CEP to continue its curricular reform

As part of President Schapiro’s strategic planning initiatives, the Committee on Educational Policy (CEP) has been working to innovate the Williams curriculum. The CEP created a collection of proposals for extensive curriculum change last year, and the faculty voted to approve several of the measures at its final meeting last spring. The student-faculty committee is currently working toward means of implementing the proposals the faculty approved, even though the College plans to institute just a few of the proposals this year.

The CEP took a full set of curricular proposals before the faculty last year, and each of these proposals required an affirmative vote of 60 percent of the faculty to pass. Approved points included an experiential learning program, a Williams-in-New-York program, an expanded tutorial offering and an interdisciplinary initiative. Other focuses included changes in the distribution requirements, such as a new writing requirement, a quantitative skills requirement and an adjustment of the physical education requirement from eight to four credits. Other ideas, such as a foreign language requirement, a speaking requirement and the abolition of the swim test, did not pass.

With the new programs, the CEP strove both to strengthen students’ learning skills and application of those skills. Andrea Danyluk, chair of the CEP and professor of computer science, explained that the committee was hoping to embrace and extend Williams’ liberal-arts style education. “Tutorials are an embodiment of what Williams is — they’re small, filled with personal contact and focused on independent learning. . .. Experiential learning is forcing students to take theory they learn out in the field, seeing where it works and then questioning it.”

At its first meeting of the year this week, the Committee will begin to define how to implement the approved proposals. Though some of them were easy to start, such as the downsizing of the PE requirement, which has already been put into effect, with others it will take far more effort and time before results emerge, according to Danyluk.

For example, because the curricular renovation proposals did not go through until this year’s course selection had already been designated, this year’s course offerings do not yet cater to the new requirements. However, though some of the more abstract proposals will take quite awhile to develop, the CEP hopes to hire coordinators or chairs for programs such as interdisciplinary team teaching and experiential learning by the end of this year.

CEP member Morgan Barth ‘02 described the process of implementing some of the more complex proposals as ongoing and demanding widespread participation.

“Figuring out how to construct a Williams in New York Program takes work – not just from the CEP but from every corner of the school,” Barth said. “A newly defined tutorial program will demand an extraordinary amount of creativity and course development from the faculty, and will for years.”