Final Report of the CUP Subcommittee on the Communication Requirement

Appendix B

Committee on the Undergraduate Program

Charge to the Subcommittee on The Communication Requirement


Gene Brown, Co-Chair
Langley Keyes, Co-Chair
Steven Hall
Ole Madsen
James Paradis
Ruth Perry
Steven Pinker
George Verghese

At the April 1997 Faculty Meeting, a resolution was passed to initiate a three-year process aimed at eventually replacing MIT's undergraduate Writing Requirement with a broader-based Communication Requirement. The resolution directed the Committee on the Undergraduate Program (CUP) to "conduct a series of experiments and pilot programs to help in the design of a new Communication Requirement." In addition, the resolution indicated that these experiments "should be evaluated by a subcommittee of the CUP appointed by the Chair of the CUP in consultation with the Chair of the Faculty and the Chair of the Committee on the Writing Requirement." The CUP is to report back to the Faculty with its recommendation for a new Communication Requirement no later than the Spring of 2000.

The CUP subcommittee is part of a complex network of individuals, committees, and academic units, each of which has responsibilities for moving along the Communication Requirement initiative. Among these entities are the following:

Within such a complex web of entities and interest groups, it is important that the role of the CUP subcommittee on the Communication Requirement be clearly delineated. As the resolution of the faculty indicates, it is the responsibility of the CUP subcommittee to guide the evaluation of the experiments and pilot programs that will inform the design of the new Communication Requirement. It is not the responsibility of the subcommittee itself to undertake experiments directly. To that end, the subcommittee is authorized to undertake the following responsibilities:

1. Approval and publication of experimental criteria. The first task of the subcommittee will be to develop a series of criteria to inform the design and assessment of these experiments and pilot programs. In formulating these guidelines, the subcommittee should keep in mind that the faculty will need information to help it understand the answers to these three questions:

2. Solicitation of proposals for inclusion in the Communication Requirement experiment. The subcommittee should solicit from the MIT community proposals for inclusion within the overall Communication Requirement initiative. The committee should encourage for inclusion in the initiative two general categories of activities: (1) existing elements of the MIT curriculum which would seem to be likely candidates for consideration as part of the new Communication Requirement and (2) new offerings which appear to be promising initiatives in curriculum reform.

In reviewing proposals, the subcommittee should direct its efforts at ensuring that (1) the activities that are included within the Communication Requirement initiative are clearly described and justified and (2) the data gathered in the evaluation of these activities will be useful to the subcommittee in the later phases of its work.

3. Ongoing review of proposals and pilot programs. Throughout the next three years, the subcommittee should meet periodically to review the progress of the experiments and pilot programs that it has sanctioned. The subcommittee will collaborate closely with faculty to assess the experiments' successes in relation to their stated goals and alterations in teaching strategies that faculty find necessary as the class unfolds.

4. Report and Recommendation to the CUP and to the Faculty.

The Spring 1997 resolution of the Faculty directs the CUP to make its report no later than the Spring of 2000. In order to meet this time line, the subcommittee will need to present its final report to CUP on or about January 2000. As is the case with all CUP-authorized experiments, the subcommittee will be asked to provide regular reports to the CUP (orally or in writing) on the progress of the Communication Requirement experiment. In addition, if the successful implementation of any proposed activities within the Communication Requirement initiative requires the waiving of faculty or administrative regulations, the subcommittee should bring this item to the immediate attention of the CUP for consideration.

In its final report, the subcommittee should attend to two general topics. First, it should report on the conclusions it has reached about the efficacy of the activities it has sanctioned. Second, it should recommend one or more possible designs of a new Communication Requirement.

September 22, 1997

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