Curriculum Renewal

Links to Challenge Proposal Forms

A. Introduction

The revised College of Arts and Science degree templates will, if enacted, constitute the first major college-wide curricular changes in fifty years.

The changes proposed here are designed to enhance the learning experience for all our students. They are intended to simplify and clarify pathways to degrees, even as we make it easier for faculty to offer and students to take courses that cross traditional disciplinary lines. Most importantly, they aim to ensure that our graduates are equipped with the skills and cultural competencies needed for the challenges and opportunities of the twenty-first century.

The principles that have guided the work of preparing these revised degree templates include respect for the careful work of generations of colleagues since the last major reform of 1968; respect for the disciplinary expertise and departmental oversight of disciplinary programs; an ongoing commitment to academic breadth, such that, for example, science students will still take humanities classes, and vice-versa; a determination not to reinvent wheels that already roll true, even as we query those that might be wobbly; and a boldness in proposing creative ways to leverage our human and physical resources to better enable the college-wide potential for innovative and collaborative academic programming.

This set of degree template proposals is one key outcome from an ongoing project of curricular review and renewal initiated by Dean Jo-Anne Dillon in 2008. A succession of committees and working groups involving a total of over 111 faculty, students, senior administrators, and staff have contributed to this work at the college level, while colleagues in every department and program undertook degree-mapping and other curricular renewal processes that aligned with and informed the broader college initiative. There has been broad consultation among faculty, students, and community representatives at a number of key junctures along the way.

The first stage of the curricular renewal initiative culminated in the report of the First Year Review Steering Committee, which recommended five college-wide learning goals. Subsequent committees amended and expanded these goals to arrive at the following list of six:

  1. Develop a wide range of effective communication skills, with an emphasis on writing
  2. Encourage personal development, growth and responsibility
  3. Engage students in inquiry-based learning, critical thinking and creative processes
  4. Prepare thoughtful, world-minded, educated, engaged citizens
  5. Cultivate an understanding of and deep appreciation for the unique socio-cultural position of Indigenous people in Canada.
  6. Engage students in quantitative reasoning.

These learning goals have served as the hub around which all subsequent work on curricular renewal has revolved. They provided the impetus for the development of three new college-wide degree requirements: English Language Writing; Quantitative Reasoning; and Indigenous Learning.

  • If recommended by the Academic Programs Committees of the college, the degree template proposals will proceed to a vote at Faculty Council. A positive vote would see the proposals enter university-level approval processes.
  • If fully approved, a calendar year of logistical work by college and university staff will be needed to revise the course catalogue and all underlying electronic and administrative systems.
  • If all of the above has happened, the new College of Arts and Science curriculum will be implemented beginning with start of a new academic year on May 1, 2020.

As with all curricular changes, students enrolled in the College of Arts and Science who began their studies prior to implementation would have the choice to follow the new degree template or to complete their degrees under the old standards. Curricular changes would therefore only be binding for students first admitted after implementation.

It is important to note that the lists of existing courses proposed as meeting the three new college degree requirements are expected to grow in the intervening period prior to implementation. As departments and programs develop new courses or revise old ones with the new standards in mind, these will be added to the lists. The proposers are confident that the college will have capacity for all Arts and Science students to meet these requirements over the course of their degree programs.

We understand that a curriculum, still less a basic degree template, is no more the essence of teaching and learning than a building is a university: it is what goes on inside the structure that matters. These templates are not ends in themselves, but are intended to enable a broader, ongoing culture of pedagogical and programmatic development that will empower faculty and students alike in the coming years. In the same spirit, the proposed new degree requirements are intended not as hurdles for students to clear or boxes for them to tick, but rather as opportunities for students to acquire the foundational skills and competencies that can unlock for them the full array of learning opportunities in our college, and best prepare them for engaged and productive lives.

Appendix A1: Report of the First Year Review Steering Committee

B. English Language Writing Requirement

Report of Writing Requirement Working Group

May 3, 2016 (Updated December, 2017)

Previous curriculum renewal work identified the need for all Arts & Science graduates to achieve a minimum level of competency in writing. The minimum requirement for all students was proposed to be met by 3 credit units of study in this area. A Writing Requirement Working Group was struck to propose specific criteria for courses that will meet this requirement, and to determine which of the existing Arts & Science courses meet the criteria. Membership of this committee is available in Appendix B1.

Following the mandate set out by the Curriculum Renewal Advisory Committee in January 2016, the Writing Requirement Working Group identified a number of Arts and Science courses that could be classified as writing intensive and could fulfill a writing requirement in the College of Arts and Science. The committee was committed to a “writing across the curriculum” approach and thus recognizes that courses in many disciplines and at various levels of study may be classified as writing intensive.

The first work of the committee was to develop a set of criteria about what constitutes a writing intensive course; these criteria could then be used to identify existing and future courses taught throughout the College. The group consulted guidelines at other universities and, as a group, considered best practices. The guidelines that were developed are available in Appendix B1. (One revision was made to the originally circulated criteria: that the course learning outcomes include the acquisition of writing skills).

After a call for departments within the College to identify courses that fulfill the criteria, the committee received proposals from 11 departments, including syllabi and rationales, and identified 33 courses that fulfill the criteria. Some departments were asked to supply more information about courses or more detailed and specific course syllabi, to ensure that the committee could determine that requirements would be met. These revisions have been made and the committee’s final list of 35 courses is available in Appendix B1.

The committee also received approximately 10 responses from departments to questions about writing needs of students within their areas of study. While the comments ranged from the necessity for discipline-specific approaches to the need for more general writing skills, on the whole the responses supported the “writing across the curriculum” approach. The committee believes that this approach fulfills the goals of having students learn writing skills, but is flexible in that it can be incorporated into different curriculum models. It does not require the development of a single course, which would have to be offered in multiple sections, because writing intensive courses are by definition small in order to allow for extensive individual feedback and commentary. However, committee members expressed willingness to modify the framework if the College deems it necessary.

The writing requirement working group recognized that we are involved in a process: writing intensive courses will continue to be identified and developed, and the criteria for these courses will periodically be reviewed. Future iterations of this committee will continue to provide the Vice-Dean Academic with recommendations about how further to support student acquisition of writing skills in the College.

Appendix B1: Committee Membership, Criteria for Inclusion, and Course List

C. Indigenous Learning Requirement

Indigenous Learning Requirement: Executive Summary

In 2011, the College of Arts and Science approved the following Learning Goal for all its students:

Cultivate an understanding and appreciation for the unique socio-cultural position of Aboriginal peoples in Canada.

Since then, this goal has become part of a university-wide commitment to Indigenization and reconciliation. Meanwhile, many members of the Arts and Science community have worked to develop a plan for how our students will meet the goal. This report outlines this multi-year process, which has directly involved the work of over 40 members of our College. This process has included extensive research into how other universities have pursued such goals and how effective they have been. It has involved broad consultation with departments, faculty members, students, and staff, and with local Indigenous organizations. Finally, it has involved careful and systematic weighing of the many educational and practical considerations involved in meeting this goal for our large and diverse student body.

The findings of this process emphasized the need for a broadly inclusive approach to the learning goal, ensuring that students were able to connect Indigenous learning with their lives and areas of interest, that faculty were able to widely engage with the learning goal, and that the diversity of Indigenous people and of students was respected. On the other hand, our findings also included serious warnings about potential harms to instructors, students, and Indigenous people if teaching and learning in this area were not done well and respectfully.

Balancing these concerns for inclusion on the one hand and quality on the other, we are proposing that every Arts and Science undergraduate student must, by graduation, successfully complete three credit units from a diverse but carefully selected list of Indigenous Requirement courses.

Indigenous Requirement courses will be approved by a committee that includes faculty specialists in Indigenous content, staff specialists in Indigenizing curriculum, Indigenous community members, and an Indigenous student representative. The committee will assess whether each course meets all of the following criteria: 1. focuses on Indigenous people in Canada; 2. moves students towards the College learning goal; 3. substantially includes Indigenous perspectives; and 4. includes a critical perspective on settler colonialism. In addition, an Indigenous Requirement course must normally be taught by or in collaboration with a specialist in Indigenous research, scholarly, and artistic work, or Indigenous education.

In an initial round of course submissions, nine College courses were approved as meeting the necessary criteria. The College of Arts and Science is committed to continuing to work hard to ensure that we have sufficient course capacity to meet student demand by the proposed implementation date of 2020 and that departments and faculty are fully supported in the development and revision of courses to meet the Indigenous Learning Requirement.

With the creation of this proposed Indigenous Learning Requirement, the College of Arts and Science is reflecting both the contemporary learning needs of our students and our aspirations for a better future for our province and country. We are also responding to calls at the national, local, and university levels, as well as among our own students, for such an improvement in our curriculum. We believe that, through a stronger education on the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, our graduates will improve that relationship for the better, contributing to better shared society for us all.

Indigenous Learning Requirement: What is Proposed?

We propose that every Arts and Science Student be required to take, in order to graduate with an Arts and Science degree, three credit units chosen from an approved list of Indigenous Requirement courses. Each course on this list meets a set of criteria approved by a committee of area specialists, described below. The list is also subject to ongoing additions and revisions.

See Appendix C1 for the criteria for inclusion in the requirement, the proposed process for adding additional courses, and the list of selected courses.

Indigenous Learning Requirement: Why Should We Do This?

In the College of Arts and Science, our College-level degree requirements should reflect, at a broad level, our shared expectations for what it means to be an educated citizen. These expectations are continually evolving, and yet our college-level requirements have not changed in fifty years. In creating a new three credit unit Indigenous Learning Requirement for all its students, the College is reflecting both the current learning needs of our students and our aspirations for a better future for our province and country. We are also responding to calls at the national, local, and institutional level for such an improvement in our curriculum.

Nationally, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has galvanized Canadians around the possibility of reconciliation – in other words, of establishing a mutually respectful relationship – between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. The 2015 TRC report argues that, for reconciliation to occur, “there has to be awareness of the past, acknowledgement of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes, and action to change.” (TRC Report, Volume 6, page 3) Universities have a large role to play in building awareness and acknowledgement of the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples past and present, as well as in shaping a new generation that will change that relationship for the better. In their 94 Calls to Action, the TRC calls for required Indigenous courses in the areas of health sciences, law, journalism, and business. In keeping with the spirit of these calls, we believe that such a course requirement would also be highly beneficial to Arts and Science students, who go on to work in a wide variety of professions.

In Saskatchewan, the need for reconciliation is particularly pressing. In this province, 27% of people under 25 years old are Indigenous, the highest proportion of any province. This is reflected in our rapidly growing Indigenous undergraduate student body, with 210% growth of that population in Arts and Science over the past five years. Indigenous-non-Indigenous relations will be essential to Saskatchewan’s social and economic future. At present, however, this relationship is marred by socio-economic disparities, educational and employment disparities, social divisiveness, lack of awareness, and racism. The graduates of Arts and Science, in all fields of study, will play a large role in shaping this relationship and will need the educational background and tools to do so.

At the University of Saskatchewan, there has been a strong institutional acknowledgement of the need for our students to engage in Indigenous learning. The University of Saskatchewan’s Vision states that, “We will be an outstanding institution of research, learning, knowledge-keeping, reconciliation, and inclusion with and by Indigenous peoples and communities.” In keeping with this vision, in January 2016, University Council (UC) passed a motion put forward by the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union that “emphatically endorses the inclusion of Indigenous (First Nations, Inuit, and Métis) knowledges and experiences for the purpose of achieving meaningful and relevant learning outcomes, in all degree programs at the University of Saskatchewan.”

The College of Arts and Science has, in fact, been engaged in the question of how to incorporate Indigenous learning in our curriculum since well before the TRC report and the UC motion. In 2011, Arts and Science Faculty Council approved a set of five cross-college learning goals, including the goal that all Arts and Science graduates should have “an understanding of and appreciation for the unique socio-cultural position of Aboriginal peoples in Canada.” Since then, many faculty, staff, and students in the College have worked to refine this goal. Based on this work, the College of Arts and Science is proposing a curricular requirement that would aim to see all its students, both Indigenous and non- Indigenous: 1) recognize the rich culture and contributions of Indigenous people in many fields of knowledge and practice, and 2) critically examine the role that settler colonialism has played in the development of Canada, of its education system, and of all our lives here.

Given the size of the College of Arts and Science and the diversity of its programs, the question of how to feasibly to achieve this goal for all our students has been a challenge. Equally important have been questions of how to ensure that the goal is being reached with instructional quality, cultural integrity, quality learning, and student engagement. As this report will outline, the College has engaged in a lengthy process of research, examining the literature on best practices, the experiences of other universities with similar “diversity requirements,” and our own college capacity. We have also carried out broad consultation, involving departments, faculty, staff, students, and Indigenous organizations. Our work showed that such requirements can make a positive difference and that there is strong support for an Indigenous Learning Requirement from all the consulted groups (for details, see following report on process).

In this consultation, students, faculty, and Indigenous community members tended to emphasize the need for a broadly inclusive approach to the requirement, ensuring that students are able to connect Indigenous learning with their areas of interest, that our graduates have a diverse understanding of Indigenous people, that faculty are able to widely engage with the learning goal, and that the diversity of Indigenous people and students is respected. There were also warnings from all of these groups about potential harms if teaching and learning in this area were not done well and respectfully.

Balancing these concerns for inclusion on the one hand and quality on the other, we are proposing that Arts and Science students meet their Indigenous Learning Requirement by choosing from a carefully selected list of courses. For more on how the courses will be selected, see the previous section, “What is Proposed?” Support for the creation, revision, and selection of Indigenous Requirement courses will be an ongoing process and priority for the College. Over the coming years, the College also aims for its departments and faculty members to more broadly and thoughtfully engage with this learning goal, in ways that are meaningful in their areas of study.

The Arts and Science three credit unit Indigenous Learning Requirement is just one step in the ongoing process of improving our programs through the inclusion of Indigenous perspectives. But we believe that by ensuring that every one of the approximately one thousand students who graduate from Arts and Science each year has a fuller perspective on the ways that the histories and futures of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples are intertwined, we will be contributing to a better shared society for us all.

See Appendix C2 for background on the process and consultation, and next steps with regard to the Indigenous Learning Requirement.

D. Quantitative Reasoning Requirement

Report of the Second Quantitative Reasoning Working Group

December, 2017

In June of 2015, Faculty Council of the College of Arts and Science approved in principle a recommendation arising from the report of the First Year Curricular Renewal Committee, to the effect that the college consider introducing three new undergraduate degree requirements applicable across all degree programs, including a Quantitative Reasoning requirement. In January of 2016, the Curriculum Renewal Advisory Committee (C.R.A.C.) established the first Quantitative Reasoning Working Group to investigate the matter and develop a proposal. That group conducted an extensive survey of departments that confirmed both a pervasive sense that too many of our students lacked the fundamental quantitative skills necessary for success at the university and in the world at large, and that this skills-gap needed to be addressed.

The Distribution Requirements Working Group, meanwhile, had earlier recommended that each of the new requirements be satisfied by students taking a 3cu class approved for the purpose.

The First Working Group established:

  • That a course meeting the Quantitative Reasoning requirement will provide students with skills for forming conclusions, judgements, or inferences from quantitative information. The course should cover multiple aspects of quantitative reasoning, which include the recognition and construction of valid mathematical models that represent quantitative information; the analysis and manipulation of these models; the drawing of conclusions, predictions or inferences on the basis of this analysis; and the assessment of the reasonableness of these conclusions.

In the summer of 2017, a second Quantitative Reasoning Working Group was tasked with recommending ways to implement the proposed requirement. The group developed a rubric by which it would evaluate current courses nominated by departments as meeting the standard, and to guide the Academic Programs Committees of the college when they evaluate new courses intended to meet the requirement.

The rubric was distributed to departments in November 2017, and by early December the Working Group had proposed a list of seventeen courses that meet the standard. The rubric and the list of courses are included in this report.

By design, the list consists primarily of junior courses that students can take in their first or second year.

  • Senior courses with a mandatory prerequisite already on the list (or expected to be so) need not themselves be nominated, since students will have had to have already met the requirement in order to take that class. In other words, only the lowest rungs in any prerequisite ladder should be nominated.
  • Senior courses with no such prerequisite, especially 400-level courses, were rejected on the basis that they could not realistically expect to meet Criteria 5, that a course should “give students the tools and experiences they need in order to integrate quantitative thinking into their studies”, since the course would be taken so late in their studies.

In practice, all junior level MATH courses will meet the Quantitative requirement. Since all students in Type C (Science) programs are currently required to take mathematics, this particular degree requirement will make no difference to them. (Note: college requirements are distinct from program requirements, though they may often align. MATH 102.3, for example, would meet the college requirement but may not meet a given program requirement.)

Some Type B (Social Science) programs have a MATH requirement that would meet the requirement, and others (i.e. Sociology) have a required statistics class that meets the requirement.

Neither mathematics nor statistics is a requirement in any of the other current college degree program types. With the introduction of the Quantitative requirement, we can expect some students in these programs to choose to take an existing MATH or statistics class that meets the standard.

For students who are not inclined or perhaps not prepared for a MATH or statistics class, the college will offer a Quantitative Reasoning course, currently under development. That course will be designed to provide students with the quantitative skills needed for a rounded education and a productive life, and to prepare them to take additional mathematics or statistics courses should their academic path lead that way. (One aim of the course is to open students up to the possibility that they might enjoy and succeed at disciplines they had self-selected out of due to their perceived deficiencies in math.)

Between the sixteen courses currently listed in the proposal and the forthcoming Quantitative Reasoning course, we are confident that the college will have the teaching capacity (in person and via distance learning options) to accommodate every Arts and Science student over the course of their degree, starting with the incoming class of September, 2020. We are also confident that between now and 2020, and thereafter, departments and programs will continue to revise existing courses and develop new courses such that they meet the standard.

E. Contact

For more information or questions about curriculum renewal, please contact us!

Email Us

F. Curriculum Renewal Archive

Archive