Planning And Assessing

No campus-wide planning initiative at IUPUI can afford to ignore the highly decentralized culture of the campus. This culture originated with IUPUI"s founding as a loose confederation of professional schools, each with its own distinct history and identity. In 1969, when IUPUI was established, its academic units ranged from the School of Medicine, which had become part of Indiana University in the early twentieth century, to the School of Physical Education, which had been founded elsewhere in the mid-nineteenth century and subsequently relocated to Indianapolis, to extension divisions of IU and Purdue that had no mandate to operate autonomous undergraduate programs in the liberal arts and sciences.

The campus thus lacked the "arts and sciences core" that traditionally provides the common curriculum for general education on university campuses. Each school at IUPUI had its own distinct and separate academic requirements and expectations. As the campus grew and added new schools and programs, primarily in professional areas, this decentralized approach to undergraduate education continued.

By the late 1980s, many at IUPUI recognized the problems inherent in this approach: students had difficulty transferring from one major to another and the university lacked a common, campus-wide articulation of expectations for baccalaureate degree recipients to guide curricular and pedagogical approaches. To develop strategies for addressing these problems, the campus established the Council on Undergraduate Learning in 1988. In 1991, a subgroup of CUL, the Commission on General Education, was charged with developing recommendations on general education.

In 1993, the Commission introduced an initial draft of the IUPUI Principles of Undergraduate Learning, proposing their adoption campus-wide. Rather than attempting to prescribe specific common course requirements for students in all IUPUI schools, the draft defined a set of higher order abilities and skills that all IUPUI undergraduates would be expected to master; course requirements to support student learning of the PULs were to be determined by each individual school. Winning approval of the proposed list of PULs at a large, complex campus like IUPUI was no easy task, but following a number of iterations and extensive discussion at the department, school, and campus levels, the current version of the PULs was adopted by the IUPUI Faculty Council in 1998.

The PULs provide a focused, common statement of expectations for all students, whatever their particular major may be, as well as a common framework for assessing and evaluating academic programs. They include a set of core skills in communication, quantitative reasoning, and information literacy, as well as higher-order intellectual abilities to think critically, integrate and apply knowledge, and understand the diversity of human cultures, societies, and perspectives, among others. Emphasizing liberal learning across the curriculum, the PULs are intended as a blueprint for equipping graduates with the higher-order skills and dispositions that characterize effective citizens, professionals, and leaders.

Using the PULs as a foundation, general education at IUPUI is built around a set of common cognitive experiences and deliberately sequenced intellectual development, continuing from the freshman year through the major to graduation. Teaching and learning of the PULs thus is not expected to be "completed" by the time a student enters a major, but rather to continue within the context of the discipline and/or profession. Capstone courses, required by many majors across the campus, for example, are designed to integrate the six PULs with the content of the major or profession.

Each school at IUPUI that grants baccalaureate degrees is free to determine the specific course requirements that will best enable its students to achieve the PULs. In practice, an "empirical core" curriculum has emerged, as degree programs have reached similar conclusions about the kinds of courses most likely to contribute to student learning of the PULs. This empirical core includes:

The empirical core extends across most baccalaureate degree-granting units at IUPUI. In addition, the IU School of Liberal Arts and the Purdue School of Science formally adopted a common core curriculum in 1998. This common core represents the culmination of a lengthy effort, parallel to, but somewhat separate from, the work of CUL, by the Council of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS). Now renamed the Common Core Curriculum Committee, CLAS, a joint committee of the Schools of Liberal Arts and Science, based its "Principled Curriculum" on the PULs. It is intended to strengthen liberal arts and science students" preparation for the major, to expand student options for choosing a major or pursuing a double degree, and to foster faculty collaboration and interdisciplinary ties across the two schools. The strongest single emphasis in the curriculum is on writing; the design of the curriculum is meant to ensure that substantial writing is required of all Liberal Arts and Science students throughout their undergraduate education. The specific elements of the common core curriculum are described on the Web site of the Common Core Curriculum Committee.

Go on to: Assessment of the PULs