Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College

Academics

Guidelines for Student-initiated Connections

The following principles codify the practice since 2010 of the Connections Subcommittee of the Educational Policy Committee, and are posted by Joel Relihan, Associate Provost, on Oct. 25, 2012.

1. It is hard to convince the committee about the connection value of a survey or introductory course. The breadth of survey courses is so large that it could likely connect to many other courses and is almost a connection unto itself. This seems to violate the spirit of the connection component of the curriculum. Aim to connect courses beyond the introductory level.

Along these lines, think of serial vs. parallel work. A course that leads into another is serial in nature and may be more of a prerequisite than a true connection. Two courses that are at the same level are parallel and it may be easier to convince the committee of a connection between the two. Exceptions to this might be in the field of performing and studio arts, where often the culminating performance depends on the integration and connectedness of the various courses that lead up to that final piece of work.

2. Stating the content that is common to two or three courses may be useful, but this alone does not justify a connection. Look for a meaningful, deeper connection between the courses.

3. Similarly, merely stating that there is already an existing connection between courses similar to those in your proposal does not automatically justify the proposed connection or convince the committee of your connection.

4. Support your rationale for the proposed connection with specific examples in your essay. For example, which assignments in either course could be used to demonstrate the connection between courses?

5. Be sure to reflect on the connection in both directions. There is a synergy between courses that enhances the overall experience; the sum is greater that the individual parts. How is your view of one course influenced by the other? What more can you get out of taking "course A" once you have also taken "course B"—and vice versa?

6. If you are proposing to connect a course that contains a practicum experience, be sure not to neglect the remainder of the coursework; that is, the reading and discussion that you do in the classroom and away from your field placement site. While the experiential component may be the larger part of the course, do not disregard other course material.

7. If you are proposing to connect a math course, be sure to demonstrate that the math is more than just a tool to better understand the other course. For example, calculus is fundamental to the quantitative nature of economics. The math course in this case is nearly a prerequisite to the economics course. On the other hand, the use of statistics in an anthropology course connects two disciplines that are normally not associated in such a way.

In sum: Connections should provide breadth across the liberal arts curriculum more than depth in a particular subject area. Strive to do more than simply show how a tool, idea, or concept learned in one course is applied in another.

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