Curricular Change and the Ship of Theseus

Authors

  • Kevin D. Egan Drexel Universisty

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.26209/mj2361910

Abstract

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.

References

Aristotle. (1906). Posterior analytics. (G. R. G. Mure, Trans.). The Internet Classics Archive. http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/posterior.html (Original work published ca. 350 B.C.E.).

Aristotle. (1930). The physics. (R. P. Hardie & R. K. Gaye, Trans.). The Internet Classics Archive. http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/physics.html (Original work published ca. 350 B.C.E.).

Baxter Magolda, M. B. (2004). Making their own way: Narratives for transforming higher education to promote self-development. Stylus.

Baxter Magolda, M. B. (2008). Three elements of self-authorship. Journal of College Student Development, 49(4), 269–284. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19496591.2016.1121147

Baxter Magolda, M. B., & King, P. M. (2008) Toward reflective conversations: An advising approach that promotes self-authorship. Peer Review, 10(1).

Caplan, B. (2018, January/February). The world might be better off without college for everyone. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/01/whats-college-good-for/546590/

Design Council. (2015a). Design methods for developing services. Design Council. https://www.designcouncil.org.uk/sites/default/files/asset/document/Design%20methods%20for%20developing%20services.pdf

Design Council. (2015b). What is the framework for innovation? Design Council’s evolved Double Diamond. https://www.designcouncil.org.uk/news-opinion/what-framework-innovation-design-councils-evolved-double-diamond

Epstein, D. (2019). Range: Why generalists triumph in a specialized world. Riverhead Books.

Fain, P. (2014, October 28). Big Ten and the next big thing. Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/10/28/competency-based-education-arrives-three-major-public-institutions

Georgia State University. (n.d.). Meta majors. Retrieved July 26, 2020, from https://success.gsu.edu/initiatives/meta-majors/

Hart Research Associates. (2013). It takes more than a major: Employer priorities for college learning and student success. Association of American Colleges and Universities. https://www.aacu.org/sites/default/files/files/LEAP/2013_EmployerSurvey.pdf

Hart Research Associates. (2018). Fulfilling the American dream: Liberal education and the future of work. Association of American Colleges and Universities. https://www.aacu.org/sites/default/files/files/LEAP/2018EmployerResearchReport.pdf

Hennig, B. (2009). The four causes. The Journal of Philosophy, 106(3), 137–160. https://doi.org/10.1080/19496591.2016.1121147

Logue, J. (2015, September 11). Un-undeclared. Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/09/11/rhode-island-college-aims-improve-retention-meta-majors

Lowenstein, M. (2000, April 14). Academic advising and the “logic” of the curriculum. The Mentor: An Academic Advising Journal, 2. http://dus.psu.edu/mentor/old/articles/000414ml.htm

Pizzolato, J. E. (2005). Creating crossroads for self-authorship: Investigating the provocative moment. Journal of College Student Development, 46(6), 624–641. https://doi.org/10.1353/csd.2005.0064

Plutarch. (1683). Theseus (J. Dryden, Trans.). The Internet Classics Archive. http://classics.mit.edu/Plutarch/theseus.html (Original work published ca. 75 C.E.).

Rhode Island College. (2020, June 3). Exploring majors. Retrieved July 26, 2020, from http://www.ric.edu/Exploring-Majors/Pages/default.aspx

Straumsheim, C. (2016, August 24) Decision time. Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/08/24/study-finds-students-benefit-waiting-declare-major

University of Wisconsin. (n.d.). UW Flexible Option. Retrieved July 26, 2020, from https://flex.wisconsin.edu/

U.S. Department of Education. (2017, December). Beginning college students who change their majors within 3 years of enrollment. https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2018/2018434.pdf

Downloads

Published

2021-07-06