At many institutions, the curriculum has grown organically over time, as new courses and majors have been added to provide more choices for students and to accommodate the interests of faculty. The combined demands of quality and cost containment give new urgency to tackling course proliferation and encouraging greater curricular coherence and integration. As institutions seek to sharpen their programs’ goals and expected outcomes, they must do so in the context of limited resources, recognizing that the additive approach is not only financially unsustainable but may ill serve the goals of liberal arts education.
The Teagle Foundation launched the Faculty Planning and Curricular Coherence initiative in spring 2014 to shine the spotlight on the curriculum. The initiative was framed by the following question: How can faculty work together to create a more coherent and efficient curriculum whose goals, pathways, and outcomes are clear to students and other constituencies with a stake in the future of higher education?
Participating institutions developed communities of practice that enabled faculty to gain a wider perspective on their course offerings and how they strengthen – or detract from – the overall curriculum. Strategies to promote curricular coherence focused on various aspects: curbing curricular proliferation in competing offerings from academic departments and promoting institution-wide streamlining; encouraging curricular alignment between two- and four-year institutions that are transfer partners; streamlining and enhancing alignment in remedial course sequences that serve as “gatekeepers” to credit-bearing liberal arts coursework; and developing faculty capacity for integrative advising so they can help students reflect on connections among curricular and co-curricular experiences and their aspirations after college.
As of fall 2018, over 115 institutions spanning 21 states implemented projects under the Faculty Planning and Curricular Coherence initiative. The campus partners were a mix of liberal arts colleges, comprehensive and doctoral institutions, and community colleges. Almost half were minority-serving institutions. Teagle-funded activities reached close to 700 faculty. Grantees came together to reflect on successes and challenges at a convening in spring 2017; major themes from the discussion were captured here. Lessons learned from the initiative-wide external evaluation will be released in fall 2018.