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Discovery Program Gets Final Approval

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
February 25, 2009

First-year students work on trust issues as part of the Discovery Program's inquiry initiative.
First-year students work on trust issues as part of the Discovery Program's inquiry initiative.

The course of learning outside a student’s major--long referred to as general education requirements--will now be known as the Discovery Program with the faculty senate vote Monday officially adopting the core curriculum for undergraduates.

Discovery isn’t new. The redesigned general education program debuted in 2004 with inquiry classes—one of its key components—and the University Dialogue, designed to draw first-year students into a series of conversations around a central topic.

Inquiry classes (INQ 444) encourage students to develop such skills as evaluating evidence, asking probing questions, applying appropriate methodologies and drawing conclusions, with the hope that this approach will become integrated in their educational experience at UNH.

Monday’s faculty senate vote allows for full implementation of the program beginning with first-year in 2010. The tenets of the Discovery Program include a focus on the first-year experience, inquiry learning, and integration with the academic major. 

“Students will be required to take the same number of credit hours to fulfill general education requirements, they will have access to courses characterized as having an inquiry-based pedagogy, and they will be asked to engage in a culminating activity that synthesizes and reinforces learning in their major discipline,” says Bruce Mallory, provost and executive vice president.

Faculty members began looking at the core curriculum in 1999 as part of a national conversation. The Discovery Program was created as a way to integrate the general education component with the student's major from their first semester through their capstone experience as seniors.

“It’s not that we looked at the gen eds and said they were bad; it’s that we said we could do better,” says Thomas Pistole, professor of microbiology.

General education requirements were set in 1984 and haven’t been reviewed since. The Discovery Program calls for periodic review.

“I like the idea of periodic review of the courses just to make sure they’re still meeting the gen ed-kind of goals,” Pistole says.

Pistole has been co-teaching an inquiry course for four years and calls it “terribly exciting.”

“When work gets students engaged and that happens, it’s so exciting. It doesn’t click right away, takes awhile but when it does, it’s fantastic,” Pistole says. “It’s a wonderful tool for them have. That’s the hope, that they will carry inquiry skills on to other courses.”

Adds Mallory, “I believe the implementation of a new general education curriculum will be an important part of attracting the best and the brightest students to UNH in the future.”

For more information on the Discovery Program go to http://www.unh.edu/academic-affairs/discovery/.  

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