Curricular Learning Goals
Learning goals are reviewed by our Academic Program and Standards Committee, which consists of students, faculty, and administrators, whenever a new course is proposed or a program is under review. The course and program learning goals necessarily mesh with our curricular requirements for foreign language learning, understanding domestic and cross-cultural differences, enhancing quantitative and writing skills, and appreciating the different modes of knowing represented by the arts and humanities and the natural and social sciences. Dickinson students must take courses designed to meet these learning goals, which give breadth to their education, while developing their analytical abilities and mastery within a major field of study. 

First-year seminars:  The First-Year Seminar (FYS) introduces students to Dickinson as a “community of inquiry” by developing habits of mind essential to liberal learning. Through the study of a compelling issue or broad topic chosen by their faculty member, students will (as approved by faculty December 2007):

  • Critically analyze information and ideas
  • Examine issues from multiple perspectives
  • Discuss, debate and defend ideas, including one’s own views, with clarity and reason
  • Develop discernment, facility and ethical responsibility in using information, and
  • Create clear academic writing

Writing in the Discipline (WiD):  Preferably completed in the major or other related field, a Writing in the Discipline Course (WiD) offers students direct instruction and practice in writing beyond the First-Year Seminar. Students will learn to (as approved by faculty December 2007):

  • identify and demonstrate discipline-specific writing conventions;
  • understand that writing is a recursive process and develop an effective writing process.

Quantitative Reasoning Course: A Quantitative Reasoning Course is a regular academic course designed to provide a solid foundation for the interpretation and critical understanding of the world through numbers, logic, or deductive and analytical reasoning. Criteria for courses to satisfy the Quantitative Reasoning (QR) requirement can be found here. Proposals should be submitted to Karen Weikel.  

Students fulfilling the QR requirement will be able to (as approved by faculty December 2016):

  • Recognize quantitative assertions (i.e., involving numbers, logic and or graphics) and their underlying assumptions.
  • Critically evaluate quantitative information.
  • Use quantitative methods to support an argument.

Distribution Courses: Distribution requirements engage students in the full breadth of liberal learning as represented by four fundamental branches of the academic curriculum.

The Arts explore and interpret the human experience through creation, performance, and/or analysis of human artistic expression in the areas of dance, film, music, theatre, visual art, and creative writing.  Students completing the course in the arts will be able to (as approved by faculty December 2016):

  • Understand how art has been and/or is rooted in formal, contextual, and conceptual concerns.
  • Apply that understanding to artistic creation(s) using language distinctive to the medium.
  • Develop an informed aesthetic awareness through analysis and/or experience.

The Humanities explore and interpret human experiences and perceptions of the world primarily through textual and conceptual analysis of works of literature, religion, and philosophy.  Upon completing the course, students will be able to (as approved by faculty December 2016):

  •  Recognize that distinctive form(s) of expression provide gateways into aspects of the human experience.
  • Analyze how form(s) of expression respond to aspects of the human experience.
  • Evaluate how form(s) of expression affect humanity in personal, national or global ways.

Social Sciences seek to explore and interpret social components of the human experience through observation and analysis of structures, institutions, and individuals.  Students completing a course in the social sciences will begin to (as approved by faculty December 2016):

  • Recognize how social and/or cultural processes shape human experiences.
  • Analyze social and/or cultural components of human experiences.
  • Interpret examples of social and/or cultural components of human experiences.

Laboratory Science seeks to understand the natural processes that govern Earth and its inhabitants, as well as the universe, through systematic observations and experimentation, formation and verification of theories, and computational methods in a laboratory setting.  Students will demonstrate (as approved by faculty April 2013):

  • the ability to use scientific methods as a way of understanding the world;
  • knowledge of content and principles within the natural sciences;
  • the ability to critically evaluate claims from a scientific perspective.

Cross-cultural studies: The college requires three different types of course work to familiarize students with the ways in which the diversity of human cultures has shaped our world. These courses seek to prepare students to be effective citizens in an interdependent world and to be aware of the breadth of voices, perspectives, experiences, values, and cultures that constitute the rich tapestry of U.S. life and history.

Languages: Global Citizens expand their own worldview through the understanding of others as well as through a grasp of the complex relationship between language and culture. In order to expand their horizons and reflect on their own worldview, students must obtain intermediate level skills, which will prepare them to be immersed in another language and culture.  Students will be able to do the following at the intermediate level (as approved by faculty December 2015):

  • engage purposefully with users of the target language
  • participate in multilingual communities in a variety of contexts and in culturally appropriate ways
  • use the language to explore the practices, products, and perspectives of another culture, and
  • view their own language and culture through the lens of another

U.S. Diversity: The United States has always been and remains a place of diversity, contest and inequality.  The U.S. diversity course explores the ways in which diversity has enriched and complicated our lives. The course examines the intersections of two or more of the following categories of identity in the United States: race, ethnicity, gender, class, religion, sexual orientation, and/or disability.  By considering people’s lived experiences as members of dominant and subordinated groups, this course equips students to engage a complex, diverse United States. Proposals for courses to satisfy the U.S. Diversity requirement should be submitted to Karen Weikel. Students fulfilling the U.S. Diversity graduation requirement will (as approved by faculty April 2014):

  • Gain a solid grasp of the course content
  • Become more knowledgeable about a complex and diverse United States
  • Enhance critical thinking about issues of position, power and privilege
  • Recognize the multiple identities that shape our interactions with one another
  • Develop skills to engage in respectful and civil dialogue with others who have different perspectives

Comparative Civilizations: To deepen students' understanding of the diversity in cultures by introducing them to traditions other than those that have shaped the modern West, the college requires one course with a focus on the comparative study of civilizations.   Proposals for courses to satisfy the Comparative Civilizations requirement should be submitted to Shawn Bender.

  • Discussion is taking place to redefine this graduation requirement.  The student learning outcomes will be discussed at that time.

Sustainability courses offered across the curriculum address the question, "How do we improve the human condition equitably in this and future generations, while conserving environmental systems necessary to support healthy and vibrant societies?"

Sustainability Investigations courses engage students in deep and focused exploration of sustainability as a major theme of the course, through which students gain a rich understanding of multiple dimensions of sustainability. Sustainability Connections courses build competencies in knowledge and methods of a field that is relevant to understanding sustainability and demonstrate connections between the subject matter of the course and sustainability. Students are introduced to sustainability, sustainable development or related concepts.

Students will build competencies and dispositions in at least one of the following areas (as approved by faculty November 2012):

  • Think critically about problems of improving the human condition equitably in this and future generations, while conserving environmental systems necessary to support healthy and vibrant societies;
  • Solve problems by applying sustainability concepts and principles; 
  • Communicate effectively to raise awareness, increase understanding and motivate action for sustainability; and
  • Collaborate with others, working with and leading groups to advance shared sustainability goals.