Miller releases curricular review

A report on Yale College education released to faculty Monday found that Yale could improve science offerings and undergraduate teaching.

The report concludes over a year of research into curricular changes from 2005, including new writing and quantitative reasoning requirements, that were made in response to a 2003 report by the Committee on Yale College Education. Yale College Dean Mary Miller said the review committee, which analyzed the performance and course-taking patterns of the Classes of 2009 and 2010, documented benefits of the changes but also drew attention to areas that require additional reform.

“Many of the challenges that have been identified in these past 12 months with the undergraduate curriculum could and would be addressed by making excellence in teaching our highest priority in undergraduate education,” Miller wrote in an introduction to the report, which will be presented at a Yale College faculty meeting Thursday.

Monday’s report found that non-science majors are still dissatisfied with offerings that fill the science distributional requirement, even though more than 80 courses for non-science majors have been developed or revamped since the 2003 recommendations. The new report also suggests that the Center for Scientific Teaching, which was established in 2010, take a leading role in making seminars and lecture classes within the sciences more engaging. In addition, Yale must ensure teaching plays a prominent role in salary reviews and should provide incentives to encourage professors to develop new courses, according to the report. The review committee also notes in the report that the sciences, as well as the arts, could benefit from improved facilities.

Before the changes in 2005, students had to fulfill requirements in four categories: language and literature, humanities, social sciences and sciences. Now, there are three subject areas — humanities, social sciences and sciences — and three skills — language, quantitative reasoning and writing.

The review committee determined that many students who took the introductory English 114 course in their freshman year showed particularly strong improvement in their writing skills. Administrators have said they hope to expand the number of slots available in the course. This year, over 40 percent of applicants were denied spots.

A change in the language requirement was one of the most controversial aspects of the 2003 report, since some language faculty opposed a reduction in the number of terms of study required for beginners. The revised requirement stipulated that all students, regardless of previous knowledge, study language at Yale, though beginners only have to take three semesters of a language rather than four.

Still, the new report finds that total language enrollments have remained steady since 2005, and that more than 60 percent of students exceed the minimum language requirement.

“The number of students who start new languages is pretty stunning, and the number of students who are able to enter and take L5 is also quite impressive,” Miller said.

The review committee also noted that science and math engineering may find it difficult to satisfy their language requirement given the high number of credits required by their majors, and that the college could explore “whether there are alternative routes” for those majors to meet the requirements.

Aside from the curricular alterations, the 2003 report also lead to the creation of the International Summer Award, which funds one summer experience abroad for each student on financial aid and has contributed to an almost three-fold increase in the number of students who travel abroad in a year. Students participated in nearly 1,400 international experiences in 2009-’10, compared to 500 in 2003-’04.

Though administrators have acknowledged that the effects of the 2005 changes are difficult to measure, they said the changes have ultimately enhanced the undergraduate experience at Yale.

“If you look at the long history of reports and white papers written to promote curricular change, the CYCE stands out as one that really got implemented,” Dean of Undergraduate Education Joseph Gordon said.

Work on the report began in the fall of 2010.

Comments

  • yalengineer

    Other engineering programs like Penn don’t require language for their engineering students. The early morning language timeslots and week-long classes are a harsh burden on science and engineering students who already have their mornings full and their afternoons occupied by lab courses.

    • River_Tam

      Princeton doesn’t require language from Engineers either. Almost made me choose it.

  • GeoJoe

    The current language requirement has no coherent justification and should be immediately abolished. There’s no reason that someone should be forced to waste ~1/8 of their Yale College courses on low level language classes simply because his or her high school didn’t prepare him or her for a placement exam. High school preparation doesn’t affect any other academic requirements at Yale in the same way. The idea that L1 through L4 classes teach something unattainable through more enjoyable and relevant course offerings is ridiculous.

    Imagine a mathematics requirement similar to the language requirement. You could either (say) take MATH 222 or take 112/115 or 115/120, depending on your high school preparation. This would be absurd and useless (although I love math).

    The language requirement is similarly stupid. Kill it.