Teaching and learning are complicated processes. The literature is full of research describing how people learn. Two well-known models characterize learners by age: pedagogy and andragogy. Pedagogy focuses on the teacher-child learner relationship and andragogy focuses on the teacher-adult learner relationship. While pedagogy is a longstanding theory that can be traced back to the monastic schools of Europe in the 7th century, Malcolm Knowles brought recognition to the concept of andragogy in the 20th century (Merriam, Caffarella, & Baumgartner, 2007; Knowles, 1973). Knowles proposed six assumptions about the design of learning for adults (see Table 1). These assumptions ...view middle of the document...
Core curriculum courses are required for all degree-seeing students at the university, so the student population reflects the demographic profile of the course (UNR, n.d.). Recent data indicates the average age of all students at UNR is 23.8, with 13,737 attending full-time and 4,490 attending part-time (UNR, 2013b). In the United States, the legal age of majority is 18 in most states (U.S. Legal, 2013). Based on this research, the Western Traditions audience consists primarily of adult learners.
The three course Western Traditions sequence (see Table 2) teaches “the ideas, values, and cultures of western societies from ancient times to the present,” up to and including the U.S. and Nevada Constitutions (UNR, 2013e). Since I attended, the university has renamed the program Core Humanities, but the format and content of the courses remain the same: two lectures per week in a 220-person hall and one 20-person small-group discussion per week. The lectures are presented by assistant or associate professors and postdoctoral fellows or lecturers from the Foreign Languages and Literature Department (UNR, 2013c). The small-group discussions are led by Graduate Teaching Assistants (TAs), also from the Foreign Languages and Literature Department (UNR, 2013c; UNR, 2005). In order to lead the small-group discussions, TAs complete a half-day prefatory workshop titled Preparing future faculty: College teaching. International TAs must earn a TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) score greater than 550, and a SPEAK (Spoken Proficiency English Assessment Kit) score greater than 50 (UNR, 2012d).
Core Humanities Courses at the University of Nevada, Reno
1. CH 201—Ancient and Medieval Cultures: Surveys the cultures of the Near East, Greece, Rome, and the European Middle Ages. Students learn about the cultural and historical origins of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and explore the roots of philosophy and science. Core themes that are examined through the assigned texts and images include concepts like heroism, justice, and romantic love.
2. CH 202—The Modern World: Uses texts, images, and music to trace Europe’s interactions with other parts of the world and the legacy of those interactions in shaping ideas, institutions, and cultures from the early modern era to the present. Cultural artifacts of the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the period of revolution and romanticism, and the twentieth century are examined and discussed. Core themes include the impact of science and industry, political revolutions, colonialism, postcolonialism, and globalization.
3. CH 203—American Experiences and Constitutional Change: Provides an overview of ideas, institutions, and identities in America from the colonial period to the present. The course incorporates material from a variety of disciplines to explore concepts such as liberty, democracy, individualism, federalism, civil rights, environmentalism, industrialization, urbanization, and...