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ARC: Revising Core 1 to teach (A)nalysis, (R)esearch, and(C)ommunication by focusing on project-based learning and by using faculty efficiently

For a long time, both faculty and students have expressed dissatisfaction with the required first semester freshman introductory course - called LS 1000 before and now called Core 1. Students have often complained that the goals of the course are unclear and they are uncertain why they are taking it and what they are supposed to learn from it. Faculty have often complained that the course requires them to teach things they have no particular expertise in and that in general the course is unfocused and unsystematic.

I propose that we strike out and do something significantly different from what we have been doing and anguishing about for years. Instead of a course that tries to meld all the divisions or a course that ends up focusing on a faculty member's disciplinary area, why not have a course that focuses on the liberal arts abilities and modifies the traditional classroom approach in favor of something that is skills-based and project-based rather than professor-centered?

The goal would be to help students learn specific skills related to our liberal arts abilities, to make certain faculty that are experts in certain areas are efficiently used, and to increase the sense of community among freshmen based on a shared learning and working experience.

While only an initial formulation, the revised Core 1 program could be termed the ARC Program with the acronym referring to three basic abilities we would like freshmen to develop as a foundation for all their future academic efforts at Millsaps. The acronym stands for (A) Analyze, (R) Research, and (C) Communicate.


1. Students would sign up for a particular Core 1 course like before. However, the professor will essentially be there for guidance, for commenting on work and guiding revision, and advising. The bulk of the student's coursework will be based on 5 projects they will have to complete during the semester. Those projects will exercise most of the liberal arts abilities and will be informed by a series of lectures and workshops the students attend to help them understand the abilities and gain experience in using them. Those lectures and workshops would be taught by individuals or teams that really knew about those subjects, thus using our faculty more efficiently (the format is obviously somewhat inspired by the Heritage model).

2. The student would have to complete 5 projects during the semester, most of which would be revised, and which would systematically build a set of skills that would continue to be used. The individual Core 1 professor would grade and help with revisions but would not be responsible for teaching all those abilities and would not be teaching a content course. The 5 projects would include:

a. Analysis of Arguments: Learn to read, watch, and listen to persuasive or informative speech and detect arguments, evidence and issues
b. Analysis of Arguments with Quantification: Learn to be a consumer of scientific and statistical information and learning how to judge and critique scientific and statistical information
c. Research: Learn to search for information and judge the quality of that information
d. Write: Learn how to write clear, concise essays, reports, summaries, reviews, and outlines that correctly document and support claims
e. Communicate: Learn how to present the results of one's research orally and using PowerPoint

Contact person: Patrick Hopkins

For a PDF of the proposal, click here.

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