academic value of the proposed course. The faculty sponsor and student
facilitator would then draft a coloration contract to decide on the extent
and method of their collaboration during the semester when the course is offered.
The faculty sponsor meets with the student facilitator to mentor in accordance
with the method agreed upon in Semester A.
Role of the DemTex Coordinating Board
The DemTex Coordinating Board is a registered student organization established
to provide student-facilitated courses and to promote democratic, egalitarian
education at The University of Texas at Austin. It is currently undergoing
discussions to become an agency of Student Government.
The DemTex Coordinating Board would be charged administering the course creation
process as well as with informing facilitators of their responsibilities. Aiding
the Center for Teaching Effectiveness, the board would offer suggestions for
the Special Interest Workshop.
The DemTex Coordinating Board would be charged with administering the course
proposal process. They would publicize DemTex opportunities to students and
solicit course proposals.
The DemTex Coordinating Board would be charged with organizing the assessment
of DemTex courses through methods that the board develops and implements.
Role of the Joint Student-Faculty Advisory Committee
The Joint Student-Faculty Advisory Committee would serve to choose the DemTex
courses to be offered. They would also evaluate the success of the program
and offer suggestions for its continuation. Considering the regular turnover
of student leadership, the permanence of faculty advisors would ensure the
program’s consistent quality. The Joint Student-Faculty Advisory Committee
would meet once a semester to evaluate the program and produce an assessment
report each semester called the DemTex Semester Report.
At the start of the spring 2008 semester, the Joint Student-Faculty Advisory
Committee would be charged with producing a report on the possibility of continuing
the DemTex project as a permanent program and, if desired, would produce a
proposal for that permanent program to continue starting in the fall 2009 semester.
After reviewing the proposals, the Joint Student-Faculty Advisory Committee
would decide on an appropriate group of courses to offer based on student demand
for courses, course quality, and effectiveness in terms of the pilot program
assessment. The Joint Student-Faculty Advisory Committee would also meet to
discuss the on-going DemTex program and evaluate the long-term sustainability
of the program.
The Joint Student-Faculty Advisory Committee would meet to discuss the on-going
DemTex program operation and evaluate the long-term sustainability of the program.
They would also evaluate the assessment information, collected by the DemTex
Coordinating Board and proceed to write a report on those results with recommendations
to improve the program.
- Funding: The program would be funded at no cost to the
University. Funding from student governance organizations and other student
organization grants would supply funding necessary for basic operation.
Students would also be able to allot an optional student fee to support the
facilitation of DemTex courses. An option would be added to the optional fees
portion of student registration, presenting students with the option to pay
$1.00 toward the facilitation of DemTex courses.
- Student Qualification: Any student at The University of
Texas at Austin may propose or enroll in a DemTex course.
- Student Awareness: A fair evaluation of the program would
require heavy student participation, necessitating sufficient student awareness
of the program. While the DemTex Coordinating Board would advertise within
their capabilities, the success of the pilot courses would be greatly improved
by a university-wide email informing all students of the opportunity to participate
as both facilitators and students.
- Course Schedule
Listing: The pilot DemTex courses would be listed under Humanities
125K on a Pass/Not Pass basis (unless the Office of the Executive Vice President
and Provost is willing to create a lower-division, humanities listing that
will allow 1-hour pass/not pass courses). The listing of the courses would
appear later than the initial publication of the course schedule and only
on the Web-based schedule because student facilitators would need to schedule
around the classes they plan to enroll in.
- DemTex Classroom Space: Classroom space would
be allocated through the Humanities Department.
- DemTex Course Assessment: The Student Coordinating Board
would develop and administer assessment of the pilot DemTex courses with
qualitative and quantitative methods aimed at constructing the Semester Report
(which is detailed below).
- DemTex Semester Report: The Joint Student-Faculty
Advisory Committee would be charged, following each semester of the Pilot
Program, to release a DemTex Semester Report, which would analyze assessment
results and propose necessary changes for future semesters of the For-Credit
Pilot Program as well as the possible permanent program. Proposed changes
would be submitted to the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost
for review and, if approved, would be enacted immediately.
Cessation of Pilot Program and Possible Continuation of Permanent Program:
The termination of the pilot program would be scheduled for fall
2009. During the spring 2008 semester, the Joint Student-Faculty Advisory
Committee would report on the possibility of a continued permanent DemTex
program and, if desired, would produce a proposal for that permanent program
to begin in the fall 2009 semester.
Archie Holmes, chair
DeCal Web site: http://www.decal.org/
William Powers, et. al., Report of the Task Force on Curricular
Reform, (Austin, TX: University of Texas at Austin, 2005) 1.
“Two Strategic Initiatives,” The Commission
of 125, http://www.utexas.edu/com125/strategic.html
“Fall 2005 Course Schedule,” The Program for Democratic
Education at Cal, http://www.decal.org/current.php
Shirley Strum Kenny, et. al., The
Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University, Reinventing
Undergraduate Education: A Blueprint for America's Research Universities,
Freire, Paulo, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Trans. Myra Bergman Ramos,
(New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group Inc., 1970), 72.
“SIC Enhances the Academic Climate at Stanford for the following reasons,” Student
Initiated Courses, http://assu.stanford.edu/sic/
Pourya Khademi, UC Berkeley Student, Personal Interview, 25 Oct. 2005.
Edelstein, Wendy, “DeCal helps students teach one another,” Berkeleyan,
11 Feb. 2004.
“SIC Enhances the Academic Climate at Stanford for the following
Center for Teaching Effectiveness Special Interest Workshop: http://www.utexas.edu/academic/cte/facservices