College Catalogue

Perspectives on Hamilton's Educational Goals

Hamilton’s Educational Goals – An Overview

Heather Buchman, Associate Professor of Music

Hamilton College’s new educational goals, adopted by the faculty in May 2011, represent a new step in the College’s Open Curriculum.  In articulating Hamilton’s vision of the liberal arts, these goals preserve the freedom that the Open Curriculum offers students, while bringing greater focus and clarity to liberal arts studies within this context.  The goals are designed to give students and faculty advisors a framework to help students define and shape their individual programs.

A central element of the philosophy underlying the goals is that they are organic rather than mechanical in nature.  Instead of prescribing specific classes or subjects, they articulate the essential elements of a 21st century liberal education in terms of capacities to be developed. 

Another essential aspect is that the goals are transdisciplinary – each one is active across the curriculum, and hence can be cultivated within any field of study.  This gives students maximum flexibility to determine how to build on their previous learning experiences with new ones, in a way that makes sense for their personal goals. The transdisciplinarity of the goals both reflects and facilitates Hamilton students’ instinct for making connections between ideas and concepts in courses from different fields. The goals also reveal connections between the curriculum and many co-curricular activities.

The structure of the educational goals reflects the wide scope of intellectual work being done across campus.  The first goal, intellectual curiosity and flexibility, is the foundation on which all the other goals stand.  The liberal arts’ traditional focus on critical thinking is elaborated in the paired goals of analytic and aesthetic discernment.  Along with Hamilton’s historical strengths of writing and speaking (now expressed as communication and expression), emphasis is also given to other goals that are increasingly vital for today’s graduates – disciplinary practice and creativity.  The goals flow naturally from individual capacities to the more outward-looking goals of understanding cultural diversity and ethical and engaged citizenship.

Taken together, the educational goals are intended to inspire students and professors alike to develop and work in multiple dimensions through their engagement in the liberal arts.

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