Frequently Asked Questions
Is the committee open to suggestions, questions, and other responses to the report?
Yes—we welcome your input! We have been meeting with a number of groups across campus, and we invited each department and program to submit a response by May 1, 2016. You can email the committee at any time at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please feel free as well to contact any of the committee members directly.
Can you explain why the committee recommended eliminating AP credit for core requirements?
Short Answer: We’ve had several questions on this topic, and we will be more clear in the final draft. We don’t propose to eliminate AP credit for placement. We do propose to eliminate AP as a way to test out of a core requirement entirely at Notre Dame, in order to ensure that all students receive a comprehensive, high-quality liberal arts education. Recognizing that many high school AP classes are excellent, we still feel that a certain score on an AP exam is not a good substitute for the courses we teach in the core because the emphasis is different. An AP course is typically discipline-focused and concentrates on a demonstration of proficiency. The University’s core courses should introduce crucial ideas and concepts relevant to the "ways of knowing" we are exploring and connect these to broader issues and themes.
Students will still be able to use AP credit toward the 120 credit hours required for a degree. And, in terms of placement, we welcome the fact (for example) that many engineering and science students test out of the introductory calculus class and into higher levels of math. We objected to the use of AP solely to test out of the University core requirements. For example, a history major or marketing major testing out of all math or quantitative reasoning courses at Notre Dame by receiving a 5 on the BC Calculus test, or an engineer testing out of the social science requirement entirely by receiving a 5 on the AP Psychology test.
More discussion and data related to the committee’s AP recommendations is available in the final report of the Advanced Placement Focus Group. A longer answer to this question is here.
Why did the Core Curriculum Review Committee suggest a limit to the number of credits for each major?
To the committee’s surprise, no University office monitors the size of majors, allowing individual departments to expand the credit-hour footprint of their respective majors at will. And because any core curriculum exists only in relationship to major courses of study and electives, the committee was concerned that some majors allow very few electives—or not even one free elective—for students who come into the University with no AP credit. When combined with Notre Dame’s sizeable number of core requirements, high numbers of required credit hours in departmental majors significantly limit student flexibility. Working in consultation with Dean of Engineering Peter Kilpatrick, the committee decided to recommend that the combination of major requirements and University requirements for any single student in any major program should still permit at least three free electives within the number of credits currently required for graduation. Most of the affected majors are in engineering, but a small number of arts and sciences majors may also be affected by this recommendation.
Can the three electives the committee recommends be taken in the student’s major/college?
Yes. We truly want these elective courses to be “free,” so that students may pursue their own interests.
Why did the core curriculum review committee propose to reduce the number of required science or math courses?
A large majority (almost 80%) of Notre Dame undergraduates are required by their major to take appropriate math and science courses as part of their development path. A large majority (almost 90%) of students come to Notre Dame already having had a year of calculus. This second number is a dramatic shift since the math requirement was instituted in the late 1960s. Given these two considerations and the recommendation that AP credit would not be allowed to substitute for a core requirement, the CCRC felt that three courses in quantitative reasoning and scientific and technical analysis would represent sufficient exposure to these topics for those students who are not required to study them as part of their major. This is especially true if the core courses in these areas are inspiring and give the students the context they need to appreciate the importance of these areas. Without the option of AP credit, it might be that the number of students taking these courses will actually increase under the new core.
Why do students still have to take two theology courses when it is only a single “way of knowing”?
As part of its charge, the committee was asked how the core curriculum can not only sustain but also deepen our commitment to Notre Dame’s Catholic character. We took that seriously as we considered various possibilities in proposing a new core curriculum. (You can read more about it in the Catholic Mission Focus Group report). In the end, a clear majority of the group proposed a combination of two theology courses, one philosophy course, and either one additional philosophy class or one Catholicism and the Disciplines (CAD) course. As central threads in the Catholic intellectual tradition, theology and philosophy have played and should continue to play a central role in Notre Dame’s core curriculum. In placing theology and philosophy at the core of its Catholic liberal arts education, Notre Dame embraces a paradigm of the intellectual life that emphasizes the complementarity of faith and reason.
How does this proposal enhance Catholic identity in the core curriculum?
See answer to previous question. In addition to keeping Theology and Philosophy at the center of a Notre Dame education, we thought that we should develop new courses that explore the Catholic intellectual tradition in its many facets across the University. Out of this discussion came the idea of Catholicism and the Disciplines (CAD) courses, which will integrate material connected to Catholicism with courses in a variety of disciplines. (A list of possible courses is in the Catholic Mission Focus group report). We think this concept has the potential to widen the circle of faculty and students able to provide and obtain a distinctively Catholic education.
Why not require a course on diversity or sustainability—or propose requirements for community-based learning?
We were impressed by the compelling proposals we received for new core courses on these and other important issues. After discussion, the committee decided not to require a course on a single topic given difficulties in selecting one particular topic over others and given questions of scale in an undergraduate student body of more than 8,000. Instead, we invite proposals for team-taught Integration courses on enduring questions and pressing issues of all sorts that will model for students the value of intellectual work that crosses disciplinary boundaries.
Why did the committee suggest that students take the core curriculum courses across their four years at Notre Dame rather than mostly in their first year?
As we gathered responses from students, faculty, and alumni, one of the most ardent pleas was a desire for more flexibility. In the current system, Notre Dame students have either been encouraged or required to take most core classes in the first year. It is routine for many students not to take classes in their direct areas of academic interest until the sophomore year. The result is that too many students see this first year less as an exploratory period in which to try out possible majors and more as a list of requirements to endure before being able to take courses in their primary area of interest. We believe students should be able to start pursuing their academic passions sooner. And so we think students would benefit from spreading the core courses more evenly across their four years at Notre Dame.
An important part of this process is developing stronger University ownership of the core curriculum. The College of First Year of Studies is an important advising body, helping students successfully navigate the transition from high school to college and guiding them through the discernment process. But the core curriculum is a University responsibility. Faculty and advisors across Notre Dame will need to work together to help undergraduates at all levels achieve the learning goals established by the core curriculum.
What changes have been suggested for the writing requirement?
The draft report lacked some detail on this question. The current writing requirement involves one Writing and Rhetoric course and one University Seminar, both taken in the first year. More than 60 percent of Notre Dame students test out of the current Writing and Rhetoric course. We continue to think that students should be able to test out of the Writing and Rhetoric course through an appropriate exam, but if they test out, they should still have additional writing experience at Notre Dame beyond the University Seminar. This could be accomplished with a second University Seminar, a thesis, or a designated writing-intensive course in their respective major or as an elective. There would be many opportunities for a student to “double count” his or her second writing course with either a major or core requirement. Notably, the committee also recommended that the University should not allow any AP English Literature exam score to test out of the Writing and Rhetoric course. Only the AP English exam may be used for this purpose, and the committee recommended that the University consider raising the requirement for credit via this exam to a score of 5. Clearly, if this recommendation is passed, the University will need to provide pedagogical support to the faculty who are offering writing-intensive courses in each of the schools and colleges.
Will technical writing courses count for the new second writing requirement?
Yes, if they have a sufficient amount of writing as assessed by the University committee that would oversee the core curriculum. We hope and anticipate that faculty across the University will identify or create courses deemed as writing intensive so that students can fulfill this requirement in their major programs.
Will any courses still be double-counted for University requirements? How about College or major requirements?
No single course can fulfill two University requirements for a single student. For example, no course can at once be a social science and an Integration course. But we hope and anticipate that many courses will also fulfill college or departmental requirements as well as University requirements. For example, a course in quantitative reasoning may be part of the finance major; or a course in historical analysis would likely be part of the history major. Another example would be introductory courses in, say, the social sciences, fulfilling that requirement and also acting as a gateway to a second major.
Who will determine what courses can count in the new core’s ”ways of knowing” categories, or what can count as “Integration” or “Catholicism and the Disciplines” (CAD) courses?
After considering several different models of faculty leadership, we recommended a University-level central committee with elected members and appointed members (to ensure representation across colleges and schools), led either by an associate provost of undergraduate education and/or a chair chosen from the faculty. This committee would coordinate the implementation of the new core, including defining coherent and equitable standards for approving proposed courses (including the new CAD and Integration courses) and evaluating the effectiveness of existing courses in advancing the goals of the core curriculum. This central committee could draw upon the resources of domain experts, including subcommittees where appropriate and necessary.
Because “Integration” courses must be team-taught, will both professors receive full teaching credit for their courses?
Yes. Both professors should be in the classroom for each session. It would not be considered an Integration course if one professor teaches for seven weeks and then another professor takes over for seven weeks.
Will graduate students continue to teach any courses in the core curriculum?
Regardless of the desire to have well-trained graduate students, it is important that the core curriculum be owned by the regular faculty. The breadth of the course content and the questions that students pose can often require a seasoned instructor who can draw from his or her research and teaching experience to more adequately cover the content or field students’ questions. Some graduate students are and should be able to teach introductory courses as the instructor of record, but they should be the exceptions, not the norm. Incorporating graduate students into the teaching of core courses is possible in other ways.
When and how will the core curriculum be implemented?
The committee continued to solicit faculty assessments and comments as well as feedback from others in the Notre Dame community throughout the spring 2016 semester before completing its final report in August 2016.
During the fall 2016 semester, this final report will be presented and discussed at each college council or equivalent body, the Faculty Senate, and the Academic Council. Given that these changes are the most substantive to the Core Curriculum since the late 1960s, we are not eager to rush deliberation of the recommendations. Still, we anticipate that Academic Council will vote on the proposal before the end of the fall 2016 semester.
If the proposals in the report are approved by Academic Council and, ultimately, the University president, a new, University-level committee would be created to determine how the changes would be implemented. The new core curriculum would presumably take effect in fall 2018, allowing adequate time for various units on campus to plan for the changes.
Have other questions or comments?
Please send them to email@example.com or feel free to contact any member of the committee.