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Critical Perspectives


  1. Procedures for submitting a course to COI for designation as a Critical Perspective
       Sample proposals and format:
  2. Assessment of General Education Courses
  3. Implementation Plan
       Calculation of Assessment Schedule 
  4. General Guidelines for Critical Perspectives Designation

Welcome to the Critical Perspectives website. Information about the current All College Critical Perspectives requirement can be found here

1) Procedures for submitting a course to COI for designation as a Critical Perspective

The proposal should contain two “paragraphs”, loosely defined.  The first paragraph is the current catalog description copied verbatim as passed by the faculty.  If the course is still pending, use the description submitted to COI for approval.

The second paragraph is the rationale describing how your course meets the goals and learning outcomes for the particular critical perspective.  You might talk briefly in general terms about your course goals, but then it is most helpful to have a list of readings, a tentative syllabus, or other evidence indicating how well your class will match the goals of that critical perspective. 

COI meets on the second Wednesday of each block.  Proposals should be submitted by the first Thursday to be included on the agenda. To include a lab/field designation to a Scientific Investigation course, please submit a brief explanation of the lab/field component to the course to NSEC (Shane Heschel, Chair 2015-16) by email by the first Thursday. 

If a course is approved by GEOC, it is placed on the COI agenda for the meeting on the second Wednesday of each block.  If COI concurs with GEOC, then the course is placed in the faculty consent agenda for a final vote at the faculty meeting at the end of that block.  The Registrar then takes the faculty meeting minutes and updates the catalog and on-line course system to show the course fulfills a general education requirement.


Sample Proposals and Format:

a. RE243 Islam in the Americas (Global Cultures)

Course Description: Examines the historical role that varieties of Islam have played in North America as well as in the Caribbean and South America. Topics include: the trans-Atlantic slave trade that brought West African Muslims to North and South America; slave religion in the antebellum South; the complicated role that Islam has played in African-American identity and that race and religion have played in White (Euro-American) conceptions of Islam in the U.S. and abroad; Black Nationalist critiques of Christianity; and issues of race, ethnicity, socio-economic class, and religion affecting immigrant Muslim communities in the U.S. since 1965,  1 unit – Wright.

Rationale: The "G" designation is appropriate for RE 243 "Islam in the Americas" because the course looks outside the borders of the U.S. to the modern history of West Africa, South and Latin America, and to the Near East in the Euro-American imagination of the American nation from the 18th century to the present. Since Muslim immigrants have come from all corners of the globe since 1965, the course also engages the ways in which global cultures are transplanted to the U.S. (and transformed in the process).

The SI designation is appropriate because social inequality is addressed throughout the course. The course description references both the phenomenon of Black Nationalism (which is intimately interrelated with issues of social and economic class) and socio-economic class as it affects immigrant Muslim communities in the US since 1965. In the latter case, we see stark disparities among Muslims in the U.S. who are “indigenous” (largely African American, often urban poor) and immigrants who tend to be highly educated, highly privileged both socially and economically (favored by the Federal immigration laws).


b. FG206 Topics in Feminist & Gender Studies: Critical Race Feminism (Global Cultures & Social Inequality)

Course Description: Critical Race Feminism (CRF) originates from Critical Race Theory, which interrogates and attempts to transform the relationship between race and power by examining the role of race and racism within the foundations of modern culture, as far back as the principles of Enlightenment thought that form the basis for many modern views of equality and law. CRF builds on Critical Race Theory by examining how the historical experiences and contemporary realities of women of color are significantly impacted by racism and sexism. Along these lines, CRF scholars, such as Lani Guinier, Patricia Williams, Angela Harris, and Anita Hill, work to ensure that the perspectives of women of color on race, power, law, and politics in the United States become a visible platform from which to affect change.

In this course, students will explore the major themes in CRF writing, which include life in the workplace, parenting, sexual harassment, domestic violence, and other criminal justice issues. Additionally, we will acknowledge the ways in which CRF extends beyond national borders, examining global issues, such as female genital cutting, the rights of Muslim women, immigration, multiculturalism, and global capitalism, among others. We will also critically assess the applicability of CRF or lack thereof, particularly in light of its criticisms.  Lewis

Rationale: Critical Race Feminism (CRF) is interdisciplinary in that it draws from various fields of study, including legal studies, psychology, sociology, education, and political science, among others. CRF challenges the invisibility of women of color in laws that are deemed neutral and resists the idea that the law is fair and balanced. While critical legal scholars successfully critiqued the power structures at play in the legal system, CRF scholars recognized that a critique of oppressive structures was not adequate unless the intersectionality of inequality (complicated by race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic status, nationality, etc.) was addressed. Similarly, CRF scholars critiqued feminist legal theory for not considering the emancipation of all marginalized women, for not examining the deficits within liberal legalism, and for not moving beyond a postmodern paradigm that fails to address the myriad interstices that impact the lives of all subjugated women. In response to these critiques, CRF scholar Adrien Katherine Wing introduced the “multiplicative identity” concept, which suggests that when multiplied, the identities of women of color transform into “a holistic One.” A cornerstone theory regarding identity formation, this concept acknowledges that the experiences of women of color are specific to each individual.


c. FR159 French Civilization (West in Time)

Course Description: This course will explore the historical and cultural development of the French hexagon from the Frank’s efforts to repel the Muslim invaders and unite the disparate tribes of France (and much of Europe) under their rule, to modern conflicts between the descendants of North African immigrants and members of the ultra-nationalistic Front National. The goal of this course is not only to understand the history and culture of a long-time American ally and major world power, but also to appreciate the complexities of any national identity (or identities) and the importance of narrative in its formation.

The course will be organized chronologically, with Block A covering the period from the fall of the Roman Empire to the French Revolution of 1789, and Block B looking at France from Napoleon to the present day. Students will do close readings of literary texts, write critical and creative essays, participate in class discussions, and give group presentations to the class.

Through a study of historical events and documents we will consider the role of race, religion, and gender in the development and the metamorphosis of a narrative of French national identity—that is, how the French have come to see themselves. We will explore the “story” the French have told and continue to tell in order to express the feelings, desires, and anxieties of a people and a time. Thus, we will examine significant examples of French literature (in English translation), as well as selections from the visual arts, architecture, music, and films. Students will explore the many ways these works both reflected and contributed to the notion of “France.”

Rationale: This course will accomplish all four of the criteria for a West in Time designation.

  • It will engage students in an exploration of France’s past through the examination of ideas (presented in literary and historical texts read,) events (such as the French Revolution,) cultural institutions and practices.
  • It will help students expand their understanding of narratives of the Western tradition with an explicit focus on the narratives that have shaped the French national identity (see course description.)
  • It will engage students in critical analysis of the connections between the past and the present, for example in discussions of the fears of Muslim invaders during the Middle Ages and the anti-immigrant sentiments some French people display today.
  • It will encourage students to consider how our understanding of contemporary events is informed by our grasp of the historical past in many ways, not the least of which is a creative essay explaining to a young French person what it means to be French and why.

d. Ecosystems of the Pyrenees (Scientific Investigations)

Course Description: This course, taught largely in Spanish, will use extensive field trips to explore the extraordinarily diverse ecosystems of the Pyrenees region and to analyze how two thousand years of intensive human use have affected the landscape.  We will integrate an overview of the human history and culture of the region with changes in land use that have shaped the landscape in the past and present.  Throughout the course we will review and build Spanish language skills, including vocabulary, grammar and overall abilities to listen, read, discuss, and write.  Prerequisites: a) completion of Spanish 201 or equivalent and b) COI by application.

For about ten days of the course, scientists from the Instituto Pirenaico de Ecología (IPE, Institute of Pirenean Ecology) and the University of Zaragoza at Huesca will accompany us on field trips to help students understand the human and non-human factors that control the landscapes and ecosystems of the area.  This group of four PhD’s participated for twelve years in generally similar course for European students.  The extraordinarily diverse climates within a few hours of our base will allow us to study deciduous forests, coniferous forests, semi-desert, alpine tundra, and diverse shrublands.  Some of these ecosystems are experiencing rapid change due to the loss of transhumance in the last half century.   The strong effects on the landscape of past and present humans will provide students a sharp contrast to the much less impacted ecosystems of western North America.

Rationale: The course will meet at least two of the criteria for N courses:

  1. The course will enhance scientific literacy of students by

    • a) Demonstrating how a variety of environmental factors such as precipitation, temperature, aspect, and rock / soil type affect the plants and animals that exist at a wide variety of sites in the Pyrenees and nearby areas
    • b) Providing experiences where students can understand the strong impact that humans have had on these landscapes, which people have impacted for about two thousand years.
  2. We will explicitly address the nature of the scientific method by reading primary literature and discussing how scientists formulate research questions and gather data to address them.

We request NSEC approval for L credit based on our 12 days in the field, more than many campus-based field courses that receive L credit.  We will start in the Moncayo region where dry mountains with diverse aspects, varying elevations, and sharply contrasting bedrock types provide an easier introduction to the non-human factors affecting ecosystems.  In the Bardenas de Reales region we will examine how heavy grazing can lead to desertification.  Studies in the shrublands of the Pyrenean foothills will demonstrate how loss of traditional grazing leads to shrub invasion of formerly open pastures; this threatens sensitive species that require open habitats and also changes the appearance of a landscape that many people find attractive.  We will compare land use and landscapes in two adjacent mountain valleys, one strongly affected and one unaffected by ski area development.  At all locations we will provide some natural history and historical background for students and then, progressively through the course, ask them to “read” the landscape on their own to infer the factors that control the plants and animals present.  Discussion of both secondary and primary literature before and after visits will lead to discussions on how scientists pose questions and collect data to understand controls on and changes in landscapes.  By the end we expect to ask students to pose their own questions and data collection to address those questions.


2) Assessment of General Education Courses

Summary: In response to the Higher Learning Commission mandate to work on assessment, the COI, with the support and assistance of faculty teaching, and with Institutional Research has developed learning outcomes, direct measurement procedures, and rubrics for the assessment of the Critical Perspectives General Education program.  At Colorado College, we offer many classes to fulfill these requirements.  For example, the college has approved about thirty-five courses to fulfill West-in-Time, including courses taught in History, Philosophy, Religion, Music, Art History, Classics, Math, Physics, English, Drama, and General Studies.  Nearly ninety courses meet the Scientific Investigation requirement, and over two-hundred courses meet the Global Cultures requirement.  This document presents the results of three years of effort by the faculty to develop an assessment plan relevant to all these designated courses. 

The Process: COI built on the current statement of Critical Perspectives goals.  These Critical Perspectives include West-in-Time, Global Cultures, and Scientific Investigation of the Natural World (copied below in section 1a).  We ask students to understand how they are situated in time by studying the Western world through time, and in space, by looking at the diversity of cultures across the globe now and in the past.  Students also study to understand the world outside the human in the third perspective.  Within this framework, the committee drafted a series of learning outcomes associated with each of the three goals.  Faculty teaching the critical perspectives reviewed these objectives.  Faculty teaching scientific investigations offered small revisions.  Faculty teaching West-in-Time courses moved from feeling that courses across disciplines could not possibly be seeking the same outcomes, to an agreed upon set of outcomes.  The breadth of the Global Cultures category (all that is not West) complicated the discussion.  The committee asked about fifty faculty teaching these courses for assistance.  They settled on two fundamental statements that reflected the breadth of what faculty teach.  Throughout this process, the committee compiled responses, revised draft statements, and continued to seek input until participants achieved consensus.  This document presents the results of this three-year process.  Learning Outcomes are found in section 1b; the assessment plan in section 2, and rubrics in Appendix 1.

Introduction:  The COI moved from learning outcomes to direct measures of assessment.  The committee considered an array of options.  At one extreme, the faculty who teach General Education courses could develop a pre-test to be administered to all incoming first-year students and then administer a second test to seniors to determine whether they learned what we claimed they would learn (e.g. faculty develop a variation on the concept of a knowledge survey).  At the other extreme, the college could choose not to develop over-arching measures, but ask individual faculty to create their own direct measures, find someone to review the student learning, and send a report to COI.  In the end, the Committee decided to work with faculty to develop college-wide outcomes and rubrics, and ask faculty teaching General Education courses to designate an aspect of their current courses for evaluation and to pair with other faculty to discuss how well the students meet the goals.


3) Implementation Plan

COI considered several proposals from faculty concerning the best way to carry out the assessment of General Education Critical Perspectives courses.  Some faculty suggested a plan comparable to the Writing Program in which a group of faculty volunteers would be asked to rate all the various pieces of work collected for assessment during the week or so after graduation.  Others suggested that faculty could seek student volunteers to read the work in areas of their expertise.  From these suggestions, the committee selected the following as the best approach. 

COI will assign faculty “partners” each year to exchange and discuss students’ work.  These partners will meet in a collegial environment to discuss what they learned about how well each other’s class is meeting General Education goals.  Finally, they will send a brief report to COI. COI will compile these responses and prepare a report to the faculty each year on how well the courses as a whole are meeting the General Education requirement and make recommendations for areas of improvement as necessary. 

Rather than having all critical perspective faculty involved in the assessment process in any given year and rather than reviewing every critical perspectives course for every learning outcome each year, COI will select approximately one-third of the faculty teaching courses in each of the three critical perspectives in any one year.  COI might be guided in this choice by reviewing one particular learning outcome in each year.  For instance, if COI wished to determine how well our courses in international topics for Global Cultures are meeting goals, then the subset would come from among the international courses that are approved for Global Cultures (G) credit.  Or if COI wished to know more about how well Scientific Investigations of the Natural world (I or Lab) courses are meeting the particular bullet on “the use of quantitative reasoning” (note that SI courses need only meet two of the above five bullets so not all courses address all bullets), COI would select from faculty teaching the subset of I/Lab courses with the quantitative reasoning component. 

Faculty from classes that are being assessed select an appropriate project for that assessment.  As noted above, faculty teaching West-in-Time (W) have suggested to COI that they prefer asking students to write a one or two page essay late in the block (but during the block) intended as a response to a particular learning outcome.  Faculty teaching Global Cultures have indicated they may wish to use such an essay question or may feel that a particular class assignment, unrelated to assessment per se, may equally serve as a valuable assessment tool and may substitute for the one or two page assigned for assessment purposes. I/Lab faculty also wish to select a class project that best responds to the outcome and illustrates how well their students are meeting that particular outcome.  The person reviewing the material is not grading the project, but looking for information on how well the student has met the learning outcome (see rubrics).  We anticipate that this review might take several hours but would not be comparable to grading these essays as part of the class. 

COI proposes to assign courses in such a way that on average, a faculty member would be asked to participate in this assessment every three years (obviously some flexibility is needed, particularly if someone teaches more than one type of critical perspective).  GEOC would not ask a faculty member for an assessment of all sections of a course they teach.  COI will attempt to assign partners from different departments to provide added perspective on our curriculum.


Calculation of Assessment Schedules:

Note: this plan was developed when it still required Diverse Cultures and Critiques, and will be modified slightly to accommodate the new requirements for Global Cultures and Social Inequality.

Overarching Principles: COI will try not to involve one faculty member in the assessment process more than every three years.  In seven years, COI will write a report on what we have learned from the assessment process for our next re-accreditation.  We generally will not assess courses taught by visitors.

Scientific Investigation: There are about 45-50 faculty teaching I/Lab courses each year, most teach more than one such course each year.  We also agreed to select about two of the five science bullets each year to review, so the actual review may be smaller than the number derived here, depending on how many courses incorporate each bullet.  The Registrar will reconstruct that information from the faculty meeting minutes.  So, COI will assess courses taught by no more than 15 (-17) science faculty next year, the next 15 (-17) after that, and the last 15 (-17) in year three.  We almost certainly will assess two sections of one course this way (e.g. Chemistry 107, Math 126,..), but will avoid calling on individual faculty more than every three years.

West in Time: We offer about 30-35 sections each year, many in FYE (which is also being assessed, so some care is needed in selecting those courses).  There are about thirty regular faculty teaching west-in-time courses over all.  So we would assess courses taught by ten of the faculty in year one, a second group of ten in year 2 and the third group of ten in year 3.

Global Cultures and Social Equality: COI will assess one of the two annually.  The college generally offers about 110 of these courses per year; about 45 are related to global cultures; and about 65 are related to social inequality.   In years 1, 3, and 5 we will assess one of these two outcomes; in years 2, 4, 6 we will assess the other.  Of the first set of courses (outcome 2), a number are taught by the same people, and about 30 faculty teach regularly.  So we would plan to assess 10 courses taught by one faculty in year 1, 10 more in year 3, and the last 10 in year 5.  We also have more than one course fulfilling outcome 1taught annually by some faculty, and there are about 30-35 faculty teaching these courses each year, so we would assess courses taught by 10-12 of these faculty in year 2, 10-12 more in year 4, and 10-12 more in year 6.  The result of this is that faculty will likely be involved in assessment once every six years, while those in other areas may be once every three years.


  I or Lab fac W fac G/S fac #students [20/class] #reports to COI
Year 1 15 10 10 (m) 700 35
Year 2 15 10 12 (i) 740 37
Year 3 15 10 10 (m) 700 35
Year 4 15 10 12 (i) 740 37
Year 5 15 10 10 (m) 700 35
Year 6 15 10 12 (i) 740 37
Year 7 compile summary report for next reaccreditation while continuing to tweak and run the program

We should be able to assess the work of more than one-third of our student body each year, though students who take more than one of these courses may find themselves assessed several times during their college years, while asking faculty to participate in this work once every three years.


4) General Guidelines for Critical Perspectives Designation

  1. Courses may meet more than one designation (for example, a course may be designated both “West in Time” and “Global Cultures”) but students must choose one designation or the other. We found that some courses (not many) met the criteria for multiple Critical Perspectives and we would like to honor the scope and depth of these courses. Again, students may not count one course as fulfilling multiple Critical Perspectives requirements. 
  2. Topics courses do not receive blanket designations; we will determine the Critical Perspective designation at the ‘section’ level on a case-by-case basis annually.
  3. Courses of less than one-unit credit do not count toward Critical Perspectives requirements. The rationale is that a 0.5 unit course does not achieve sufficient depth or breadth to fulfill the objectives of the CP requirement. We should note that in the case of a half-block course intrinsically linked to an extended format course (such that students must take both to receive one full unit of credit), the whole course, half-block and extended format combined, may receive a Critical Perspectives designation.
  4. Independent study and reading courses do not count toward Critical Perspectives requirements. Our reasoning is that this sort of course, commonly arranged for one or only a few students, may not devote sufficient attention to the Critical Perspectives objectives for one of the 3 rubrics. Also the more open form of the courses, potentially without regular class meetings, and the small number of participants, may mean that the advantages of undertaking Critical Perspectives investigations with and among a diverse group of students would not be realized.
  5. College-credit courses earned before matriculation at Colorado College (Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, etc.) should not be allowed to fulfill Critical Perspectives requirements, except for the case of transfer students. The rationale is that only courses at Colorado College will have been designed and carried out with the Critical Perspectives objectives in mind. The Registrar will examine transcripts from which questions emerge (for example, transfer transcripts) and, in consultation with the COI, will identify courses that may be eligible.
  6. Two-block FYE courses should be eligible for just one Scientific Inquiry credit, due to the obligation of the FYE courses to help students develop diverse college skills. Linked one-block FYE courses, each of which already has Scientific Inquiry designation, will carry two credits of Scientific Inquiry. Students fulfilling two units of Scientific Inquiry in their FYE linked courses must still also meet the requirement that one unit of Scientific Inquiry must be Lab/Field, which means that if neither of their FYE courses are Lab/Field, they will still need to take a subsequent Scientific Inquiry: Lab/Field course.
  7. (This applies primarily to courses in the Natural Sciences.) Courses with three or more pre-requisites need not be eligible for Critical Perspectives designation, since in most cases the pre-requisites will have satisfied the Critical Perspectives requirement.
  8. (This applies primarily to courses in the Natural Sciences.) Scientific Inquiry courses that already have Lab/Field designation will continue to do so. The COI will not attribute Lab/Field designation to new courses: the department, taking the new course to the divisional executive committee and the Committee on Instruction and the Faculty Agenda, will continue to name new Scientific Inquiry courses as meeting the Lab/Field designation. The NSEC will have the responsibility of reviewing whether a course meets the Lab/Field designation.