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DOCUMENTS OF THE GENERAL FACULTY

FINAL VERSION OF THE AMENDED MOTION TO CHANGE THE DEGREE REQUIREMENTS FOR ALL UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS AT UT AUSTIN


Following is the approved version of the amended motion to change the degree requirements for all undergraduate students at UT Austin.  The amended motion was approved by the Faculty Council at its meeting on November 20, 2006. The motion is being circulated to the General Faculty on a no-protest basis as described in D 5154.

Sue Alexander Greninger, Secretary
The Faculty Council


Distributed through the Faculty Council Web site on November 27, 2006. Copies are available on request from the Office of the General Faculty, WMB 2.102, F9500.


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FINAL VERSION OF THE AMENDED MOTION TO CHANGE THE DEGREE REQUIREMENTS FOR ALL UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS AT UT AUSTIN

BACKGROUND

In 2004, the Commission of 125 completed a two-year study of the University. In their report, the Commission noted the following about the education received by UT graduates:

The success of UT graduates throughout the disciplines indicates that they have received a generally sound education, and on its face, UT's curriculum would seem to be doing a good job of keeping up with the times... But the Commission believes that while the current system offers students myriad courses of study, it fails to equip undergraduates with a core body of knowledge essential to a well-balanced education. For too many degree plans, the current curriculum resembles little more than a vast a la carte menu.

Soon after the Commission’s report was issued, a Task Force on Curricular Reform was appointed jointly by the President, Provost, and the Chair of the Faculty Council. The Task Force’s charge was to make a recommendation on how the core curriculum of The University could be changed to improve the overall educational experience of UT undergraduates. The Task Force’s report was issued in October of 2005. In short, the Task Force agreed with the following observations made by the Commission on the present core curriculum:

  • The core curriculum, last reviewed 25 years ago, needs to be updated.
  • Today’s graduates require a broader education, particularly in the areas of science, technology, the humanities, the global community, other cultures, and [ethics and] leadership.
  • UT students [would] benefit from studying some common academic topics and concepts to add richness to discussions and debates outside the classroom and to create a bond among graduates. The current curriculum lacks sufficient common intellectual experiences shared by all undergraduates, whatever their discipline.
The Educational Policy Committee was asked to review the Task Force recommendations relating to Signature Courses, flags, thematic strands, and the 42-hour core curriculum. The Committee formed a summer working group, which included Marilla Svinicki (Chair), Melva Harbin, Robert Koons, Cale McDowell, Kate Nanney, Martha Smith, Larry Speck, and David Yount. The group met throughout the first half of the summer, considering the Task Force recommendations and input from faculty forums, the Faculty Council, the Senate of College Councils, the Academic Counselors’ Association, and the Student Deans Committee. In early July, the working group made its report to the Educational Policy Committee, which worked in plenary sessions throughout the second half of the summer to develop the final motion.

MOTION

The Educational Policy Committee proposes that the Faculty Council approve a set of changes to the degree requirements for all undergraduate students at UT Austin. These changes are to be implemented as quickly as practical, with full implementation expected by the 2010-2012 catalog. A four-point summary of the changes is listed here with details provided in the sections below. (See Appendix A for an explanation of how the new requirements satisfy the state-mandated 42-hour core curriculum.)

1) Require all undergraduate students to complete two Signature courses. These courses will be interdisciplinary, be taught by distinguished faculty members, and use the unique resources of the University.
2) Require all undergraduate students to complete courses – selected from qualifying ("flagged") courses in the core curriculum and their chosen major – that are approved to provide a certain set of important skills and experiences.
3) Identify groups of core curriculum courses that share common thematic strands that can provide students with a coherent experience within the undergraduate core. Students will be strongly encouraged, but not required, to follow a strand appropriate for their individual needs and interests.


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The three changes above are designed to balance coherence, common experience, and choice. Coherence is achieved via thematic strands. Signature courses and flags will provide a common experience for UT undergraduates. Students will have a choice of courses that satisfy the requirements listed above.

Thus, these changes accomplish the goals of coherence and common experience, while preserving the flexibility needed for students to pursue their individual interests.

SIGNATURE COURSES

Signature Courses will introduce UT undergraduates to academic discussion and analysis of issues from an interdisciplinary perspective. The issues to be discussed in Signature Courses are sufficiently complex that the lens of a single discipline does not create an adequate picture; to view such issues completely, an image created from the lenses of multiple disciplines is required. Appendix B provides a list of possible issues that the Educational Policy Committee feels could be taught in this manner.

Educational Policy recommends that two Signature Courses be required for all UT undergraduates. The first, called the Freshman Signature Course, will be taken by students in their first year at UT; the second, called the Sophomore Signature course, will be taken by students in their second year at UT. All Signature Courses must:

  • Be taught from an interdisciplinary perspective.
  • Be taught by top UT faculty, regardless of rank, with a distinguished academic record and a history of engaging students through their teaching.
  • Introduce the level and type of scholarship expected in college courses.
  • Use resources of the whole University, such as guest speakers, research facilities, museums, and fine arts performances, as appropriate to the topic.
The Freshman Signature Course must also:
  • Focus on a contemporary issue.
  • Be linked to a required University Lecture/Performance series designed to support and enhance the Freshman Signature Course experience.
The Sophomore Signature Course must satisfy one area requirement of the state mandated 42-hour core curriculum. As a result, it may differ from a Freshman Signature course in having a narrower interdisciplinary focus, in order to fit within an existing area requirement. The course may draw (a) equally from multiple related disciplines (e.g., sociology and economics); (b) from two disciplines not usually thought to be closely related (e.g., mathematics and biology); or (c) predominately from a single discipline, using the tools of other disciplines to broaden the course's inquiry into the topic.

The Educational Policy Committee recommends allowing faculty flexibility in the design and implementation of all Signature Courses. Areas where this flexibility should exist are:
  • Size of the Class. The number of students in each section should be determined by the nature and circumstances of the course and the preferences of the faculty member teaching that section of the course.
  • Interdisciplinarity. The means by which a Freshman Signature Course addresses a contemporary issue in an interdisciplinary manner can vary. The Educational Policy committee recommends that the faculty be allowed flexibility in deciding how to provide an interdisciplinary view for their course. Examples of how this can be done are (i) courses team-taught by faculty in two or more departments; (ii) courses taught by a single instructor with substantial input in planning from faculty in other departments as well as involvement from members of other departments as guest lecturers; (iii) courses developed by two or more faculty from different departments who teach the course in different semesters or years.
  • Improvement of Communication Skills. The Educational Policy committee believes that Freshman Signature Courses should provide students opportunities to improve their communication skills. How this will be done in each section of the course will be left to the faculty members involved, taking into account factors such as topic and class size. Some Signature Courses could qualify for a Writing Flag (more information on the Writing Flag is provided below).


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SKILLS AND EXPERIENCES (FLAGS)

The Educational Policy Committee recommends that every UT undergraduate take courses in residence which include a focus on the following skills and experiences needed by citizens and professionals in the 21st Century:

  • Writing
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Global Cultures
  • Cultural Diversity in the United States
  • Ethics and Leadership
  • Independent Inquiry
Courses of three or more credit hours that meet the following criteria for any of these skills and experiences will be flagged in the course schedule to help students in course selection. Note that flagged courses need not be devoted entirely to the respective skills and experiences. A course could receive more than one flag.

Writing
Requirement:  3 flagged courses in addition to RHE 306, RHE 306Q, or their equivalent

Courses that carry the writing flag must:
  • Require students to write regularly--several times during the semester--and to complete writing projects that are substantial. It is only through the practice of writing that students learn to improve their writing.
  • Be structured around the principle that good writing requires rewriting. Students must receive meaningful feedback from the instructor (or teaching assistant) so they can improve successive drafts.
  • Include writing assignments that constitute at least one-third of the final grade in the course. These assignments must be graded on writing quality as well as content.
  • Provide an opportunity for students to read each other's work in order to offer constructive criticism. Careful reading and analysis of the writing of others is a valuable part of the learning process.
Quantitative Reasoning
Requirement: 1 flagged course

To satisfy the quantitative reasoning flag, at least half of the course grade must be based on the use of quantitative skills (e.g., data analysis and modeling, simulation, statistics, probability, and quantitative decision analysis) to analyze real-world problems.

Global Cultures
Requirement: 1 flagged course

To satisfy the Global Cultures flag, at least one-third of the course grade must be based on content dealing with the cultures and perspectives of a non-U.S. community, country, or coherent regional grouping of countries, past or present.

Cultural Diversity in the United States
Requirement: 1 flagged course

To satisfy the Cultural Diversity in the United States flag, at least one-third of the course grade must be based on content dealing with the culture, perspectives, and history of one or more underrepresented cultural groups in the United States.

Ethics and Leadership
Requirement: 1 flagged course

To satisfy the Ethics and Leadership flag, at least one-third of the courses grade must be based on work in


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practical ethics, i.e., the study of what is involved in making real-life ethical choices.

Independent Inquiry
Requirement: 1 flagged course

To satisfy the Independent Inquiry flag, at least one-third of the course grade must be based on the students’ independent investigation and presentation of their own work. The presentation of their work can take place in many venues including presentations in a capstone course, a performance, independent research or a thesis.

THEMATIC STRANDS

The Educational Policy Committee recommends that sets of classes based upon a common theme be identified to help provide UT students a more coherent core educational experience. These courses should satisfy many of the core curriculum and flag requirements.

FINAL REMARKS

The following discussion is provided by the Educational Policy Committee for the purpose of expanding on the ideas outlined in the preceding motion and is not intended to be considered as part of the motion itself.

Structure
The recommendations outlined in the motion will only be successful if an organization is in place to oversee their implementation. There is an ongoing need for attention to issues such as funding for course development, approval and faculty selection for Signature Courses, designation of flagged courses, development of thematic strands, and evaluation of core courses and requirements. The members of the Educational Policy Committee recommend that the President – in close consultation with the Provost and the deans of UT’s schools and colleges – create an entity that will serve as a guardian of the core and a catalyst for continuous change and improvement in the core curriculum.

Implementation
Signature Courses, flags, and strands will not be created overnight. They must be phased in over time as resources become available and courses are developed and refined.

The Educational Policy Committee recommends that each department with an undergraduate program begin meeting soon after any core curricular changes are approved to discuss appropriate ways to build the newly revised core into their undergraduate degree plans, identify existing courses that might be designated with a flag, and develop ideas for signature courses and thematic strands in which the department could play a role. The administrative entity placed in charge of the core will have the task of ensuring that, as new core requirements are built into individual degree plans, the supply of Signature Courses and flagged courses is sufficient such that all students subject to the requirements are able to satisfy them. The entity, in cooperation with the Provost’s Office and the deans of colleges and schools should monitor implementation efforts to ensure that all degree plans incorporate the new core requirements within a reasonable period of time.


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Motion Submitted by the Educational Policy Committee

Voting Members:

Archie Holmes, Chair Associate Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Dean Appling Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry
Mary Blockley Professor, English
Minette Drumwright Associate Professor, Advertising
Prabhudev Konana Associate Professor, Information, Risk and Operations Management
Robert Koons Professor, Philosophy
Anna Maloch Assistant Professor, Curriculum and Instruction
Cale McDowell Senate of College Councils Representative
Deborah Morowski Graduate Student Assembly Representative
Kate Nanney Senate of College Councils Representative
Gretchen Ritter Associate Professor, Government
Martha Smith Professor, Mathematics
Lawrence Speck Professor, Architecture
Marilla Svinicki Associate Professor, Educational Psychology
David Yount Senate of College Councils Representative


Administrative Advisors (ex-officio):


Sheldon Ekland-Olson Executive Vice President and Provost
Charles Gaede Assoc Director, Division of Instructional Innovation and Assessment


Consultants (ex-officio):


Mark Bernstein Student Deans Committee Representative
Melva Harbin Academic Counselors’ Association Representative


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Appendix A: Proposed Mapping of these Changes to the State-Mandated 42-hour Core Curriculum
The requirements above make changes to the common curriculum taken by all UT Undergraduates. Part of this change is in the state-mandated 42-hour core curriculum. The Table below outlines how these changes are mapped to the State’s core curriculum.

Core Curriculum Area

Current Requirement

Proposed Change

010 – Communications

RHE 306 or 306Q & 3 hours of SWC.

RHE 306 or 306Q & One course with a writing flag

011 – Additional Communications

3 hours of upper division SWC.

Removed

020 – Mathematics

Course at the level of M 301 or higher

No Change

030 – Natural Sciences

Six hours in one discipline

No Change

031 – Additional Natural Science

3 hours in a different discipline than the one used in 030

No Change

040 – Humanities

E 316K

No Change

050 – Visual and Performing Arts

Fine Arts/Humanities Elective

No Change

060 – History

6 hours of American History

No Change

070 – Government

6 hours of Government, including 3 hours of Texas Government

No Change

080 – Social and Behavioral Sciences

Social Science Elective

No Change

090 - Institutionally Designated Option

Not Used

Freshman Signature Course


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Appendix B: Examples of Possible Signature Course Topics Schools and Departments are provided to illustrate the interdisciplinary aspects of these topics.

1. Sustainability (natural sciences, social sciences, engineering, LBJ, Jackson School) 2. Emerging diseases (biology, sociology, nursing, LBJ)

3. Policies on illicit drugs (pharmacy, sociology, psychology, LBJ, nursing, law)

4. AIDS (biology, sociology, psychology, nursing, LBJ)

5. Affordable housing (architecture, LBJ, sociology, economics, engineering)

6. Urban planning (architecture, LBJ, sociology, psychology, engineering)

7. High stakes testing (LBJ, ed psych, curriculum and instruction, educational administration, sociology)

8. Obesity (nutrition, nursing, pharmacy, LBJ, biology, psychology, kinesiology)

9. Immigration policies (LBJ, economics, sociology, government, Latin American studies, Mexican American studies, Asian studies, law)

10. Genetic engineering (biology, LBJ, economics, pharmacy, law)

11. Population growth (sociology/Pop. Center, LBJ, nursing, pharmacy)

12. CSI: Image and Reality (communications, microbiology, pharmacy, engineering, LBJ, anthropology, Jackson School, law)

13. Medical advances (biology, biomedical engineering, nursing, sociology)

14. Natural disasters (Jackson School, geography, sociology, nursing, psychology, math, law)

15. Energy resources (engineering, Jackson School, physics, LBJ, economics, biology)

16. Effects of the Internet (communications, engineering, CS, psychology, sociology, information, law)

17. Science policies (natural sciences, LBJ, government, engineering, pharmacy, law)

18. Alcoholism (pharmacy, biology, sociology, psychology, nursing, social work)

19. Beyond the Da Vinci Code: Art, Religion, and Society in Renaissance Italy (history, art history, religious studies)

20. Global Cultures of Dance and Music (Performing Arts Center, theater and dance, musicology)

21. Nanotechnology and Culture (engineering, molecular Biology, anthropology) – (Note: Elizabeth Keating (anthropology) heads the “Science, Technology, and Society” Program at UT, which has a major Nanotechnology project in place)

22. The Geology and Art of Landscape (Jackson School, Art history)

23. Out of This World: The Science of Astronomy and Astronomy in Science Fiction (astronomy, English, film)

24. Figuring the Universe: Astronomy and Art (astronomy, art history)

25. Exploring the Nature of “Nature” in Science and Art (history of science, art history, various sciences)

26. Dimensionality in Mathematics, Science, and Art (math, physics, art history)

27. Being Digital: Engineering, Computer Science, Art, and Music. (Note: There is already a group in place exploring these connections, and it is the basis of a Connexus BDP)

28. Chaos Theory in Mathematics, Sciences, and Society (math, physics, anthropology, art history, English, and others)

29. Questions of "Representation" in Art, Society, and Science (art history, anthropology, history of science)

30. The Nature of Consciousness (psychology, biology, philosophy)

31. Networks: Neural, Computer, and Cultural (biology, computer science, sociology and other fields)

32. Feedback and Systems Theory Across Disciplines (computer science, engineering, sociology, etc.)

33. The Birth of Democracy: Fifth Century BCE Athens (classics, government, philosophy)

34. The French Revolution and the Birth of the Modern World (history, philosophy, French civilization, government)

35. Politics and Literature (government, English)

36. Justice and the Law in Shakespeare (government, English)

37. Ethics and Human Nature in Austen’s Novels (philosophy, English)

38. Metaphysics & Mythology in 20th Century Literature (philosophy, English)

39. Philosophy in Twentieth Century Literature (philosophy, English)

40. Religion and Politics in American Thought and Letters (English, government, religious studies)

41. Cosmos and Man: Ancient Perspectives (foundational texts of world religions & philosophies) (classics, Middle Eastern studies, Asian studies, philosophy, religious studies)

42. Athens and Jerusalem (interaction between biblical and philosophical traditions in shaping Western

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civilization) (classics, Middle Eastern studies, philosophy, religious studies)

43. Confluence of Cultures and Religions in the Medieval World (interactions between major religious and philosophical movements and thinkers, including Augustine, Maimonides, and Aquinas) (history, philosophy, religious studies, English, French/Italian/German civilization, Middle Eastern studies)

44. Liberty and Tyranny in Renaissance Italy (history, government, Italian civilization)

45. Models of Ethical Leadership from American History (history, philosophy, government, business, American studies)

46. Competing Visions of the Good Life and the Just Society (government, philosophy, religious studies, English)

47. Making Sense of Life: on the variety of religious and philosophical approaches to ethics and the meaning of life (government, philosophy, religious studies, English

48. Natural Law Tradition in Ethics, Politics and Law (philosophy, government, religious studies, history)

49. The Nature of Evil: Philosophical, Theological and Literary Perspectives (philosophy, English, classics, religious studies)

50. The Intellectual World of the American Founders: reading What the Founders Read (government, philosophy, history, English, classics)

51. Philosophy of Education (philosophy, education)

52. Science and the Modern World (physics, philosophy, biology, history)

53. Culture of Discovery: The Scientific Revolution in its Context (physics, philosophy, history)

54. Ecology, Evolution and Society (biology, sociology, government, psychology, philosophy)

55. Designing Cities for Human Beings (architecture, urban studies, anthropology, art history, government)

56. Culture of Entrepreneurship (economics, business, government, sociology)

57. Markets and Morality (economics, business, government, philosophy)

  Updated 2013 October 18
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