BE Board:Curriculum chat

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(please feel free to add and edit this page, it is meant to be a sounding board for thoughts about what would be useful in a seminar devoted to curriculum development.)


The goal of the curriculum chat is to offer an avenue for interested BE graduate students to gain experience in the development of BE curriculum. This seems like a particularly good time for this activity since the BE department is rolling out a brand new undergraduate major.


There are a number of possible ways to organize these meetings, some ideas:

  1. Discuss one BE course
    • Covering only one course will allow a more in depth examination of the actual course content, as well as having time to cover general curriculum development advice from the professor(s) for the course. Also,
  2. Discuss multiple (related?) courses
    • Examining multiple courses will leave less time for examing course content deeply, however it would enable time to be spend examining the relationships between the courses. Additionally, by having several courses more examples of general approaches to currilum design (from severaly different faculty) would be available. Especially important since it seems there is a good bit of variability in the techniques for course development.
    • Linda suggested perhaps grouping by year. i.e. have a presentation on the UG courses from sophomore year to see how they relate / can be made to work together better.
  3. Professors who study education directly to present on techniques, what other institutions do, etc.
    • Useful to get a summary view of how course development is done accross many institutions from someone who studies the field directly.
  4. Professor well-known for giving good lectures (MIT gives soem teaching awards, I believe), to provide tips on actual lecture presenation, preparation, etc.

Topics / Questions

(please add)

  1. How does course fit into overall BE curriculum?
  2. How do you get started developing a course from scratch?
  3. When inheriting a course, how much freedom is there in altering the curriculum?
  4. How do you strike a balance between teaching theory and practice?
  5. How do you prepare for lectures?

Established vs. new courses

I think it would be great to continue curriculum chats in the future even after the curriculum has become more firmly established, couple reasons:

  1. An established course may have a new faculty member teaching it and curriculum chat could be a forum to present changes/new approaches to the course.
  2. It could help to keep courses fresh, presenting on a course that hasn't changed in 10 years will probably lead to changes/updates.

Random Thoughts

  • Worth thinking about what value undergraduates could get our of attending these seminars or something similar. One of the toughest things as an undergrad is getting your head around how all the pieces of the major fit together. Even in a single course, determining why specific topics were chosen out of the the nearly infinite amount of material that could have been included is sometimes tough. The syllabus/intro lecture should explain this theoretically, but in practice it seems not to.
  • We included questions on the BE graduate student survey and from the responses there seemed to be interest in having more opportunities to play a role in course development.

Comments for future organizers of curriculum chats

  • One option would be to follow the 1st year undergraduates, for instance this year we had curriculum chats about BE.180 and BE.320 (sophomore year courses), and will potentially follow those up with a talk by Linda and/or Roger on the entire 2nd year curriciculum. A similar plan could be followed next year with junior year courses.
  • Establish the specifics of the course at the beginnign of the Chat: how many units, what are prereqs, what year are the students, etc.
  • Specifically look for ways to integrate between BE courses, the curriculum chat is an opportunity for professors to examine how their course fits into the larger undergraduate curriculum.


Want to help or have more ideas? Post them here or contact jason kelly.