January 23, 2012


C. Proposed Change in Requirements for the Writing Flag in the Core Curriculum (D 9349-9350).

Professor Staiger presented the proposal from her committee to remove the requirement of student peer review as a requirement for undergraduate courses to qualify for the writing flag. She said the discussion in her committee on this proposal had been extensive and somewhat difficult. There had been objections to the peer review requirement from faculty members who felt the review process was not providing a successful learning experience for their students. However, according to a survey of the Senate of College Councils conducted by Ms. Carisa Nietsche (Plan II), the results had uniformly favored the peer review experience with only one exception. Professor Staiger said the committee decided to modify the writing flag requirement by simply encouraging student peer review rather than requiring it. She said this change was done out of respect for academic freedom and in order to promote flexibility to those who objected to the requirement. She said the committee wanted all of the colleges/schools to offer an adequate number of writing flag courses, and there was concern that attrition in the number of courses available might occur if the requirement remained a mandatory one.

Senior lecturer Hillary Hart (civil architecture and environmental engineering) said she was on the writing flag committee and was confused as to which group had jurisdiction or responsibility for determining the criteria of a flagged course. Professor Staiger responded that the writing committee enacts the Faculty Council’s legislation, but the Faculty Council, through the Educational Policy Committee, indicates what the core curriculum is. She further explained that the writing flag committee was responsible for interpretation of the criterion. For example, with regard to the peer review criterion, the writing flag committee could describe what would constitute adequate peer review. Professor Staiger said if the new criteria passed the Council and survived through the hierarchical approval process, then there would be three criteria left with peer review being a suggested but not required part.

Professor James Holcombe (chemistry and biochemistry) said he did not understand the concept of encouraging an attribute. He felt a requirement was a requirement; otherwise the process introduced opinions and pedagogy philosophies. Professor Staiger said the committee did not want to drop the idea that students critique one another’s work as this was largely seen as a valuable learning experience. She said the academic freedom issue was of concern since some faculty members believed they had the right to determine what worked well in their particular classes. She said that she was positive about including the peer review requirement herself to which Professor Holcombe responded, “Well, I mean if you don’t want to drop it, then don’t drop it and leave it in there.” Professor Staiger replied the vote from the committee had indicated the committee wanted to retain a reminder that student peer review was a good idea but still allow for flexibility for instructors. Chair Friedman asked if there were any other comments or questions, and there were none. He called for a voice vote, but the responses were mixed. He then asked for a show of hands, and the vote was 21 ayes and 13 nays, so the motion passed.

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