New English Curriculum

(back, l-r) Karen Dieleman, Michael Vander Weele ’73, and Erick Sierra  (front l-r) Bruce Leep and Mark JonesA proposal for curriculum changes in Trinity’s English department was recently approved and will be implemented in the fall of 2011. The major changes will be a pedagogical shift to an apprenticeship model at the junior level and an emphasis, at the sophomore level, on writing and reading as social practices.

Currently, English students present several papers at a regional undergraduate English conference each year. The new curriculum is designed to help students become more comfortable making strong claims, supporting them, and fielding questions.

“We want our students to become more comfortable as Christians engaging in both kinds of discourse, academic and civic,” said Dr. Michael Vander Weele ’73, chair of the English department.

At the sophomore level, the changes will increase the emphasis on literature and society by engaging students in Chicago events and activities that relate to their courses.

At the junior-senior level, faculty will apprentice students in the ways of academic debate. Students will observe how their faculty mentors set up and pursue a question and then practice doing so themselves. In this tutorial setting, 4-5 students will meet with a professor and participate in the meaningful give and take of academic discourse.

Although the new curriculum will offer fewer course options, each course will be offered every year, rather than alternating years as with the current curriculum. This change will also make registration and course scheduling easier for students and will deepen faculty engagement with the course topics.

What are the main benefits to students?

  • Guided practice in academic discourse
  • Increased engagement in Chicago resources to help reflect on literature’s role in society
  • Ease in planning a Trinity English major
  • Better preparation for graduate school, careers, and civic discourse through the opportunity to practice the give and take of academic debate