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ERIC Number: EJ988984
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Dec-17
Pages: N/A
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0009-5982
At U. of Maryland, an Effort to Make Introductory Courses Extraordinary
Berrett, Dan
Chronicle of Higher Education, Dec 2012
Required introductory courses are as important as they are unloved. They are a key part of the general-education curriculum, which makes up as much as one-third of the typical baccalaureate student's education, and they are the subject of seemingly never-ending revitalization efforts. Many senior faculty members avoid teaching such courses because they see them as being filled with callow students with little interest in the subject. Students often see them as the curricular equivalent of eating their vegetables, the unappetizing fare they must endure before they get to the interesting parts of their educations. Critics argue that such distaste is well founded. These courses typically take the form of a slog through a discipline's "greatest hits," can prove to be deadly to students' curiosity, and often serve as gatekeepers that keep them from advancing. The University of Maryland at College Park thinks it may have found a way to make these courses more engaging and rigorous. New and retooled introductory courses, called the "I-Series," have spread campuswide after a two-year pilot. This fall, all incoming freshmen must take at least two I-Series courses as part of a new set of core requirements. The "I" refers to a litany of higher-education buzzwords beginning with that letter, including imagination, inspiration, and innovation. Jargon aside, the courses are organized around provocative questions or propositions. They have titles like, "Is America Destined to Fall by 2076?," "Rise of the Machines: Artificial Intelligence Comes of Age," and "Economics and the College Affordability Crisis." The courses bring the meaty stuff of a discipline--its debates, approaches to problems, and ways of viewing the world--to freshmen and sophomores, rather than reserving such intellectual pleasures for upperclassmen and graduate students. Many of them are taught by senior faculty who have not led an introductory course in years.
Chronicle of Higher Education. 1255 23rd Street NW Suite 700, Washington, DC 20037. Tel: 800-728-2803; Tel: 202-466-1000; Fax: 202-452-1033; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Maryland