Tuesday, November 04, 2014


Like lots of schools, we here at NWU are busy reforming our general education system.  In large part, this is prompted by the corporatization requirements of our accreditor, which demands that we measure output to prove that our students actually learn stuff.  (Our accreditor also accredits one of the more disreputable for-profit "educational" corporations, so I might be a little cynical about it as an accrediting body.)

In part this is prompted by everyone's sudden interest in producing graduating widgets at the fastest rate possible.

At any rate, we're supposed to measure output using criteria we develop ourselves, and then prove to the Committee for Professional Output Optimized Performance and Institutional Excellence that we've measured the output so that they can prove to the accrediting organization that we've measured and are putting out the output we claim we're outputting.

And now all the stuff is phasing in.

Right.  Last year, the Committee for POOPIE requested that all the "bigger" courses (that is, the courses that served the most students overall) that had previously given general education credit under the old system be put through a process to request POOPIE credit under the new system.

The new system has different categories.  One is content, or C.  There's content that's math, and content that's science, and content that's historically oriented, and content that's artistically oriented, and so forth.  That is, we have CM, CS, CH, CA, and so on.

There's a Social category, or S, for getting students to learn about civics and so forth, with three subcategories, organization, action, and international, so SO, SA, and SI.

And then there's the Practice category, or P, which include writing (PW), arts (PA) and so on. 

Each student is required to acquire a certain number of POOPIE stuff in each category.  (A course can count for POOP stuff, but supposedly other, err, stuff, can also count as POOPIE stuff.  This makes the housing folks happy, because they want to count dorm parties as POOPIE stuff.  As they tell us, most POOP happens outside of classrooms.)

The Department of Underwater Basketweaving duly (so my contact reported) spent many hours of department meetings deciding which categories to apply in.

"Intro to Understanding Underwater Basketweaving" folks applied for CH and CA POOPIE categories, because they study both the history of underwater basketweaving and the artistic aspects of underwater basketweaving.

"Social Underwater Basketweaving" folks applied for SA and PA POOPIE categories, because they make baskets and teach about how underwater basketweaving is social action, because the personal is the political in underwater basketweaving.

Intro to Underwater Basketweaving Reed Cultivation" folks applied for CS and SA POOPIE categories, and so forth.

From what I heard from my Underwater Basketweaving friends, many hours of brainstorming went into these discussions.  Over the years, the department has developed lots of general education courses to serve the university, so they had a number of courses to do applications for, and a number of them applied under CH and CA POOPIE categories.  And sent them off for review in April and May, as required by the Committee on POOPIE.

And now, this year, the Committee on POOPIE is meeting regularly to decide which categories of POOPIE each course is going to qualify for based on the applications put forward by the departments.

And now, they've apparently decided that no single course can teach two Content categories (or two Practice categories, and so forth).  So all the courses that had put forward as CH and CA (a fairly common request in the Underwater Basketweaving area, because the courses teach an art form and often historical contexts for the art, and so forth) have all been rejected, while the courses requesting SA and PA POOPIE categories have been accepted.

Why didn't they tell departments across campus last year that no course would be allowed to claim it taught both CH and CA content?  If they had, departments across campus would have decided during all those hours of brainstorming and work which they'd apply for, and not spent time needlessly trying to word things just right in both categories.

And thus ends my tale of woe.  Or, perhaps, tail of woe?


  1. Anonymous8:01 AM

    I feel your pain. I feel it.

  2. Pilgrim/Heretic8:05 PM

    We have a similar system, and simply decided that a course could include both CA and CH elements, but the student could only count one of the two. The system's pretty good at automatically counting the ones the student needs.