We are looking forward to the Workshop stage of the Globalizing the Liberal Arts meeting, during which approximately 60 faculty members and administrators from Yale-NUS College, Yale University, and leading institutions from across the U.S. will come together to collaboratively address some of the most critical problems facing liberal arts curricula today. These issues affect all of our institutions, and were particularly salient in the first years of Yale-NUS College. Our diverse experiences will benefit individual institutions and the broader liberal arts community as we collectively articulate new insights and solutions to these problems. Working groups will be devised to deliberate upon and describe ways in which these issues challenge our own institutions and higher education generally, and to provide an outline of a proposal for a new set of courses or programs to help address these problems.
During the Workshop, there will be opportunities for a few short (15-20 minute) talks to the group as a whole, and for somewhat longer presentations or activities to particular working groups. For your reference, seven topics for working groups are presented below. In order to organize the workshop efficiently, we ask you to provide the following information.
Please let us know if you have any questions, suggestions or concerns – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Bailyn, Dean of Faculty, Yale-NUS College
Bryan Penprase, Professor and Director, Centre for Teaching & Learning, Yale-NUS College
Questions and Goals for Working Groups at the GLA Workshop
1) What are the most promising directions for a globalized humanities curriculum in the United States? Two traditional approaches to the humanities curriculum in liberal arts settings have been “western civ” core curricula on the one hand, and a purely distributional system with no specific requirements on the other hand. The recent rise of liberal arts colleges in Asia has prompted exploration of centralized curricula that include works from around the globe in a structured manner, while there are calls in the US for “ethnic studies” requirements that are in many cases focused primarily on the American experience. There are also more general pedagogical questions of how reading and studying of complex texts from many cultures should be taught and studied. This working group will consider the structure and pedagogy of introductory humanities curricula, and how global elements can most effectively be introduced in an American context.
2) What is the role of the creative arts in a liberal arts curriculum? Creative writing and the visual and performing arts are a mainstay of life in residential liberal arts colleges. But the arts are often practiced by students in an extra-curricular context that is disconnected from the curriculum, and while history and criticism of art has a strong the place in the curriculum, the status of courses in the practice of art varies considerably between institutions. This working group will explore the connections between extra-curricular and curricular arts opportunities, and the place of courses in the practice and production of the arts within the context of liberal arts colleges.
3) Should discipline-based introductory courses be supplemented or replaced by “problem-based” or interdisciplinary courses? Discipline-based introductory surveys are the mainstays of introductory instruction in the social and natural sciences in many liberal arts settings. Introductions to such disciplines as Biology, Chemistry, Economics, Physics, Political Science and Psychology are among the most popular courses on many campuses. But this approach tends toward disciplinary silos, and privileges the theoretical underpinnings of the disciplines over the consideration of complex interdisciplinary problems that are of great practical and intellectual importance, and that are exciting to many students. There has thus arisen considerable interest in courses or course exercises based on addressing problems that arise in contemporary life and in research from the perspective of a variety of disciplines. This working group will explore the possibilities and challenges in using interdisciplinary and problem-based instruction at introductory and intermediate level.
4) What skills should all 21st century college graduates have, and how can we ensure that they have them? The skill set that a well-educated citizen should have in the 21st century is dauntingly extensive. To cope with the daunting challenges of contemporary life, our graduates need to be adept in written, oral and visual communication; quantitative reasoning and coding; rhetoric and argumentation. All these and more will be needed to empower graduates to be responsive and effective citizens and leaders. These skills can be taught in courses designed specifically for training in one or two skills, or can be integrated into a sequence of multiple courses across many disciplines. There are also serious issues that arise from the large range of preparation students bring with them from their previous education. This working group will consider how best to identify, teach and assess the most important 21st century skills in a contemporary liberal arts curriculum.
5) What can and should “experiential learning” contribute to a liberal arts education? Off-campus experiential learning experiences can provide a critically important component of a liberal arts education. They can inspire both students and faculty, bring together students and faculty with the local and global community, and provide critical contacts for future student internships and employment. However such experiences can be difficult to organize, and are sometimes thought to lack intellectual rigor. This working group will study how to create and sustain positive, intellectually rigorous experiential learning for students, and to align these experiences with academic learning outcomes and the on-campus curriculum.
6) What are the best approaches to the challenges and opportunities presented by an increasingly diverse multi-national faculty and student body? One of the crucial concerns at any residential colleges in the 21st century is using the increasing levels of student and faculty diversity (along many axes) in positive ways. The increasing socioeconomic and racial diversity on campuses provides many exciting new opportunities for learning, but several challenges as well; especially in cases where students have diverse preparation for academic work. One important aspect of diversity in the College and University campus is the increasing presence of international students. While “diversity” is defined differently in different national and cultural settings, the challenges are often surprisingly familiar. This working group will explore the challenges and opportunities presented by increasingly diverse cohorts of students, including the rising numbers of international students on residential college campuses, and how to ensure that this diversity is a source of inspiration and learning, rather than a source of conflict for our communities.