Curricular Change and the Ship of Theseus


  • Kevin D. Egan Drexel Universisty



curricular change, design thinking, logic of the curriculum, self-authorship, exploratory students, individualized majors


In this essay, I will use the “ship of Theseus” paradox as a thought experiment to tease out what can and should remain the same when a student makes curricular changes. This thought experiment, which questions whether a ship remains the same ship if all of its component parts are changed over time, provides us with a conceptual framework to examine circumstances in which curricular change is the rule and not the exception. Such changes are positive steps in a student’s learning and development, rather than signs of indecision or immaturity. As such, the paradox is useful in helping advisers and mentors think about the student’s curriculum as it evolves and changes over time. I also draw on Aristotle’s four causes of change as conceptual language to navigate the ship of Theseus paradox. I argue that advisers should promote meta-learning through guided reflection in order to maintain a consistent path towards student learning despite curricular change. Finally, the essay culminates with some tools and techniques that prioritize process in pursuit of the kind of meta-learning that supports student development and success.


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