Academic journal article JCT (Online)

"Whole" Learning: Student Affairs' Challenge to College Curriculums

Academic journal article JCT (Online)

"Whole" Learning: Student Affairs' Challenge to College Curriculums

Article excerpt

DISCUSSIONS OF CURRICULUM IN HIGHER EDUCATION are monopolistically focused on the classroom experience. Whether analyzing disciplinary course offerings, credit hours, pedagogy, or general education, post-secondary curriculum discourses have privileged the classroom experience despite an understanding that learning occurs across a spectrum of environments and experiences. College administrators have responded to their understanding that learning occurs in multiple contexts through development of student-focused initiatives, typically located in divisions of student affairs. Since the field's inception, student affairs divisions and educators have existed not only to provide key services to students, but more broadly to challenge the college curriculum to be more expansive on individual campuses, nationally, and internationally.

Structure, Disciplining, & Vocation

Gaining a full appreciation for the role of student affairs as challenger of the college curriculum requires examining the history of structuring, disciplining, and vocationalizing of the university experience. During the 16th century, the culture of method proposed by Descartes and Bacon shifted epistemologies and societal practices. Descartes' Discourse on Method (Weissman, 1996) was totalizing, quickly gaining traction in the linear, hierarchical structuring not only of philosophy and science, but also the university experience. Method introduced deduction and reduction into inquiry. Resultantly, areas of science and study that were previously connected were broken into their component parts, no longer studied holistically, but rather studied in isolation. While method greatly assisted scientific discovery, the effects on academic specialization and learning were profound.

Peter Ramus is credited with creating the structure of the university experience through his Ramist charts (Doll, 2005, 2008). The charts, first introduced in the late 16th century, strictly structured university courses and sought to bring "order and discipline to university and college life and study" (Doll, 2005, p. 24) through the ordering of learning experiences "from the most general to the particular and special" (Doll, 2005, p. 25). Beyond structuring the university experience in a linear and hierarchical manner, Ramist charts are also responsible for the creation of academic disciplines. The development of "a series of disciplinary oriented courses leading to a degree" (Doll, 2008, p. 181) was quickly adopted by universities in the early 17th century. Learning was divided into "various, sequential units" (Doll, 2008, p. 188) occurring at finite moments - namely through individual study or in classrooms. As Doll (2008) notes,

This Ramist/Protestant sense of method-separating knowledge from oral conversation, and bifurcating such knowledge into a hierarchal sequence of linear steps-has dominated scientific and intellectual thought from the 17th through 20th centuries, and remains a foundation for mainstream pedagogy today. (p. 183)

Academic discipline quickly became tied to career and vocation, further fracturing the learning experience and minimizing the function of college education. This emphasis on learning for purposes of vocation also narrowed discussions about the scope of college curriculums.

Doll (2008) notes that the function of college education has always been tied to career or vocation. Those who attended the earliest universities traditionally received instruction in theology, law, or medicine (Doll, 2008). These traditions of providing advanced education for specific career fields, along with linear structure and hierarchy, were carried across the Atlantic and took root in the earliest American colleges and universities. The foundation of Harvard, Dartmouth, and other colonial universities was tied almost exclusively to educating vocational leaders of the colonies (Rudolph & Thelin, 1990; Thelin, 2004). This point is further examined by Martin (1991), who stated "even in the halcyon days of liberal arts colleges . …

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