A task force of GW faculty, administrators and students is moving into the final stages of consideration for a four-class, four-credit system; by April, the group will decide whether to recommend the plan.
If recommended, the plan will then be reviewed by each of the schools within the University and by the Education Policy Committee of the Faculty Senate.
Donald Lehman, executive vice president for Academic Affairs, assembled the task force a year ago to assess the advantages and disadvantages of the implementation of the four-by-four plan, which would require students to take four classes, worth four credits each, in a semester.
Lehman said the goal of the task force is to increase academic engagement at GW. He described the four-by-four plan, which was also proposed several years ago, as “fewer classes, but more intense.”
After months of deliberations, discussions are now centered on the actual impact of a four-by-four system. Senior Ross Mankuta, one of the three student members of the task force, said meetings have moved from addressing abstract benefits of the plan to addressing issues such as its impact on internships and scheduling.
“I think we’re moving in the right direction. We’re talking about things in a more GW-centered way,” Makuta said. “I finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Sooner rather than later, we’ll begin to see what this (the four-by-four) means for GW.”
A decrease in the number of classes a student takes would require that changes to school requirements also be made. Instead of reducing requirements for majors, it is likely that in a four-by-four the number of general curriculum requirements would be reduced.
While issues such as changes to curriculum requirements are being discussed, no decisions have yet been made on the actual changes that would occur. Because specifics of the plan have yet to be decided, many students do not have clear views on the four-by-four.
“It’s very hard for students to appreciate a four-by-four until they are in one,” Mankuta said.
Sophomore Maggie Beckham, a task force member and the Student Association vice president for academic affairs, agreed that at this stage of the process, student opinion depends on the individual’s interpretation of a four-by-four plan.
“I think a lot of students see it as freeing up more time,” she said.
This issue was addressed at a meeting Friday, where the task force met to discuss the four-by-four’s impact on internships. Beckham said concerns were raised at the meeting that students would see a system where they had to take one less classes as a way to spend more time at internships and work. Task force members support participation in internships, but also want to achieve their goal of increasing the amount of conceptual knowledge that a GW student accrues.
Lehman said, “We’ve got to make sure that the internships students embark on are connected with learning.”
One proposed plan to ensure that internships have a relationship to academics is to require all students to engage in internships and then write a final paper that would earn them two credits.
The concept of more four-credit classes has been reflected recently in a plan that would require students in the honors program to take a high number of four-credit classes. Supporters of the plan see it as a way to increase the academic rigor of the honors program.
The last stage of meetings before a recommendation is made will focus on resource issues including both costs of the transition to four-by-four and financial benefits once it is implemented. Benefits include increased classroom availability and more flexibility in class registration. A projected budget will be part of the task force report. Lehman is meeting with faculty at each of the schools to answer their questions about the four-by-four.