ERIC Identifier: ED358894
Publication Date: 1992-12-00
Author: Ignash, Jan
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for Junior
Colleges Los Angeles CA.
Describing the Non-Liberal Arts Community College Curriculum.
The community college curriculum reflects the diverse aims of the approximate
1,250 institutions nationwide. Courses are offered in the liberal arts, in
occupational subjects, in community service interest areas ranging from CPR to
origami, in literacy, in adult education, and in special contract programs with
business and industry. While trends in the liberal arts have been charted for
many years (Cohen and Ignash, 1992; Cohen and Brawer, 1987; Lewis and Farris,
1990), trends in other areas have not been similarly mapped. A recent study of
credit non-liberal arts courses by the Center for the Study of Community
Colleges (CSCC) has attempted to round off the curriculum count by tallying
courses not included in previous liberal arts studies.
This digest presents the results of the 1992 "Non-Liberal Arts Curriculum
Study." While dividing the curriculum into neat little "packets" of liberal arts
versus non-liberal arts courses is necessary to measure curriculum in each area,
these tidy divisions do not hold entirely true in real life. The final portion
of this article comments on several "integrated curricula," which combine both
liberal arts and non-liberal arts subject areas.
THE 1992 CSCC NON-LIBERAL ARTS STUDY
In order to gain a better understanding of the entire community college
credit curriculum, the CSCC augmented its 1991 study of the liberal arts (Cohen
and Ignash, 1992) with a study of the non-liberal arts, using data from the same
random sample of 164 community colleges. The new study will eventually link
descriptive information on the non-liberal arts curriculum with two other CSCC
databases to explore the relationships between curriculum and transfer, as well
as minority student enrollment and curriculum. This digest is reporting on the
first portion of the study--that of tallying and analyzing courses in the
community college curriculum outside the liberal arts.
In seven studies conducted by the CSCC since 1975, the liberal arts have been
tallied according to six major discipline areas: humanities, English, fine and
performing arts, social sciences, mathematics and computer sciences, and the
hard sciences. Courses were also coded into remedial, standard and advanced
categories. Almost all remedial courses were coded under the categories of
English, mathematics, and the hard sciences (mainly biology and chemistry).
Another taxonomy was established at the CSCC for the non-liberal arts, based
largely upon the subject area divisions used by the National Center for Research
in Vocational Education. The new study counted and categorized non-liberal arts
courses into one of ten major areas, using the same Spring 1991 class schedules
provided by the 164 colleges in the 1991 National Liberal Arts Study.
HOW MUCH OF THE CURRICULUM IS DEVOTED TO THE NON-LIBERAL
In spring 1991, 43.4% of the community college curriculum was devoted
to the non-liberal arts. The way in which the study tallied course sections is
pertinent to this finding. In none of the studies undertaken by the CSCC were
laboratory classes included. Also, a course had to list a meeting time and place
in order to be tallied; therefore cooperative education, apprenticeship,
clinicals, practicums, field experience, and independent study courses were also
excluded. Since laboratory classes occur with greater frequency in many
non-liberal arts subject areas, such as automotive or nursing programs, their
omission may at least partially account for the lower percentage of non-liberal
WHAT ARE THE NON-LIBERAL ARTS?
The CSCC study found that
four categories accounted for slightly more than 80% of all non-liberal arts
courses. "Business and office" courses were by far the largest category,
occupying a full 24.6% of the total non-liberal arts curriculum. This category
included courses in accounting, taxes, business and management, typing,
shorthand, and filing, legal assistant and other business courses. The "personal
skills" category was the second largest grouping of courses, accounting for
19.1% of non-liberal arts courses. Physical education accounted for the lion's
share of "personal skills" courses, although courses such as freshman
orientation, introduction to the library, parenting, career and life planning
were also included. The third largest category was "trade and industry," at
18.6%, and included construction, automotive, surveying and drafting, CAD/CAM,
other mechanics and repairers, cosmetology, and hospitality industry courses.
The fourth largest category (18.1%) was "technical education"; computer software
applications courses accounted for the largest portion of courses coded under
this category. Other courses included in "technical education" were protective
services (fire, police, and military science), journalism, other mass media, and
graphics and commercial photography.
Six other areas accounted for the approximately 20% of all other non-liberal
arts courses: health occupations (10.2%); marketing and distribution (3.4%);
education (2.5%); engineering technology (2.0%); agriculture, including
floriculture and agribusiness (1.2%); and home economics (.2%).
WHY WERE SO FEW COURSES COUNTED IN SOME OF THESE
Some of these findings bear comment. Few "true" home economics
courses were found, as many sewing, tailoring, food preparation and
preservation, and interior decorating courses were more oriented toward
providing training for students in consumer service areas than skills to be used
in the home. Only courses in baking, cooking and sewing for one's personal use
at home were included under "home economics." Classes such as pattern design,
fabrics, wines, culinary arts, and refrigeration for restaurants were often
clearly "trade and industry" classes as judged by both course titles and course
descriptions. Nutrition classes were often coded under "health," while parenting
classes were coded under "personal skills." Using this taxonomy, then, the
category "home economics" all but disappeared.
Education was another category which accounted for only a small percentage
(2.5%) of the non-liberal arts curriculum. While community colleges tend to
offer courses in early childhood education and physical education instructor
training, four-year institutions are the traditional teacher-training colleges,
and education courses are not often found in community colleges. Two other
areas, "agriculture" and "engineering technology," also accounted for small
proportions of the non-liberal arts curriculum (1.2% and 2.0% respectively). The
reason for this lies partly in the fact that courses in these two areas which
are considered more science-oriented were coded as liberal arts. Even when the
results of the liberal arts and the non-liberal arts studies are added together,
however, neither engineering nor agriculture accounts for a sizable percentage
of the community college curriculum.
THE IN-BETWEEN ZONE: COURSES WHICH TEACH BOTH LIBERAL ARTS AND NON-LIBERAL ARTS
The non-liberal arts study has established a baseline
for future CSCC studies of this area of the curriculum. But what about
interdisciplinary or "integrated" courses in which both the liberal arts and
non-liberal arts subject matters are taught? For the most part, these courses
have been coded in the liberal arts studies under such categories as "business
English" or "applied mathematics." These courses bear additional comment,
however, because of their often innovative nature in providing education to
community college students.
In general, community colleges have developed two types of integrated
courses. The first type focuses on providing literacy or mathematics skills in
occupational courses, while the second combines a regular liberal arts area such
as history or biology with occupational subject matter. Examples of the first
type include San Jose City College's Applied Mathematics for Electronics, the
Auto Literacy Program at Yuba College in Marysville, California, and College
Skills for Health Occupations Students offered at Santa Rosa Junior College
(Evaluation and Training Institute, 1991).
The second type of integrated course is truly interdisciplinary in nature, in
that it combines regular content from two different subject areas. Examples of
this type of integrated course include "Oceans," an Oregon community college
multidisciplinary course in humanities, technology, and science which is
required for students in occupational fields; "Living with Technology," a
California community college course giving an introduction to the history and
concepts of technology; "The Individual and Technology," and "Modern Business
Ethics," offered at Illinois community colleges (Cohen, 1989). Both in content
and instructional methods used, these courses tend to emphasize working with
others, solving problems, making decisions, and adapting to changes in the
workplace (Cox and Pecorino, 1990). The Community College Humanities Association
cites the ability to make value judgments, to contribute to human development
and understanding, and to appreciate the variety of human purposes as among the
benefits to students who complete integrated courses (Community College
Humanities Association, 1991).
While it is often difficult for community college educators to find the
resources and expertise necessary to develop integrated curricula, enough
examples of such courses exist to indicate that efforts are being made to
provide students with opportunities to experience interdisciplinary courses (see
Studies like the CSCC's non-liberal arts study
provide an indication of curricular trends. But the purpose of these studies is
not merely descriptive. Current research at the CSCC is focusing on relating
these trends in the curriculum to information on student and course transfer
rates and minority student enrollments. Descriptions of the total community
college curriculum, combined with information on student populations and
transfer rates, can provide a more complete picture of the kind of education
taking place in community colleges--information which may tell us which
curricula are effective for various purposes.
Cohen, Arthur M. and Ignash, Jan M. (Fall 1992). "Trends in the Liberal Arts Curriculum." The Community College Review 20(2),
Cohen, Arthur M. and Brawer, Florence B. (1987). The Collegiate Function of
Community Colleges. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Community College Humanities Association and the National Council for
Occupational Education, Inc. (1991). "Successfully Integrating the Humanities
into Associate Degree Occupational Programs: An Implementation Manual."
Philadelphia, PA: Community College Humanities Association. 101pp. (ED 330 405)
Cox, Rodney V. and Pecorino, Philip. (Summer 1990). "Successfully Integrating
the Humanities into Associate Degree Occupational Programs." Journal of Studies
in Technical Careers, 12(3): 221-30.
Evaluation and Training Institute. (1991). "California Community College
Handbook: Teaching Basic Skills in Vocational Education. Model Programs." Los
Angeles, California. (ED 335 489)
Grubb, Norton. (1992). "A Time for Every Purpose: Integrating Academic and
Occupational Education in Community Colleges and Technical Institutes."
Berkeley: National Center for Research in Vocational Education.
Lewis, Laurie L. and Farris, Elizabeth. (1990). Undergraduate Course
Offerings and Enrollments in Humanities. Higher Education Surveys Report, Survey
Number 11. Rockville, MD: Westat, Inc. 52pp. (ED 323 874)