Skip to main content

Minutes: General Program

09.18.2014 09.13.2012 02.29.2012 11.10.2011
10.26.2011 09.10.2008 02.28.2008 08.27.2007 03.23.2007 09.17.2001 09.25.2000

* * * * * * * * * *

Minutes of the General Program Committee Meeting

September 18, 2014, 9:00 am

Members Present: Cyr, Town, Kundu, Edwards, Pellegrino.
Members Absent: None.

Meeting Agenda

  1. Cyr’s suggestion re: teaching seminars/discussions with a focus on methods of raising RPG rates.
  2. Assessment report.
  3. Pellegrino’s suggestion for an initiative (I’d more fully describe this, but don’t know what it is).

Re: #1:
The committee agreed that it would be valuable for department members to discuss what elements/concepts individual faculty members focus on re: literary periods, regional/national literatures, and individual authors and works. Just during our brief discussion of how we approach some of the works we teach, all at some point said a version of, “Really? I’ve got to give that a try.” We agreed that if faculty members could provide brief notes on Easily Testable Concepts (what, following Town’s suggestion, we’ll call ETCs) related to eras, authors, works, etc. we could generate a handy bank of such notes.

We also agreed that such discussions would need to take place as part of a department meeting at which departmental business is conducted. Historically, attempts at stand-alone seminars of this sort have been poorly attended.

Re: #2:
Pellegrino distributed copies of the assessment tests for 2111 and 2112 and noted that we are still working on making them better (indeed, we spotted a couple of problem questions during the meeting). Members of the committee volunteered their world lit classes either this term or Spring in which to conduct the tests. If we need more, we’ll put out a request.

It seems the U only wants us to give the instrument at the end of the term. We discussed the merits and demerits of giving it pre- as well as post, but the discussion was inconclusive.

Re: #3:
Pellegrino has been working on a plan that might allow us to reduce the number of students in our single sections of world literature. It would involve sections of @ 400 students and the employment of four TA’s along with the professor. Merits and demerits of the plan were discussed, and it is still in early stages of formulation, but we think it might have real value if some kinks can be ironed out.

Minutes submitted by Marc Cyr, Chair.

* * * * * * * * * *

Minutes of the General Program Committee Meeting

September 13, 2012, 3:30 pm

Present: Villeponteaux (Chair), Edwards, Kundu, Schille, Warchol

The General Program Committee discussed two items: the upcoming departmental vote to decide between two different means of assessing World Literature, and the size of World Literature class sections.

After lengthy discussion of the two assessment instruments, we did not reach consensus, but many important points were raised. Committee members noted the difficulty of scoring hundreds of essays and the problem of plagiarism in essays written outside of class. Committee members also registered the problem that the multiple choice assessment may not represent the content of all World Literature classes, though we agreed that such a test would be easier to score.

As for the large class sizes, the committee agreed that Villeponteaux would write a letter to the chair, Dr. Dudley, suggesting some possible short-term solutions, though the consensus of the committee is that we simply need more permanent faculty, starting with the promised new lecturer to teach World Literature.

The meeting was adjourned at 4:30 pm.

Respectfully submitted,

Mary Villeponteaux

Chair, GPC

* * * * * * * * * *

The General Program Committee met on Wednesday, February 29, 2012, at 2:30 pm.

Present were Mary Villeponteaux (chair), Brad Edwards, Gautam Kundu, Candy Schille, and Doug Thomson.

Villeponteaux introduced the Assessment Committee’s newest plan for assessing World Literature. This is a test that would be given to students in some sections of 2111 and 2112 at the end of the semester (a post-test with no corresponding pre-test). The assessment has multiple choice questions that test the students on the World Literature SLOs, without requiring the students to have studied the same works. For example, rather than asking questions about The Iliad or The Odyssey, the test asks more general questions about epic conventions and Greek culture. The General Program Committee members were generally happy with the new proposal, with the understanding that the entire department will have to hear about this form of assessment and approve it. There was some concern expressed about including literary passages for analysis, because they might prove too difficult. Another suggestion was that students could be offered extra credit for a good performance on the test, as a means of getting the students to take it seriously.

The next item on the agenda was the problem of overloaded World Literature sections this spring. Single sections of World Literature this spring have as many as 53 students. Various suggestions were made about how to avoid this in the future, and of course the best solution would be for the upper administration to give us an adequate number of permanent faculty lines. Failing that, maybe Dr. Dudley should consider hiring more adjunct faculty in semesters where we are understaffed, or limit faculty travel to conferences in favor of hiring more teachers. Some concern was expressed, though, about the way that adjuncts are exploited by the system, and the committee members all agreed that the best solution is to hire more full-time faculty.

The committee also discussed the current attempts to reduce the DFW rate: Supplemental Instruction and recitation classes. Committee members want to have more of a voice in how and if these methods are employed. We want to hear from faculty who have had SI or recitation sections, and learn whether these methods were successful, and also hear about any drawbacks.

The committee agreed to draft a statement calling for more lecturers and limiting the number of students in single sections of World Literature to 35.

Submitted by Mary Villeponteaux, Chair of the General Program Committee

* * * * * * * * * *

Minutes of the General Program Committee, November 10, 2011

Present were Professors Edwards, Kundu, Thomson, and Villeponteaux.

The topic of this meeting was, again, assessment. The committee met to discuss two items:

1. Constructing two lists of texts for possible inclusion in English 2111 and 2112, respectively, in accordance with the assessment plan voted on by the faculty at our department meeting on October 28, 2011.

2. Discussing a third assessment plan outlined by Joe Pellegrino in emails to the faculty. Option #3 would use a pre-test and post-test for the entire course, rather than a pre-test and post-test on one literary work. Each faculty member would have to construct his or her own test that would reflect our SLOs for World Literature. This option would rid us of the need for any common texts in World Lit.

The committee liked Option #3 the best and wondered if a template could be created for the World Lit pre-test/post-test that would help faculty construct their own tests. The committee also agreed that the best procedure would be to present both Option #2 and Option #3 at the next department meeting and take a vote. Our committee will recommend Option #3. As part of our presentation of these two options, we agreed to try and construct the “Lists of Three” for English 2111 and 2112, based on faculty comments garnered from a listserv discussion.

Here are the lists we constructed. We decided that lists of four works might serve our purpose better. If we adopt Option #2, each faculty member would have to include one work from the list on his/her syllabus, and the General Program and Assessment Committees would have to construct a pre-test and post-test for each work, in consultation with the faculty.

For English 2111:

The Iliad Book I OR The Odyssey Book V

The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1-3

Oedipus OR Antigone

(The committee though that in the cases of Homer and Sophocles, it would be easy to construct two slightly different tests—same cultural/historical background—allowing the faculty member to choose either text.)

For English 2112:

Wordsworth, “I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud”


The Death of Ivan Ilyich

“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

The meeting adjourned at 1:45 p.m.

Submitted by Mary Villeponteaux, Chair of the General Program Committee

* * * * * * * * * *

Minutes of the General Program Committee, October 26, 2011

The General Program Committee met at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, October 26. Present were Professors Edwards, Kundu, Schille, and Villeponteaux. Prof. Pellegrino met with the committee to discuss assessment of World Literature (English 2111 and 2112).

The committee was asked to consider what would be the best method of assessing our World Literature classes. Prof. Pellegrino described the pilot he has conducted in his World Literature class this semester, in which the assessment instrument is a writing assignment. We discussed ways to construct a writing assignment that all World Literature students would be required to complete, and we also discussed how such an assignment would be assessed and graded.

Members of the General Program Committee suggested an alternative approach to assessment that would involve finding a common text for each of the two classes (2111 and 2112) and setting a short multiple-choice pre-test and post-test that the students would take before and after studying the common text. In discussing this idea, we wondered if it might not be possible to create, for English 2111 and 2112 respectively, a list of three works from which each faculty member could choose one work to include on his/her syllabus. We would find out which literary works are most often taught and construct a list that would include, for each faculty member, at least one work that person usually teaches anyway, thus removing the onerous sense of having a text imposed on us.

Prof. Pellegrino liked this idea and agreed to discuss this new assessment possibility with the Assessment Gurus, to see if the plan would be regarded as an adequate means of assessment.

The meeting adjourned at 9:45 a.m.

Minutes submitted by Mary Villeponteaux, Chair of the General Program Committee

* * * * * * * * * *

Minutes of the General Program Committee, September 10, 2008

The General Program Committee met from 1pm to 2pm on September 10th to discuss the draft of Student Learning Outcomes. After some wordsmithing, the committee voted unanimously to present three outcomes to the department for approval at the next meeting.

The next meeting of the committee will be on Wednesday, September 24th in the Department meeting room from 1-2pm.

The agenda for that meeting will be devoted to discussing writing requirements for the World Literature courses.

* * * * * * * * * *

Minutes of the General Program Committee, February 28, 2008

Present: Richard Flynn, chair, Howard Keeley, Joe Pellegrino, Tomasz Warchol. Invited Guest: David Dudley

The meeting came to order at 1 pm. We began by discussing the two concept models for the core curriculum revision (previously linked below).

We agreed that our department could fit its World Literature offerings into either model, and there seemed to be a consensus that Model B was more humanities oriented. This led to a discussion about the need to be prepared to articulate the importance of World Literature as the revision proceeds (and as we get more concrete information).

To this end, we discussed two major projects.

First, we have gathered course objectives from everyone’s syllabi with an eye toward establishing common learning outcomes for our World Literature classes to be presented to the faculty for discussion and eventual adoption. While everyone has different approaches and often teaches different texts, the committee unanimously agreed that we share common objectives and therefore should be able to articulate (and test) common learning outcomes. Dr. Keeley was a particularly articulate advocate of these outcomes and we had a fruitful initial discussion. In addition to pedagogical objectives, we also discussed content (particularly in World Literature II) and wondered whether the old lists of required authors was still useful in light of many different and equally valid approaches and text selections.

Second, the committee discussed the role of writing in World Literature classes, and we unanimously agreed that all sections of World Literature should have a writing component. We plan to meet further to discuss this and we invite faculty input.

Finally, Dr. Pellegrino also volunteered overseeing a web space where notes, syllabi, teaching ideas, etc. may be posted as part of a broader effort to facilitate intellectual and pedagogical exchange about the World Literature courses.

The meeting was adjourned at 2:20 pm.

* * * * * * * * * *

Minutes of the General Program Committee, August 27, 2007

Present: Richard Flynn (Chair), Howard Keeley, Joe Pellegrino, David Robinson (by phone), Tomasz Warchol

The meeting was called to order. The first item of business was a discussion of implementing the first phase of the Knowledge Survey: the gathering of questions. Early next week, colleagues will receive a request for volunteers to participate. Dr. Keeley agreed to draft the request for the committee. Dr. Pellegrino offered to share questions he had already compiled with the committee, as did Dr. Warchol.

The committee then spent the rest of the meeting discussing what the work of the committee should entail during the coming year. First, we discussed the new 1000-level courses and how we might advertise them so that they will make. Dr. Keeley shared his successful strategies with us. Second, we discussed strategies for building department resources for fostering dialogue among colleagues about the sophomore World Literature courses. We also noted that, with a revision of the core curriculum imminent, it will be important for us to articulate the value of our courses. The consensus of the committee was that since this is our bread and butter course, we ought to work to facilitate intellectual and pedagogical exchange among our colleagues.

* * * * * * * * * *

To: Literature & Philosophy

From: Marc Cyr, Chair of General Program Committee

Re: Committee meeting 3-23-07

For some time, there has been pressure put on academia to develop and demonstrate “evidence-based decision making” (I guess as opposed to decision making based on anecdote, past practice, tradition, etc.). The Provost has given a mandate for this to the Deans, and Dean Hudak has passed the mandate on to Chairs.

Beginning in 2003, David Robinson has been working on a Knowledge Survey program, and currently is developing this survey with our own Jim Lobue (Chemistry) and Ronald Matheney, Associate Professor of Geology at the University of North Dakota. They wish to pursue a pilot program in our sophomore literature classes. Both the Provost and Dean have seen demonstrations of the program and were enthusiastic, and Dean Hudak has mandated that our department run the pilot program.

Gautam Kundu, Howard Keeley, and I met with David Robinson for a presentation of his proposal for a Knowledge Survey. The Survey is designed for “content courses” (as opposed to “skills courses”) to measure the kind and quantity of course content that students attain over the course of a class. Students do not actually answer content questions; rather, they read a content question and, on a 1-10 scale, rate their “confidence” that they can answer that question. The Survey consists of 50-200 such questions.

The questions can run the gamut, from testing rote-learning (such as in a multiple-choice question, or something like “Who wrote King Lear?), to asking for an application of concepts (“Why is ‘Dejection: An Ode’ a good example of a confessional lyric?”), to analytical and evaluative argument (“Is an Achilles possible in modern/contemporary war?”).

Students take the Survey at the beginning of the course, and then take the exact same survey at the end; the differences between their initial confidence levels and their final confidence levels present a quantifiable measure of what they assert they have learned throughout the course. Over the term, “validation” exercises can be run, that is, actually asking Survey questions on quizzes or tests, or using questions for essays, thus allowing assertions of student confidence to be correlated with actual performance. Similar correlations can be made between Survey results and grade spreads.

NOTE: The Survey itself is not graded, hence presenting no reason for cram-studying or cheating to interfere with results. Students will be required to complete the Survey (likely online) at the beginning and end of the term, with appropriate penalties/rewards used to ensure compliance.

While a Knowledge Survey for a particular class can be constructed by an individual professor, it is labor-saving for a number of professors to collaborate in producing and refining questions. This does not mean, however, that all of these professors must teach a common syllabus. Questions pertaining to subsets of content (for example, a particular play or short story) can be selected from the question bank, allowing a professor to create customized surveys and avoiding an “all or nothing” situation.

Some answers to potential questions:

– Yes, there’s a fair amount of work involved at least initially in identifying learning objectives, and developing and refining questions for a question bank.

– Yes, we would develop, express, and pursue in common particular learning objectives for particular movements, periods, works, etc.

– Yes, some standardization of content/syllabi is likely to occur. No, this is not necessarily a bad thing. (For example, I might swipe a colleague’s approach to something that I teach with indifferent results, or might change my syllabus to include something I discover via Survey involvement to be more pedagogically worthwhile than what I am now doing.)

– No, results identified by individual will not be made available to anyone except, perhaps, by the individual him- or herself. (For example, this might happen if two or more professors decide to compare notes on what does or does not seem to be working well.) Only anonymized and averaged data, i.e. data not identified by individual, will be available to such people as department chairs and deans.

– No, it cannot be guaranteed that in future — we assume a fairly distant future since this scenario could exist only after careful/long refinement of the Survey — nefarious individuals (for example, administrators) or a malign entity (for example, the administration) will not use the Survey or its results to standardize syllabi or make odious comparisons between faculty members. However, we stand a better chance of avoiding that future if we act early to set up procedures that we can live with.

Gautam, Howard, and I think this is a worthwhile project for our department to get involved in. We believe that demands for quantifiable measures of our work are only going to increase and that it is wise for us to design the means of such measures ourselves (and earn Brownie Points for our initiative while we’re at it) rather than have something inappropriate imposed on us by the administration, which has been consulting with educational software vendors about comprehensive assessment tools. We also think that our individual and departmental pedagogy will likely benefit by the collaboration and sharing required by this pilot project, i.e. we might become better teachers teaching better classes.

Right now, Gautam, Howard, and I envisage this timetable for the department: This term we gather volunteers for the pilot project and divide them into 2111 and 2112 groups. Over the summer, the volunteers generate and gather questions for the question bank. This Fall, those questions are examined and refined and learning objectives identified along the way. The questions are entered into the Knowledge Survey question bank and individual professors create their individualized surveys. The hope is to conduct the Survey for the first time in our sophomore classes in Spring ’08.

NOTE: This proposal came to the General Program Committee because re: sophomore lit, but we would be more than happy for our Philosophers to come on board should they wish to, and thereby expand the pilot program.

* * * * * * * * * *

Minutes of the General Program Committee, Monday, Sept. 17, 2001.

Present were Dr. Cyr, Dr. Griffin, Dr. Smith, Ms. Smith, Dr. Weiss; Apologies from: Dr. Sherrod, Dr. Spell


1. to discuss the proposal to provide a new “customized” anthology

2. to consider how to attract majors through the World Literature classes

3. to consider the possibility of World Literature fatigue in the Literature and Philosophy Department, given the higher number of classes likely to be taught since the move away from Composition

Under 1.: we discussed some of the possible problems arising from this proposal. Dr. Cyr pointed out that we have not yet been quoted a price by the would-be publisher, Prentice Hall; Dr. Smith asked how far we had really explored the range of anthologies already available; Dr. Griffin was unsure how long the new anthology was expected to be, given that Dr. Thomson, the prime mover of the proposal, had referred in an email to the “gargantuan” size of the anthologies presently in use, implying that he wanted something smaller. Ms Smith said that, while students would certainly like to pay less for their anthology, the price of the ones in use now was not out of scale with the cost of books in other courses, and she felt this should not be made the highest priority. Everyone wanted to know what the status of the anthology would be in the university, i.e. would we be obliged to use it if it existed? The conclusion reached was that the Committee should write to Dr. Thomson to express these questions and concerns. Dr. Griffin offered to write the first draft and send it round the Committee members for comments and changes. The members present felt that the committee should ultimately present the issue to the Literature and Philosophy Department for voting.

Under 2: Dr. Weiss suggested that professors teaching World Literature might draw up a list of the abilities we think students develop from the course, e.g. close reading, analytical thinking, and comparison of different view-points, and explain how these skills are useful in any course of study or profession. Everyone thought this an excellent idea.

Under 3: We did not discuss this as a separate point, but considered it as a possible hazard of 1. There was general agreement that the large anthologies offer a wide choice for selection, which is one obvious defense against boredom and disengagement.

* * * * * * * * * *

Minutes of the General Program Committee, Sept. 25, 2000.

Present were Daigre, Cyr, Griffin, and Thomson. Absent were Spell (for W&L) and Weiss. Guest: David Robinson

1. David Robinson attended for the first part of the meeting to report on the Technology Committee’s Strategic Plan and how it might impact the World Literature classes. The committee listened with interest and asked several questions.

2. The committee reviewed cumulative course evaluations of the World Lit sections and began a discussion of ways we might improve our teaching of these courses. The committee agreed to work on the following issues at future meetings:

a) textbook review, including consideration of texts custom designed for our courses, something Prentice Hall among other publishers is interested in providing us;

b) curricular design and innovation *within* the existing parameters of the course

c) revival of the colloquium (“Approaches to Teaching World Literature”): we invite any faculty to volunteer/submit proposals to Doug Thomson; these should deal with successful approaches to teaching specific authors or periods;

d) specific recommendations for improving the “physical plant” (the environments and technology) of our classrooms, many of which are a bit squeezed by WL enrollment: we also invite suggestions on this score from faculty.

The meeting adjourned at 5:00. Time and place of the next meeting TBA.

Last updated: 9/19/2014