Senate to continue discussion on undergraduate breadth requirements

At Thursday's meeting, the Faculty Senate will continue its discussion of the structure of Ways of Thinking, Ways of Doing, a new model of breadth requirements recommended in the Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford (SUES).

The study, released in January, recommended a model that promotes the acquisition and development of "seven essential capacities." It would replace the current breadth requirements, which prescribe courses in particular disciplines. The report recommended that students be required to take 11 courses distributed over seven categories.

The Committee on Undergraduate Standards and Policy (C-USP), which was charged with translating the SUES recommendations into university legislation, offered a proposal that differed from the original. C-USP's Proposed University Breadth Requirements recommends that, beginning with the Class of 2017, students must complete one course in each of eight Ways of Thinking, Ways of Doing categories: aesthetic and interpretive inquiry, social inquiry, scientific analysis, formal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, engaging difference, moral and ethical reasoning, and creative expression.

An amendment to the C-USP recommendations, presented at the May 3 senate meeting, mirrored the recommendations of the SUES report, proposing 11 courses in seven categories.  In that proposal, titled Proposed Amendment to the C-USP Proposal on the Breadth Requirement, two courses would be required in each of four of those categories: aesthetic and interpretive inquiry, social inquiry, scientific analysis, and formal and quantitative reasoning. In the three other categories –engaging difference, moral and ethical reasoning, and creative expression – one course would be required.

Oversight of new requirements

In addition to discussing the number of categories and the number of courses required in Ways of Thinking, Ways of Doing, the senate is also expected to discuss its charge to those who will oversee its implementation. In its proposal, C-USP states that the "Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education (VPUE) is the administrative unit responsible for management of resources for the implementation and operation of the breadth requirements. Because schools and departments control the teaching resources for courses that will satisfy the requirements, the VPUE should establish policies that facilitate involvement by deans and department chairs in decisions about certification of courses for the Ways of Thinking/Ways of Doing breadth requirements."

Both proposals were discussed extensively at the May 3 meeting, but no action was taken.

Writing requirements

Also on Thursday's agenda is a discussion of revisions to the undergraduate writing requirements. Stanford's undergraduate writing curriculum includes:

  • WR-1, taken during freshman year through the Program in Writing and Rhetoric  (PWR). This course focuses on careful analysis of complex arguments and mastery of the conventions of academic discourse.
  • WR-2, taken during sophomore year, through PWR or an academic department. It focuses on developing research-based arguments.
  • Writing in the Major, or WIM, taken during the junior or senior year through an academic department. This course focuses on specialized disciplinary discourse.

C-USP recommends that the scope of the WR-2 writing course be expanded to "include a broader range of communication skills, such as oral, visual and digital communication."

All of the documents for the meeting are available on the Faculty Senate website.

The meeting will begin at 3:15 p.m. in Room 180 of the Law School. Discussion is limited to members of the senate, but members of the Stanford community may request to attend the meeting by contacting the Academic Secretary's Office at 723-4992 or Trish Del Pozzo at