The Knox Educational Plan will be getting an overhaul in 2018, with a strengthened First Year Experience, Immersive Experiences and more.
For the past two years, faculty members at Knox College have been working together as a task force to finalize and implement the Knox Education Plan for 2018. The plan will take effect during the fall of 2018, and will not affect current students.
Associate Professor of German and member of the Knox Educational Experience Task Force, Todd Heidt, said that the curriculum is focusing on four “pillars” that represent the different aspects of the Knox educational experience.
The four pillars include an expanded First Year Experience, Specialization, Elements and an Immersive Experience. While the specific aspects of each pillar have not been finalized, the task force is working to get feedback for their ideas to provide the best Knox experience.
“We’ve tried to emphasize the strengths that are already present, what we already do well,” Heidt said.
Heidt noted that Specialization refers to a student’s major or minor, which is going to closely resemble the current model of majors and minors. There have been discussions about dropping the requirement for a minor or a second major, but that decision has yet to be made.
He also mentioned that the active inquiry aspect of the plan is not far along in its development, but is intending to expand on the immersion programs that are already in place at Knox, such as Repertory Theatre terms, and Startup terms. These terms focus on interdisciplinary study that bring education outside of a traditional classroom setting.
The Elements aspect of the plan consists of combining the list of foundation and key competency requirements into one list that focuses more on the skills learned in the courses rather than different subject fields. Heidt elaborated that other fields, such as biology or chemistry, could offer courses focusing on the culture behind the science for their humanities requirement. Students who have no interest in taking a traditional humanities course could instead gain the same types of skills in courses that are better suited for their interests and major.
Another member of the task force, Associate Professor of Computer Science Jaime Spacco, noted some of the potential details of the expanded First Year Experience. He expressed that first years often struggle with some of the more popular introductory courses, due to the large classroom size and fast pace.
One of the options for combatting this is offering sections of popular introductory courses open exclusively to first years. In addition, half-credit enrichment courses, such as those offered to supplement some of the science classes currently, may be offered to a wider variety of courses that are popular for first years.
During the Student Life Committee (SLC) meeting that took place on Jan. 10, faculty and students discussed the potential ways to bring conversations beginning in a classroom outside to other areas, such as a communal living space. In this model, students would live in the same dorm as others in their First Year Seminar course, which would take the place of the Freshman Preceptorial course.
Other possibilities mentioned during the meeting include a residential suite designated for transfer students, as well as a program each term to aid the transition for transfer students.
Though this aspect of the new curriculum hasn’t been fully developed, there has been some skepticism around the concept of sharing a residential area with students in their First Year Seminar.
Freshman Janie Sutherd commented on the fact that living with people who are different from those in classes gives students an opportunity to meet a wider variety of people and establish a greater number of connections. She mentioned that having different FP courses as her suitemates allowed her to continue the conversations started in class but with people who had new ideas to share.
However, Heidt emphasized that many of the aspects of the four pillars are in the beginning stages, and may not be present in the final version of the plan.
“A lot of the details still need to be worked out,” Heidt said. “But we do know that we are going to move forward with this framework of these four key areas of the Knox experience.”
Spacco said that, while he doesn’t anticipate any specific problems with the new plan, he is conscious of the fact that any new and unknown project is going to be met with unexpected problems.
“To me, that’s just how I know the world works because that’s how software works,” he said.
Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the College Laura Behling stated that the plan will not go into full effect until Fall Term of 2018 and that the changes will not affect current students. Incoming first years of 2017 will have the opportunity to participate in some of the aspects of the plan.
Behling hopes that the new plan will help Knox students better prepare to take the skills they learned and make use of them in their lives after Knox.
“If you think about how you know things, you know things in a very interdisciplinary way,” she said. “And I think there’s an opportunity here for a piece of this to really help push that to the foreground and help students see the way knowledge gets created and taken apart.”
While the new plan wasn’t created to repair a specific problem, the faculty members in the task force hope to continue improving the Knox Educational Experience to keep up with cultural changes happening in and out of Knox.
“Knox in particular is kind of at the forefront of major changes in the U.S.,” Spacco said. “Our demographics look a lot more like what America is going to look like in the future”
Staff writer Connor Wood and News Editor Erika Riley contributed to reporting for this story.