Students perusing Phillips Academy’s classic blue Course of Study Book for the 2011-2012 academic year may be surprised by changes in courses offered and prerequisites for courses. Among the changes to Course of Study for the 2011-2012 year include the addition of Molecular Gastronomy, the Abbot Global Seminar: Encounter, a more discipline oriented advanced art program and a myriad of new English and History electives, including Last Acts: Remember Me California Dreaming and The Civil War and Reconstruction.
Some courses will not be offered in the 2011-2012 school year including Electronic Music and other humanities electives including Cinema Symbiosis, Welcome to the Apocalypse and The Founders and Their World.
The old art graduation requirements for the class of 2011 and earlier which required one term of theater and one year of either art of music in ninth grade followed by two more courses in another discipline and earlier have also been eliminated.
The more robust art-elective program constitutes another important change to the course of study. Previously, Art-500 was the only advanced art course. Now students have more options.
“If they [the students] wanted to go in depth with an art project they had to do an IP or take Art-500 which is not focused on one discipline. It was meant for a broader approach which really wasn’t the right class for some students,” said Deborah Olander, Scheduling Officer.
Faculty are trying to make the courses as comprehensive as possible, often integrating themes of service learning, the environment and global issues into the curriculum.
Other courses have integrated safeguards designed to make sure students are succeeding in the course. College Chemistry (Chem 300), for example, now requires that Lowers in the class maintain an 80% average in chemistry.
“Kevin Cardozo, Chair of the Chemistry Department changed the prerequisites based off of what would best help the student succeed in science. He started thinking about this last fall,” said Olander.
All these changes were coordinated by Elizabeth Korn, Kate Dolan, Assistant Dean of Studies, and John Rogers, Dean of Studies.
“Elizabeth Korn, Kate Dolan and John Rogers proofread the course of study multiple times both to make our own suggested changes and to look at what the chairs are suggesting to make sure everything makes sense,” said Olander.
Every year the Course of Study is reviewed by the Dean of Studies’ office and the Academic Council for clarity and references to policies that will no longer apply to any students after this year’s senior graduation.
The Academic Council, which consists of department chairs and division chairs, works closely with teachers and administrators to edit the book.
“As the scheduling officer look at the course numbering to see if any changes should be implemented. Sometimes there are inconsistencies or things that are outdated and I also update the online course of studies to match this,” said Olander.
“A less influential part of the process is the Academic Advisory Council, a group that has recently been reactivated. It plays no formal role in the Course of Study although it could provide an input,” said John Rogers, Dean of Studies.
The changes that occur from year to year depend on many factors. This varies by department and staffing.
“While most course offerings remain stable, a handful of new courses may be introduced, or departments may change course descriptions, including editing for clarity or changing the course content,” said Rogers.
Students cannot propose course changes, but department chairs take into consideration students’ needs when they create new courses.
“In some ways, the students are always driving the departments to do interesting things like pushing the math department to offer Math-630 seminars which were made for students interested in taking advanced math independent projects,” said Olander.
“It’s a little more subtle than a formal process.,” continued Olander.
“The department chairs have three opportunities to edit the Course of Study before it goes to print. Once the COS is sent to the printers, however, any further edits can only be made in the online COS, which will always be the most accurate. Edits may include changes due to last minute staffing decisions (e.g. sabbaticals, maternity leaves, hiring decisions) or corrections that were not caught before the final copy is sent to print,” explained Olander in an email to the Phillipian