Curriculum Design Working Group faces structural challenges

The Curricular Design Working Group met on Aug. 30 and discussed its planned recommendation regarding how the college’s curriculum should change by the end of the academic year. Committee members and attendees hope student involvement will increase throughout this process. 

The College Senate created the CDWG in March to meet the standards set by the Geneseo Learning Outcomes for Baccalaureate Education, according to the CDWG chair and Distinguished Teaching Professor of English Beth McCoy. GLOBE, which was passed in the spring 2016 semester, reorients the Geneseo curriculum to ensure that students learn broadly and specifically, that they gain practical and intellectual skills and that they demonstrate reflection and integrated learning abilities. 

Although the CDWG’s objective is to write a recommendation regarding how the curriculum should change by the end of the academic year, some attendees expressed doubts that the group will be able to formulate a curriculum by then. 

“Geneseo hasn’t done something like this in a very long time and so it is an amazingly complicated process,” McCoy said. “Some people at the meeting were necessarily focused on the end of the process and others were focused on the process itself. Some people expressed concern about the areas that they were most familiar with and others were thinking about things in a very global sense.” 

English major senior Veronica Taglia attended the first meeting as an observer and believes one of the complicated aspects of curricular change will be trying to understand student opinion. 

“I think it’s hard to have students on the CDWG since they have such a high turnover rate,” she said. “I think they should definitely be gaging student interest through polls or surveys or something, since [students will] be the ones actually going through the curriculum.”

The working group is primarily composed of two teaching faculty members from the social sciences, the humanities, the fine arts, the natural sciences and the professional studies areas. In addition, four members of the broader administration and one student have formal positions on the CDWG. 

Student Association Academic Affairs Representative Corey Wilkinson explained that the focus at the CDWG meetings has primarily been on the faculty-side of the proposed curriculum change, due to the fact that the majority of the committee is comprised of faculty members. At the same time, Wilkinson has been attempting to integrate the student voice into these meetings.  

 “I’ve been trying to figure out what would be best for the students who actually have to go through the curriculum, rather than the faculty teaching it,” Wilkinson said. “There are some faculty that do also see that, since they hold Geneseo to a high standard.”

Taglia echoed Wilkinson’s sentiment, and also believes that the CDWG should make sure that the eventual curricular change includes student input and considers student interests.  

“One of the biggest drawbacks is that it’s hard to roll this out in a way that’s clear for students,” she said. “Making students aware before the change happens and making the change clear enough for students to see why the change is being made in the first place should be a focus of the CDWG.”  

Some have interpreted curricular redesign as a major challenge for Geneseo, as it tries to maintain its liberal arts credentials in the face of broader SUNY and national trends, according to Wilkinson. This concern has driven discussion in the CDWG meetings, according to Wilkinson.  

“A lot of faculty feel that we are adjusting to SUNY and Middle States curriculum and losing our identity as Geneseo,” he said. “What I’ve seen so far as a major question is how we can stay Geneseo while also meeting these mandated requirements.” 

McCoy sees the structural restraints on the CDWG as another major challenge to its mission. 

“The structural challenges, which includes the requirement that we do everything within the existing financial resources of the college, are huge,” she said. “There are some other very complicated challenges. We have to think about what’s good for all the students throughout the college, but we also can’t ask people to give up what they are specially trained and qualified to do.”












Chair of the Curricular Design Working Group Beth McCoy inaugurates first meeting of semester, where attendees began work to revise curriculum. (Annalee Bainnson/Photo Editor)