The Pilot Curriculum is a long-range experiment in the College of
Arts and Sciences, designed to test an alternative to the College's current
general education curriculum. Beginning with the class of 2004, a subset
of students in the Pilot Curriculum were not required to meet the standard
College degree requirements, but instead fulfilled an alternative set
of requirements characterized by (1) a more concentrated and more compact
set of general education requirements (four interdisciplinary courses
instead of the ten-course General Requirement), (2) a corresponding increase
in the number of free electives, (3) an emphasis on planning with an
academic advisor (including development of an Academic Plan during the
sophomore year), and (4) a required research experience, normally in
the context of the student's major.
The Pilot Curriculum was implemented as a true, randomized experiment.
Each year, beginning with the class of 2004, approximately 200 students
were randomly selected for admission to the Pilot Curriculum from the
pool of pre-freshmen applicants for the program, and the remaining applicants
(ranging from 74 to 208) were designated as applicant non-Pilot.
The Evaluation Committee has obtained data through multiple methods,
including interviews and meetings with faculty and advisers, focus groups
of students, web-based surveys of students, and analyses of student records,
and course evaluations. This interim report is not intended to make definitive
conclusions because we have only partial data even for the class of 2004,
because we plan to replicate our results for the class of 2005, and because
we are soliciting suggestions for additional questions and analyses before
preparing our final report.
Faculty instructors of Pilot General Requirement courses have generally
expressed enthusiasm for these courses. In contrast, student ratings
of these courses on multiple dimensions are very similar to ratings for
the regular General Requirement courses.
Our evidence suggests only very limited success in the goal of improved
advising for students in the Pilot Curriculum.
Few differences in course choices were found in comparisons between
Pilot and non-Pilot students in analyses of data from transcripts and
students' self-reports. The Pilot students did report more research experience,
but no significant differences were found by Pilot status in the proportion
of students who were earning double majors, dual degrees, sub-matriculation
masters, or minors, and no significant differences were found in measures
of study abroad, foreign language learning, and several additional learning
experiences. Evaluation of the research experience of Pilot students
is on-going among second semester seniors of the class of 2004.
Analyses of student records showed no significant difference between
Pilot and non-Pilot students in the average number of science courses
taken, and this lack of difference held both for students who were science
majors and for those who were not science majors. Nevertheless, among
non-science majors, Pilot students were significantly more likely than
non-Pilot students to have taken only one science course and to have
taken no mathematics or statistics courses. However, it should be noted
that, among seniors, Pilot students were not more likely than non-Pilot
students to have low scores on the scientific and quantitative literacy
test we developed. There also were no differences in mean scores for
the scientific and quantitative literacy test or for a scale that measured
interest in science.
There were no significant differences by Pilot status in students' ratings
of their “entire educational experience at Penn” or in their
ratings of the contribution of a Penn education to none of ten intellectual
abilities assessed. However, Pilot students did give somewhat more favorable
ratings of the contribution of their Penn education to the “ability
to learn on your own, pursue ideas, and find information you need”.
In summary, despite substantial differences between the requirements
of the Pilot Curriculum and the regular curriculum, and despite our extensive
evaluation of multiple sources of information on outcomes, we have found
little difference in outcomes for Pilot vs. non-Pilot students.