College Passes New Integrative Studies System

New Integrative Studies (IS) requirements have been passed and will go into effect next fall.  According to professor Susan Bruxvoort Lipscomb, Director of IS Requirements, “The biggest shift is a […]

New Integrative Studies (IS) requirements have been passed and will go into effect next fall.  According to professor Susan Bruxvoort Lipscomb, Director of IS Requirements, “The biggest shift is a move to integrated core courses, an integrated core sequence in humanities that combines literature, history, and philosophy into three integrated.”  She explained this meant students would “study the history of ideas through primary texts in literature and philosophy.”

“We are drawing on some of the strengths that we developed as an institution with faculty being able to teach in an integrated humanities… We’ve developed those strengths through our honors programs.  So we have faculty that can do that” Bruxvoort Lipscomb said. She continued,“Not all institutions have faculty that can teach integrated courses, but Houghton does because we have honors programs where we need to deliver courses in that way so now we’re offering that advantage to all students.”

Gena Hartman ’19, who studied in the Honors at London program and experienced an integrated curriculum, said,  “This is something I think about a lot as an education major, how we’re introducing material to people. That’s something I really enjoyed in London, that we have that context.  I think people care more when they understand the context behind something.”

According to Bruxvoort Lipscomb, the new system would likely result in more classes that would be slightly larger. This would be similar to the size of current standard general education courses, such as Biblical Literature or Western Civilization.  As a result, “All freshman students will be taking those humanity courses at the same time.”  She commented, “That’s kind of exciting for me to be thinking that students will be having these conversations. Everyone will be reading Plato’s allegory of the cave at the same time, so there will be a chance for people to be talking about these things outside of class.”

“That might make the freshman experience easier, that you automatically have something to talk about that you all know about,” Hartman noted. She later added, “I think that when you’re learning something at the same time you will have that common bond.”  Aside from the social benefits of informal discussion, she explained that from her experience, “It’s easier to understand when you have people around you to bounce ideas off of, other minds that may come from very different backgrounds.”

According to the final general education proposal, which was recently approved, “An academically challenging education in the liberal arts and sciences requires core courses in mathematics, the natural sciences, and the humanities and exploration in the social sciences and the arts.”  The proposal also stated, when developing the new requirements, faculty found it necessary to adjust the way these areas operated in order to fulfill this standard.

Bruxvoort Lipscomb reported there will also be general education science courses with their lab built into the class.  Additionally, there will be a shift in the curriculum for these courses.  She explained  a general education Biology class, for example, “will focus on issues in biology but from a more general perspective on how science influences a society and thinking about what’s the interaction.” The importance of the change is that students who are not science majors “need to understand they need to be scientifically literate on how science impacts society.”  The classes will lead them to considering “what does science contribute, how does it shape society, and not just learning the basics of a discipline which students broadly in the liberal arts don’t really need to know… from the introductory level”

Writing requirements will also be impacted by f the recent changes.  Bruxvoort Lipscomb explained,“Everybody will have the chance to take a course that really focuses on writing, but that can happen within majors if departments are offering it.”  She clarified that a writing enriched course would simply be one that required a total of at least 20 pages throughout the semester of “writing on which they get feedback”.  

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