In an effort to diversify the skills students learn at Wesleyan, the University has developed a “Competencies Framework” to help guide students in their pursuit of a secondary education. The framework, while not mandatory, describes potential paths students can take in order to obtain marketable skills during their time at college—skills that may be attractive to employers.
Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Joyce Jacobsen is the driving force behind the new framework.
“[T]he framework helps students think about how they develop cross-disciplinary skills such as writing and data analysis on top of the depth they receive from their major (and from additional majors/minors/certificates) and the breadth of knowledge they are exposed to by fulfilling the general education expectations and from other courses they take outside of their major,” Jacobsen wrote in an email to The Argus.
The four competencies the University will be focusing on are “Mapping: Navigating Complex Environments (NCE),” “Expressing: Writing, Expressing, Communicating (WEC),” “Mining: Quantitative Analysis and Interpretation (QAI)” and “Engaging: Negotiating Intercultural Differences (NID).” Each focuses on a different skill that students can cultivate by taking classes that are under the umbrella of each framework.
The framework follow a timeframe that spans from the Fall of 2017 to the Spring of 2019. This Fall revolves around the “Mining” framework, while Fall 2018 will center on the “Engaging” framework, and Spring of 2019 will focus on the “Mapping” framework. Participation in courses that align with each framework will be encouraged, but not required. Likewise, the University is focusing on these aspects of the curriculum not so that students can be boxed into learning specific skills, but rather so that all students have the option of gaining the skills in which they are interested.
“We are simply providing some ways for students to think about some of the skills/competencies that they are developing during their liberal arts education,” Jacobsen explained. “Students can use some of our language, as they see fit, to help describe to others (potential employers? family? friends?) what they are learning.”
Likewise, each competency focuses on different developable skills, ranging from writing and expression to analyzing data.
“Mapping: Navigating Complex Environments (NCE)” involves examining the relationships between objects and spaces in the material and imagined worlds. Courses that incorporate mapping skills—typography, computation, material science, and modeling—exist across curriculums, from the arts (like dance, studio art, or art history), to the natural sciences and mathematics, to interdisciplinary programs like geographical information systems (GIS) and the newly launched minor, Integrated Design, Engineering, and Applied Sciences (IDEAS).
“Expressing: Writing, Expressing, Communicating (WEC)” is expressing thoughts, ideas, and emotions to others effectively and concisely through a variety of media. A majority of these courses exist in the humanities and arts, as well as social and behavioral sciences, and revolve around written, verbal, and creative projects.
“Mining: Quantitative Analysis and Interpretation (QAI)” is using numerical ideas and methods to describe and analyze quantifiable phenomena, which involves measurement, analysis, summary, and presentation of information that answers questions, solves problems, makes predictions, and tests theories. Mining courses can be found in mathematics, natural sciences, social, and behavioral sciences.
Lastly, “Engaging: Negotiating Intercultural Differences (NID)” involves comprehending and respecting diverse cultural heritages and perspectives in their social and historical contexts. This involves learning languages, gaining work experience, studying abroad, and participating in unfamiliar cultural contexts. These courses exist across disciplines, ranging from language and literature to government, philosophy, and science.
Aspects of this framework are already being implemented into the curriculum, and students are reacting well. Courses that teach coding and statistical inquiry, such as “Applied Data Analysis,” have had notable increases in student enrollment recently, and have had to adjust the number of teaching staff for the courses accordingly.
“Any student can now get exposure to data analysis through courses in statistics or programming, as well as in other specialized courses such as data journalism and data visualization,” reads a News@Wesleyan article about the new framework.
The University is also promoting expression and writing, especially via the Shapiro Writing Center and other University resources. Likewise, Jacobsen notes that the addition of new “First-Year Seminar” faculty is in the works for upcoming semesters.
“Our goal in all this is for students to develop a holistic view of lifelong learning, to make connections across areas and link competencies across courses, research, and other co-curricular activities including athletics, performing arts, and really almost everything that they do while at Wesleyan,” Jacobsen wrote.
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