Faculty Senate to consider implementation of new integrative studies requirement

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Faculty Senate will consider a proposal for implementation of the new general education requirement that will have baccalaureate students take six credits of integrative studies courses.

Such courses are designed to help students gain a broader understanding of how information can be integrated across different knowledge domains to boost learning. The integrative studies courses, though a new requirement, will fit within the existing credit requirements for the learning fields (or knowledge domains) within general education.

At the March 15 meeting, the vote will be on whether to approve this implementation plan. It was created by the Special Senate Committee on Implementation of the General Education Reform, appointed by Senate Chair Mohamad A. Ansari in June 2015.

Under the new requirements, which if approved will apply to students starting with those entering in summer or fall 2018, students will take a total of six credits of integrative studies courses as part of their coursework in general education. The integrative studies courses will bring together different perspectives on the topics students are studying, broadening their understanding of those subjects and encouraging them to approach the ideas in different ways.

Students will have the option of choosing a pathway. At present, there are two approved integrative studies pathways: 

  • “Linked courses,” which match two courses that approach the same or related subjects from two different knowledge domains; or
  • “Inter-domain courses,” which bring topics from two different knowledge domains together in one course.

The idea behind the approach is that it allows the students to come at the same subject using different ways of thinking, studying it from different perspectives and in different contexts.

With the linked courses, two separate courses will be paired. For example, a class on American political campaigns and elections in the social and behavioral science domain, could be linked to a class on ethical leadership in the humanities domain. Students will complete courses that are linked with each other and it is possible that faculty could develop links among multiple classes, not just two, broadening the options for students.

Some inter-domain courses already exist, such as a course on chemistry and literature, which integrates knowledge across the natural science and humanities domains. Many further courses that have the potential to become approved as either inter-domain or linked courses also exist. 

Integrative studies courses will be drawn from the five broad areas known as knowledge domains: arts, humanities, health and wellness, natural sciences, and social and behavioral sciences. To satisfy the integrative studies requirement, students will need to take courses that integrate at least two of those domains. One possibility for implementation will be for faculty with expertise in different knowledge domains to work together to develop courses that can be paired, or to engage in team-teaching.

In a report to the Faculty Senate, the Special Senate Committee noted: “Integrative Studies courses will have a distinctive intellectual dimension. Because they ask the student to consider a topic from the perspective of two different general education knowledge domains, they will advance the student’s ability to comprehend things from multiple perspectives, to see connections, and to grasp the concept that one must employ different modes of thinking, different epistemologies to understand fully the nature of things — one domain is not fully equal to the task of understanding the world around us.”

If the senate approves the Special Committee’s recommendations on March 15, the Senate Committee on Curricular Affairs and other groups will begin implementing the changes, and faculty in all interested colleges can begin to develop proposals for linked and inter-domain courses. In fall 2017, the courses that have been approved as integrative studies will be included in the subsequent year’s schedule sent to the registrar, and students will begin taking integrative studies classes in fall 2018.

For the full senate agenda, go to: http://senate.psu.edu/senators/agendas-records/

Last Updated May 12, 2016