Tuesday, November 11, 2014
200 or 300?
In humanities and social science fields especially, is there a national authority or something similar that delineates the boundaries between 200 and 300 level in a generally accepted way?
State standards? Yes. Set by human beings serving on an articulation committee, not truly hard and fast rules, but binding on all CCs and state universities. I've only observed rather than participated in that process, but it pretty much ran along the lines I expected. (The fight was over organic chemistry. A fight before my time was over differential equations, but what I was told matches the former case. A fight that might not be winnable would be over a course your CC teaches: linear algebra.) Upside: no ambiguity about what is a lower division or upper division class. Downside: no ambiguity. Ambiguity might be what allows your math department to teach linear algebra.
That standard reflects upon whether that course is required as part of the the credits that normally fit into the max allowed at the upper division level (less than 60) for majors in the department teaching the class and/or if it is used to decide if a student can enter a major. Chemistry majors must take organic as sophomores according to the standard progression used everywhere (AFAIK) and it is a prereq for classes normally taken as a junior if you are to get out in 4 years. And that is what puts linear algebra in the upper division category. It is widely used as a major requirement for a low-level math major (e.g. major in math with minor in secondary ed) and can also be used toward earning a minor in mathematics. I know this distinction applies both in my current state and in the one where I went to grad school.
Not sure if that helps (its not exactly in the wheelhouse you asked for), but maybe you know enough about instances like I described to see an analogy in other fields. Problem there might be that the state universities themselves don't agree.
Finally, none of what I wrote constrains private universities (although some play along), and they must be at least half of your problem.
Say, for example, that either the state or a dominant public universities requires 45 content-specific courses before entering an education major. One issue is the late-decider: what happens when you realize after 50 credits that you really want to be a teacher? You're still lower-division, but you're still behind.
But the other is the relationship between 2-years and 4-years, especially if the extra requirements requires curricular Tetris. My conclusion: the 200- vs. 300-level query is just the tip of the iceberg.
Another question could be engineering thermodynamics. Even within our school, some Engr departments have it in the sophomore year and others in the junior year. I have seen it listed as a course at the local CC. I don't recall if I've seen it transferred in.
Some courses are standardized enough to be accepted fairly universally (physics, calculus, linear algebra, ordinary differential equations, all of which are lower-division). Others vary on the level they are assigned (like introductory circuits in electronics, which may be upper- or lower-division, and often more rigorous in the colleges that think of it as lower-division).
In the humanities, I doubt that you could get two faculty within a college to agree on the appropriate level for each others courses, much less between colleges in different systems.
California transfers work by pairwise articulation agreements—a rather cumbersome process when there are 112 community colleges, 23 Cal State campuses, and 10 UC campuses. (145 choose 2 is 10440 pairs.)
But having seen the enormous variation between similarly named and described courses, I don't see that there is much hope for uniform transfer without overly rigid restrictions on what colleges are allowed to teach.
Within my department (chemistry), we take the view that a the numbers indicate what year a BS chemistry major should be taking the class, based on what it has as prereqs and what has it as prereqs. We give our students a sample schedule that agrees with this pretty well. There's only one out-of-place course, but that's due to a recent change in the order we teach two classes. It works pretty well for a hierarchical major like chemistry, which has lots of prereqs, but I imagine that doesn't help much with some majors. I was also an English major as an undergraduate and I remember often having sophomores and juniors in the same class.
At my undergraduate school, we had courses numbered between 1 and 199 for undergraduates, and I've seen schools with numbers in the thousands, so the 100, 200, 300, 400-level scheme isn't even used everywhere.
I described the model we use in Chemistry here, but it seems like other departments use a different model. Both Biology and Physics seem to take the approach that 100-level classes are for non-majors. Physics has their non-calculus intro course and their "physics for future presidents"-like courses at the 100 level, but their first course that a physics major would take (calculus-based intro) is 201. Biology is similar.
My point is that sometimes it's not the 4-year school doing something, it can be the CC doing something it has to know will not be acceptable to the main institution to which its students are likely to transfer.
I know what the previous comment is talking about with respect to a class like the intro to marketing we offer for an AS major. It would never transfer into a real business school.
We have plenty of algebrists on our math faculty who are eminently qualified to teach that class and could use a change of pace from calculus and college algebra.
The ACS certification certainly contributes to the structure of chemistry programs. There's still variability between departments on certain courses, though. I took Inorganic Chemistry as the equivalent of a 100-level course*, taught at a level appropriate for freshman with only General Chemistry as a prerequisite. The same college now teaches it as a 200-level course, with the first Organic Chemistry course as a prerequisite. I'd guess it's intended to be taken sophomore year, and I'd guess it's taught at a more advanced level than when I took it. Where I teach now, we teach Inorganic Chemistry as a 400-level course with prerequisites that mean most students taking it are seniors, and it's definitely taught at a more advanced level than my Inorganic course was.
* We had an odd numbering system at the time, ad Inorganic chemistry was 16. The two general chemistry courses were 10 & 12 (or 13 for an accelerated combined course). In the chemistry department, and most others, courses in the teens were generally introductory courses meant to be taken in the Freshman year if that was your major.