The Big Question: Curriculum Reform, Assessment and the Survival of the English Major

Seri I. Luangphinith


This essay has been one of the hardest professionally to write as it documents some very personal and professional soul-searching that involved myself, many of my colleagues, and the students in our department over the span of four years. When I first presented our initial reform attempts at the 2010 CEA in San Antonio, much of this paper was simply about our new major which emerged as a result of assessing our failing program and negotiating the politics of reforming the English Major. We were proud to have rolled out a new version of the English major that seemed in better standing with the national trend towards student-centered learning. But since then, a number of local and national developments have lent urgency for further reflection and even more drastic changes to the “way we do business.” This essay will lay bare the emotionally challenging and often convoluted process by which one small program in a rural community in the Hawaiian Islands is continually having to re-invent itself at a critical time when there seems to be a cadre of setbacks and pressures, both internal and external, that will inevitably impact the future viability of literary studies as we know it.

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