Lynn’s new core curriculum praised in national higher education trade publication

Inside Higher Ed holds Lynn up as an example of how to improve academic rigor

Published Feb. 02, 2011

On Wednesday, Feb. 2, one of higher education’s major national trade publications, Inside Higher Ed, held Lynn's new core curriculum - The Dialogues of Learning - up as shining example of how colleges and universities can increase the rigor of their academic offerings and improve the comprehensive education of their students.

The article, “Ramping Up Rigor” by Dan Berrett, is part of a continuing debate in the higher education industry about the quality of education college students receive in American colleges and universities that was recently reignited by the publication Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses. The book critiques the current culture of education as it specifically relates to what undergraduate students truly learn while in college. The book’s conclusion is “not much.” Inside Higher Ed’s article opens by tying Lynn’s efforts to redevelop its core directly to the book’s findings and the ongoing national debate:

The grim portrait of American college students adrift as they breeze through their postsecondary educations with little expected of them and even less to show for it has dominated headlines in recent weeks. But not all colleges fit the description. Some institutions from outside elite Northeastern enclaves have taken deliberate steps to increase academic rigor, sharpen their students’ critical thinking and analytical reasoning, and expose them to richer subject matter.

Take, for example, Lynn University…

“We were proud of the praise we received from Inside Higher Ed. It acknowledges the hard work we have done to realize our vision of being recognized as one of the most innovative, international and individualized small universities in the country,” Lynn University President, Kevin M. Ross, said. “To drive this effort, we launched the Lynn 2020 strategic plan on Feb. 1, 2006—just over five years ago. Since then, we have made remarkable progress and this article in a key national higher ed trade is the best way I can think of having our efforts recognized by our peers in the industry."

The Dialogues of Learning

Lynn’s new core is a deliberate restructuring of the traditional college curriculum to increase a student’s exposure to classic liberal arts material throughout their learning experience to instill a common set of knowledge across all majors.

The new core decouples liberal education from being specific topics taught and integrates them into all areas of study spanning the whole four years of undergraduate learning. The Dialogues does this while also increasing the amount of reading, writing and critical thinking asked of the students and improving measurement of their performance by instituting a standard set of rubrics across the various majors.

To achieve this, the faculty had to be partners in the process and help determine how best to implement the new curriculum in their classes. Cynthia Patterson, Lynn’s vice president for academic affairs since 2007, was charged with leading this effort.

“This story highlights the tremendous efforts of our faculty in terms of their commitment to improving both student learning and raising standards for student performance,” Patterson said. “I think it is important for others to learn about the significant investment we are making in liberal education and in ensuring that our students will graduate with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful.”

The core is taught through 12 courses that center on three themes: Self and Society; Justice and Civic Life; and Belief and Reason. In addition to liberal arts knowledge, the Dialogues core curriculum also focuses on skills and knowledge areas essential to the success of the 21st century student—Quantitative Reasoning and Scientific Literacy.

"Ramping Up Rigor"

Since the new core was first introduced in the fall of 2008, it has received industry attention and is often discussed when prospective students are considering Lynn.

This has been both a challenge and an opportunity for Lynn’s admissions counselors who are the ones explaining the subtle but key differences between the Dialogues and more traditional core curriculums. The “Ramping Up Rigor” article has now been printed and handed out to the entire admissions staff since it does such a great job of explaining the Dialogues and its value.

“Being featured in a national trade publication like Inside Higher Ed provides prospective students with an objective view from which to evaluate Lynn University,” Gareth Fowles, Lynn’s vice president for enrollment management, said. “This article legitimizes the value of a Lynn education from a third party that has no affiliation with the university.”