The First-Year Program is an innovative educational experience required of all new students and comprised of three curricular elements: (1) Inquiry 111; (2) Writing; and (3) Oral Communication. These courses provide a common educational experience for first-year students and are the centerpiece of liberal learning at Westminster.
Inquiry 111 comprises a semester-long course of study designed to confront and engage students. The faculty have identified three outcomes and objectives for this course:
Articulate and practice the values and methods of a liberal arts education. To accomplish outcome #1, the course should provide students with the opportunity to:
- study classical and contemporary liberal arts practices and theories;
- recognize the greater expectations associated with college-level work and develop appropriate critical thinking and information literacy skills;
- evaluate moral and ethical responsibilities they have to various communities as a result of their education.
Engage, experience and explain different ways of knowing. To accomplish outcome #2, the course should provide students with the opportunity to:
- examine and compare each of the Intellectual Perspectives as ways of knowing;
- recognize and respect different world views;
- challenge their own assumptions to promote inquiry and intellectual growth.
Pursue interdisciplinary study and discussion of important issues. To accomplish outcome #3, the course should provide students with the opportunity to:
- investigate and discuss significant or controversial issues from multiple cultural and intellectual perspectives;
- engage diverse views of common readings and issues;
- participate in an active learning community sharing a first-year experience.
In addition to the Inquiry course, first-year students are required to take writing and oral communication courses purposely designed to complement Inquiry 111. Assignments in writing and oral communication correspond with those in Inquiry, thus making skill and content instruction mutually reinforcing. In turn, learning in the Inquiry course is enhanced throughout the year as a result of the synergistic effects of more effective written and oral communication skills being developed by students. In both communication skills courses, the applied use of information technology is employed.
Inquiry 103 is designed specifically for Lifelong Learning students to introduce and engage them with questions that have traditionally been at the center of a liberal arts education.
Writing is a valuable and necessary tool for the investigation, exploration, analysis, evaluation and expression of ideas and experiences encountered in Inquiry 111. First-year students receive instruction and practice in essential skills and forms of written expression. The course in writing capitalizes on the substance of the Inquiry courses to motivate learning-specific skills in written expression and to enhance teaching and learning in Inquiry. WRI 111 or an approved equivalent is required of all first-year students. Students must earn a grade of C- or better in order to meet this requirement.
Like writing, the mastery of oral expression skills is essential for success in college, a vocation, and throughout life. The first-year course in oral communication provides a basic grounding in these skills. Oral communication capitalizes on the substance of the Inquiry courses to motivate learning-specific skills in oral expression, and to enhance teaching and learning in Inquiry. SPE 111 or an approved equivalent is required of all first-year students.