History Dept. to Consider Revising General Exams

The undergraduate curriculum committee of the History Department last week submitted to the department a revised proposal to replace senior general examinations with small seminar-like discussion groups and three papers.

Last February the committee submitted its first proposal to change the nature of the required senior examination, which six students failed last May.

After considering the first proposal, the department faculty returned the proposal to the committee to work out the mechanics of the system.

Senior Colloquia

If the faculty adopts the proposal, seniors concentrating in history will participate in three separate month-long discussion groups known as "Senior Colloquia." At the conclusion of each one-month module, the teacher would assign a paper of not more than 2500 words which the students would have to complete in 1 to 3 days.

These three papers would serve the purpose of the existing written exam. The department would grant half-course credit upon completion of the third module.

Senior and junior faculty members as well as teaching fellows would teach the modules.

The revised proposal recommends implementation of a temporary pilot project if the faculty decides not to commit itself to the full project. The pilot plan would allow only a limited number of "representative" seniors to participate in the Senior Colloquia, exempting them from the general examination.

"The pilot program will offer evidence whether or not this module system provides a superior education," Giles Constable '50, Lea Professor of Medieval History and chairman of the committee, said yesterday.

"The difficulty of the pilot program is that one group of history concentrators will be taking one set of general examinations with the remainder taking another set," he said.

Wallace T. MacCaffrey, chairman of the History Department, said yesterday the department faculty has not yet had time to consider the revised proposal. "We will get to it before the end of the semester," he said, but declined comment on the substance of the proposal.

Thomas J. Kimmell '74-75, a member of the committee, said yesterday that the new system, if adopted, will prevent a repeat of last year's unprecedented failing.

Eighteen History seniors failed their written generals last spring and six of them did not pass the subsequent oral test. The six students were not given degrees at the 1973 commencement, but five of them passed their make-up general examinations last fall.

"Instead of writing just one exam, you get a chance to write three papers. It takes away a lot of the pressure," he said.

Kimmell also praised the exposure to faculty the colloquia would provide.