David Greenhalgh, dean of Arts and Sciences, has proposed an idea that could revolutionize the entire structure of Eastern University’s academic program. The idea is a “Four by Four” curriculum.
This would mean rather than taking five three-credit courses a semester, students would take four four-credit courses. It would also mean that professors would teach three four credit courses as opposed to their current schedule of four three credit courses.
This proposed curriculum has the potential to improve the quality of Eastern’s academic program, according to Greenhalgh.
This is not the first time Eastern has considered implementing the four by four program. It was also proposed in the late 90s by former Dean Sara Miles, but never went past the discussion phase.
Greenhalgh himself is not ready to “stake his career on” the program; however, “I think it has some positive [aspects] and is worthy of taking a look at,” he said.
The program is currently in a research stage as Greenhalgh, the division chairs, Templeton Honors College Dean Chris Hall and the Registrar are planning visits to schools who already use the program to get an idea of how it works.
Greenhalgh distributed white papers early in September outlining the idea and possible benefits. division chairs will make visits to other schools and in February each division will outline their own white papers for the faculty to study and debate.
They plan to visit Wheaton College at the end of the month. The final vote on the program will occur in March.
“I’m hoping to look at the benefits for faculty, students and the institution and make a good decision,” Greenhalgh said. “It’s important to make a decision for the campus as a whole.”
The four by four program would not simply change all three credit courses to four credits. There would be an integration of courses in order to meet time requirements, according to Greenhalgh. Students would attend three hours of class a week, and the fourth hour would be planned by the instructors in their syllabus, but not necessarily involve classroom time.
The program would reduce the faculty’s class, test and syllabus preparation by an entire class, allowing them more time to meet with students, or work on their own studies required by the institution to achieve tenure.
“I think it’s a real support for faculty as teachers and scholars,” Greenhalgh said.
He also recognizes that many students lead busy lives as well. Students frequently have part- time jobs or are involved in clubs, in addition to keeping up with their schoolwork.
“If this truly does add some simplification in their lives, then that’s a good thing,” Greenhalgh said. Students would also receive a more in-depth study of their courses.
Another factor Greenhalgh discussed was space.
“We are maxing out facilities and yet we’re continuing to grow as an institution,” he said. “This helps space because if we’re meeting three times a week instead of four, it creates space.”
The program provides an opportunity to better accommodate the current programs at the school and possibly resolve some of the current space issues.
The four by four curriculum would not be effective immediately after the vote. It would take at least two years for faculty to re-design curriculums and for the registrar to get systems re-organized, but it holds promise for the future, according to Greenhalgh. “It might reflect Eastern’s students better,” he said. “I think it would allow us to reflect who we are institutionally.”