This page provides a little more on the methodology and pedagogy of our Core Curriculum at Saint Joseph's College.
In 1969 the faculty of Saint Joseph's College took a radical step in redesigning the general education curriculum. Instead of requiring a certain number of courses in the various departments, all students would take part in an integrated, transdisciplinary program of studies, taught by members of various departments, called the Core Curriculum.
In the academic year 2004-05, we began our thirty-fifth year of what continues to be recognized as an innovative approach to general education. The Core Curriculum is structured around the over-arching theme of "Christian Humanism." As a College the pursuit of Truth is our focus. This pursuit of Truth encompasses truths about our world, people and God. There are three guiding values:
- The world is God's creation
- Respect for human dignity
- Religion - God's revelation is diverse and draws all people to Himself
All disciplines are examined throughout the students' four years. Students begin their study with the "Contemporary Situation" and are challenged to expand their horizons throughout the fours years of Core. Students are challenged to find relationships among the various disciplines, and to examine their own values and beliefs in relation to the Christian Tradition. Throughout all four years, students work to develop verbal and written communication skills, learn to share ideas with classmates in discussion, and are exposed to different values and cultures.
For faculty, it is a continual learning experience, as they challenge students and themselves to see from a wider perspective, the connections between various disciplines. Even among the faculty, conversations about Core have engendered a collegiality unlike other institutions. Faculty of various disciplines meet to plan the Core curriculum each semester. Additionally, there have been numerous development opportunities for faculty to discuss curricular concerns and to assist in the development of teaching pedagogies. Since its inception in 1969, the structure of the Core Curriculum has remained basically the same. However, the content of each segment of Core has changed and developed to keep pace with current scholarship in these areas. The Curriculum is guided by these six goals.
How does it work?
Twice a week, the entire class (freshmen, soph., jr., or senior) and faculty teaching in a particular Core gather for a presentation in one of our auditoria. These common presentations are most often a lecture by a faculty member having expertise in the topic to be discussed. At other times there may be a video presentation, guest lecturer or student panel. Prior to the presentation all students read a common assignment. Following this, students meet in smaller discussion groups (usually 16-18) with a professor to discuss texts, and lectures. In these small discussion sections, writing assignments are given, tests and quizzes are administered.
One of the key components of the Core Curriculum is writing. Students will, on the average, write about 20-25 pages each semester in Core. The writing component is developmentally structured so that students build upon prior work in the Core Program. Various types of writing assignments are utilized to help students develop written communication skills. Within the past four years, there has been a concerted effort among the faculty to coordinate writing assignments in the departmental classes with writing assignments given in the Core Program.
Over the course of the four years, students will have read a great deal. Great books from the west and the east are a part of the curriculum. You may check out what this semester's Core classes are reading on the Core syllabi.
In place of general education courses in English Literature, English Composition, History of Western Civilization, Speech, Art Appreciation, Music Appreciation, Science or Mathematics, Philosophy and Theology, Saint Joseph's College operates an interdisciplinary liberal arts program. This approach treats each subject in an historical framework, examining the problems of each period studied. The essence of the approach is to create in the student a solid grounding in communications, social responsibility and personal awareness.
Because of the interdisciplinary nature of Core courses, some institutions experience difficulties determining how to apply these credits toward their own general education requirements. Contemporary Situation may be distributed as 3 credits of English Composition I and 3 credits in Introductory Sociology or Contemporary Issues. Modern World may be distributed as 3 credits of English Composition II and 3 credits of US Government, US History I, American Literature, 19th Century Literature, or Modern European History. Western Civilization I may be distributed as 6 credits in any combination of Old Testament, Introduction to Philosophy, Ancient History and Introduction to Drama/Theatre. Western Civilization II may be distributed as 6 credits in any combination of New Testament, Medieval History, Medieval Philosophy, History of Christianity, or Art History. Humanity in the Universe I may be distributed as 3 credits of Physical Science and Humanity in the Universe II as 3 credits of Life Science or Anthropology. India and China, Latin America and Africa may be distributed as 3 credits in History, Political Science or Literature. Towards a Christian Humanism may be distributed as 6 credits in Religion and Philosophy. Christianity and the Human Situation may be distributed as Ethics or Moral Theology.