Campus / News / May 13, 2009

Ed plans obsolete?

Since 2001, each student at Knox has had to fill out an educational plan, ideally when they are sophomores, that describes their feelings about what they have accomplished at Knox so far and what classes and opportunities they will want to explore in their future at Knox. Professor of Mathematics Kevin Hastings said, “[Knox] really introduced diversity at that point. We were ready for something different and something that made a statement about what a Knox education really added up to.”

As recent conflicts have shown, there are many students who do not fill out their educational plan during sophomore year, and some seniors still have not written their educational plan, a requirement for graduation. Many seniors also have yet to fulfill their experiential learning, another graduation requirement.

On May 1, Hastings, who also works in the Office of the Registrar, sent out an email to most of campus from the Office of the Registrar which stated, “At the moment I still have 43 seniors without Educational Plans and 9 more without their second specialization declared. There are numerous others without Experiential Learning as well. Altogether, there are still 100 seniors who as of now will not graduate because they have not satisfied requirements. I will withhold your name from the graduation list if these things are not done…Now is the time. Do not endanger your graduation.”

Each student is to form their educational plan by working with their adviser. After the student has written a plan that details what their main educational goals are and how they plan to achieve them, their adviser will sign a form that deems their plan satisfactory. The student then brings that form to the Office of the Registrar, where it is filed and marked that the student has completed their educational plan.

The enforcement and content of these plans, however, is questionable.

Some advisers have not made it a priority for their students to fill out the plan during their sophomore year, while other students have advisers who tell them to write down a general idea of their goals simply so the adviser can have something on record before signing the registrar form. There is much argument among the faculty about whether these plans are obsolete or even being correctly enforced.

The only problem, however, is that not all faculty members are serious about the educational plans. “Sometimes I think it works a little better in theory than in practice,” said Assistant Professor of English Barbara Tannert-Smith. There are other professors who also admit that they do not strictly enforce the educational plan.

Hastings said that there is a huge difference in faculty opinion about the plans. When asked if he thought the plans were becoming obsolete, Hastings said, “I think there is an argument for at least looking at that.” He also suggested that until that argument happens, advisers can be more standardized with plans to make the process easier, suggesting the advisers provide templates for their students’ plans. “There needs to be some flexibility, for sure, but right now it’s really wide open,” he said.

One very flexible part of the educational plan is the aspect of experiential learning. While some students can fulfill this requirement through studying abroad or work experience, the possibilities are somewhat limitless. “We haven’t come to a good definition of what experiential learning is,” said Hastings. “That’s a discussion the campus needs to have.”

There are several students who also said that the email about their graduation being endangered was sent to them even though they had already completed their educational plans. This could be because the email was sent to a wide range of students, but some also believe the registrar lost their forms. It is unclear where the error occurred. “For me, a student goes to the registrar, brings [the form] to me, and I sign it and the student brings it back to the registrar. If they’ve lost forms, I don’t know anything about that,” said Tannert-Smith.

As of May 12, there are still 19 seniors who have not filled out their educational plans and five seniors who have yet to declare their second concentration. “The large part of what remains is experiential learning,” said Hastings, who suspects that most of them have likely finished their experiential learning and minor requirements but have not written them up yet.

Annie Zak

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