I recently went in to my department on campus to turn in a copy of my gradebook. While I was there, I checked my department mailbox. I found a copy (nice copy—plastic spiral-bound with cardstock covers) of a report from a conference attended by our (now former) head of department. Apparently, the powers that be want completely uniform classes for uniform, measurable results, and we're all expected to jump on the bandwagon with them by redesigning our courses.
Good luck with that. Trying to get all of the professors—especially in the humanities—to agree on curriculum for the big, core class sections (i.e., freshman/sophomore level survey classes, and composition classes) is like herding cats: impossible.
It's been attempted before, but my department's inhabitants in particular jealously guard their right to choose their own textbooks and readers, particularly for the composition classes. And I suspect that, if consensus were forced, the one with the fewest teaching skills, grading skills, and desire to teach that particular class (but who is able to talk about nothing until the rest of us wind up nodding and agreeing just to shut him the hell up) will be the one who gets to set curriculum and textbook.
I won't lower my standards to that. I wrote my own textbook, have created my own assignments, and make my students do more graded writing than anyone else in the department. I don't edit their papers for them (like one colleague), don't hold with grade inflation (like most of my colleagues), and (unlike a colleague also in the adjunct office) actually grade their work whether they mark it "confidential" or not.
I will admit that one thing in that eighty-page handout made sense: many of my colleagues in the humanities take the basic, entry-level, freshman survey courses, and teach their own pet ideas without regards for what the course is supposed to convey. And I will admit that composition is vulnerable to that—one of my new colleagues (hired since I had the imp) suggested that, since composition classes don't have "content," it's up to us to make the class meaningful, so he makes the students study and write about the Harry Potter series.
Umm…that kind of turns a composition class—one where learning how to structure the paper IS the content—into a literature class. When the focus leaves the skills set—paper organization (and thesis statements), development at the paragraph level, sentence structure, and grammar and editing—because of a perceived lack of course content (which is supposed to be the teaching of course skills), of course we wind up with course drift.
The problem isn't the courses. The problem isn't the curriculum objectives. The problem isn't the administration's perceptions. The problem is the professors who don't want to teach what they were hired to teach. And the problem with the whole concept of course redesign is the reliance on education theorists, theory buzzwords that mean absolutely nothing, and administrative nincompoops who see the problem, but have no clue how to fix it*.
In any case, I think it's an effort doomed to failure by the sheer size of the task, the lack of clear objectives set by administration, and the obstinate foot-dragging I foresee from the ones that actually teach the classes.
*Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach. Those who can't teach come up with theories to justify their existence in teaching the teachers. And those who can't do that go into administration.