Which Core Matters More?

Differences in definitions of quality lead to new debates over the importance of teaching practical skills versus specific knowledge

The Debate Over Improving Higher Education Comes Down to Which Core Matters More: Skills or Curriculum 1

Fabrizio Costantini for The Chronicle

Mark Higbee, a history professor at Eastern Michigan U., uses a teaching method called Reacting to the Past, in which students, in effect, enter into the era at hand. "If a professor stands at the front of the classroom and talks about Plato," he says, "it doesn't mean the students are learning Plato."

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close The Debate Over Improving Higher Education Comes Down to Which Core Matters More: Skills or Curriculum 1

Fabrizio Costantini for The Chronicle

Mark Higbee, a history professor at Eastern Michigan U., uses a teaching method called Reacting to the Past, in which students, in effect, enter into the era at hand. "If a professor stands at the front of the classroom and talks about Plato," he says, "it doesn't mean the students are learning Plato."

Potential students hoping to gauge the quality of courses at Portland State University might be forgiven for feeling a bit confused.

On the one hand, the University Studies program, which uses interdisciplinary seminars during the first two years to develop students' core skills, has been widely praised and emulated. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation has