Campus News

January 26, 2011

Oxford begins innovative new curriculum

With the start of spring semester, Oxford College is launching a new curriculum that has been two years in the making. Referred to as the General Education Program or GEP, this academic program aligns with Emory College’s general education requirements but has additional emphases and characteristics that are unique to Oxford.

The GEP’s basic structure is traditional, with course requirements organized into five academic areas:

  1. History, society, cultures
  2. Humanities, arts, language
  3. Humanities, arts, performance
  4. Mathematics and quantitative reasoning
  5. Science, nature, technology

During their time at Oxford, students will select a variety of courses from these areas to complete the requirements in at least three of them. In addition, they will take any courses required to prepare for their intended majors. They will also take two one-hour courses in the area of personal health, physical education and dance.

Within each of the five academic areas, Oxford classes employ an innovative teaching approach, “ways of inquiry” (INQ), an element of the GEP that is unique to Oxford. All Oxford students must complete a minimum of three INQ courses. More than two dozen such courses are offered this spring, and the number of INQ offerings will increase in future semesters.

“The INQ pedagogy gets to the very heart of liberal arts education and deepens Oxford’s commitment to liberal arts intensive education,” says Dean Stephen Bowen.

INQ courses are not primarily lecture-based or survey courses, although they teach the fundamental concepts, principles, assumptions and terminology of their particular discipline.

Students are also engaged in learning through discovery by applying the ways in which scholars and researchers in that particular discipline ask questions and create knowledge.

If they are studying history, they will learn to think and conduct research the way historians do. In a biology course, they will learn to approach the creation of knowledge as a biologist does.

Using these methods of the discipline, they will be in some meaningful sense an historian or a biologist by the end of the course. The aim is to create much deeper, more durable learning.

Students in INQ courses will also consider issues of ethics and social responsibility and make connections across disciplines.

Classroom learning will be augmented with hands-on, real-world experiences. To be designated an INQ course, the course must require reading critically, communicating effectively and pursuing knowledge independently through inquiry.

GEP’s next phase, the General Education Honors Program, will be implemented in the fall. This opportunity will be available competitively to the most academically accomplished sophomores.

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