With so much focus on the restoration of Carter Hall these days, it is easy to miss the fact that there are other renovations happening within the Covenant community, and on a more academic level. In 2014, President Halvorson created a three-year Strategic Plan for the college, including the objective to strengthen academic excellence. One of the points in the outline under this objective will be focused on over the coming year: “Evaluate and revise core curriculum.”
The core curriculum at Covenant currently accounts for a significant percentage of required credit hours - 58 (46 percent) of the minimum 126 credits necessary to graduate, earned through taking 22 courses. It has not seen any major edits in over ten years.
Associate Professor of Education Dr. Rebecca Pennington is the Coordinator of Curriculum and currently is the chairperson of the Core Oversight Committee. She and the committee are overseeing any potential changes to core curriculum.
The current core curriculum is divided into five different categories: Biblical and Theological Foundations (such as Old and New Testament Introduction and Christian Doctrine), Basic Literacies (English Composition and P.E.), Foreign Language, Mathematics, and Cultural Engagement (the COR-designated courses, such as Christian Mind and Global Trends), as well as four distribution requirements.
The Core Oversight Committee has formulated Core Learning Outcomes (CLOs) based on these current core categories in accordance with the three goals laid out in Covenant College’s Purpose Statement: Biblical Frame of Reference, Identity in Christ, and Service that is Christ-like.
The goal of Dr. Pennington and the Core Oversight Committee is to first add CLOs that are explicitly related to the goals of the core curriculum. Currently, the proposed new outcomes are: Old and New Testament knowledge, faithful study across disciplines, reasoning and logical skills, communication skills, and service and cultural engagement. Pennington says that “the core courses will focus more on these [Core Learning Outcomes], though the courses themselves won’t necessarily change.”
The motivation for this change is not solely a result of Dr. Halvorson’s Strategic Plan. Dr. Pennington says that she and the Core Oversight Committee have looked at data gathered from the Student Senate and Assessment Day and have analyzed areas that may need revision.
Though the plan to edit the core curriculum is in place, students, particularly upperclassmen, need not worry about failing to fulfill new core requirements. Any change must undergo a lengthy process, and certainly by the 2016 fall semester no tangible changes will be in place. Even the committee’s category suggestions are just that - suggestions, not actual changes.
The process of revising the curriculum is very thorough. At the weekly faculty meeting on February 2, Dr. Pennington presented the committee’s ideas to about 65 faculty members, including President Halvorson. She also reviewed the proper procedure outlined in the Faculty Handbook for officially revising, changing, or adding a course.