September 16, 2009

September 2009 Liberal Education Final Recommendations

LE Final Recs Revised9-04-09.doc

September 2009 - Revised Recommendations from the Liberal Education Task Force

After consultation with the Educational Policy Committee in the spring of 2009, the Liberal Education Task force has made revisions to the March 2009 Recommendations. The significant changes are contained in the Liberal Education Core. The entire document is available as a file on this site. Here is the newly revised Liberal Education Core.

Recommendation 2: Restructuring Liberal Education Requirements at UMD

Recommendation: The Liberal Education Task Force recommends restructuring liberal education requirements at UMD as follows:

Liberal Education Core
Part I. Language and Reasoning Skills (9 credits)
Note: Part I of the Liberal Education Core has been revised since the original recommendations were submitted to the VCAA in March, 2009. The most significant change is the inclusion of a Logic and Quantitative Reasoning requirement Part I c).

a. Writing and Information Literacy -WRIT 1120 (3 credits)
b. Oral Communication and Languages (3 credits)
c. Logic and Quantitative Reasoning (3 credits)

Part II. Knowledge Domains (21 credits)
Note: The only change made in Part II since the March 2009 draft of this report is to eliminate Mathematics, having moved it to Part I c.

a. Natural Sciences (6 credits, 2 designators, 1 lab)
b. Social Sciences (6 credits, 2 designators)
c. Humanities (6 credits, 2 designators)
d. Fine Arts (3 credits)

Part III. Key Topics (9 credits)
Note: The only revision in Part III since the March 2009 draft of this report is to change the title of the third topic from "The Natural Environment" to "Environmental Sustainability."

a. Global Perspectives (3 credits)
b. Cultural Diversity in the US (3 credits)
c. Environmental Sustainability (3 credits)

The above is an outline of the proposed core, which is presented in full, with criteria for approving courses, in the final section of the full document, available on this site as a file to be downloaded.

Total Credit Requirement for the Proposed LE Core
The new LE Core requires a maximum of 39 credits of course work; however, a single course can be used to satisfy multiple requirements, reducing the total number of credits. The following options are available for designing courses to meet multiple requirements.

• A LE Core course that meets the criteria for part II (Knowledge Domain) and part III (Key Contemporary Topic) may be used to fulfill both requirements.
• A course in the major that meets the criteria for parts Ib, Ic, II and/or III may be used to satisfy both major and LE Core requirements.
• Liberal Education core courses offered at the 3000- and 4000-level within the major satisfying the Key Topics requirement will not be required to serve a wide spectrum of students.
• If approved by the relevant department, a Liberal Education Core course may also be used to satisfy a requirement in a student's major or minor.

Context and Rationale:
As indicated in the rationale for our first recommendation, a recurring theme among UMD faculty, staff, and students is that the present program lacks coherence and that it is difficult for students and advisors to understand. The creation of the new Liberal Education Mission Statement begins to address this problem by more precisely outlining the larger goals of a liberal education. But questions regarding the current structure of requirements remain: Is the ten-category distribution model really a "smorgasbord," or is there an underlying structure by which these categories are meaningfully related? Could those same categories be reconfigured and defined so that they don't seem so fragmented and arbitrary to students and advisors? Could we create categories more clearly connected to the liberal learning outcomes identified in the new mission statement? In addition to grappling with these questions about curricular structure, the task force also sought to address a related problem pervasive not only at UMD but nationwide: the perception that liberal education is more or less irrelevant to the rest of the student's education--that lib ed is something to "get out of the way" so that "real" learning can take place in the major. In an attempt to respond constructively to these concerns, the task force has developed a new Liberal Education Core which emphasizes three crucial aspects of liberal learning: Language and Reasoning Skills; Knowledge Domains (and the modes of inquiry employed in each), and Key Topics in our contemporary world.

The task force developed the new LE Core by reviewing liberal education programs on other campuses while at the same time seriously considering the various ways our current program achieves the goals of a liberal education. Our aim was to preserve those parts of our program that are successful and to strengthen it by incorporating some of the best practices of other campuses. The resulting new core meets four objectives that we consider important:
• it promotes greater integration of liberal learning throughout the student's undergraduate education by encouraging the spread of liberal education into the major and across the four years of study;
• it is a clear set of requirements that can be easily understood by faculty, advisors, students, and parents;
• it is a hybrid model that retains the best aspects of our current distribution model while adding intellectual depth and coherence through a uniform emphasis on the various "ways of knowing" employed in different disciplines; and
• it is flexible, allowing students to use courses for multiple purposes and encouraging departments to find creative ways of contributing to the liberal education curriculum while at the same time incorporating liberal learning into their majors.
We believe the proposed core will make sense to students: its structure reflects and facilitates the intellectual growth that should occur over the four years of the undergraduate experience at UMD. The development of language and reasoning skills (in Part I of the proposed core) coupled with study within the four knowledge domains, with a focus on the modes of inquiry used in each (Part II), should prepare students to apply both knowledge and skills when addressing some of the challenging issues we face today (Part III).

It is recommended that two years after full implementation that the new lib ed core undergo an external review to provide an opportunity for evaluation and assessment and further our commitment to continuous improvement of teaching and learning on our campus

Revisions made to the Liberal Education Core since March 2009:

The most significant change to the Liberal Education Core is the inclusion of a Logic and Quantitative Reasoning requirement in Part I Language and Reasoning Skills. In March 2009, the Task force recommended that the need for a logic and quantitative reasoning requirement be studied over the next five years. Feedback from the Educational Policy Committee, and various constituents from across the campus, led to the addition of the requirement at this time. Adding this requirement will create an increased emphasis on the integration of Liberal Education into the major for those major programs with larger credit requirements.

The change to require a course in Part Ic Logic and Quantitative Reasoning now makes Part 1b Oral Communication and Languages a requirement for all students. Part I b. of the LE Core is designed to provide every student with a course in the practice of oral communication. Courses meeting the other criteria but lacking a practice component may receive a temporary waiver of this requirement until additional sections of courses become available or sufficient new courses are developed. Such waivers should be granted for a period not to exceed three years.

The added Logic and Quantitative Reasoning requirement has eliminated the Mathematics requirement in Part II of the LE Core. The Natural Science and Mathematics section of Part II is now titled Part II a - The Natural Sciences.

In Part III, Key Topics, the title of the third topic has been revised from "The Natural Environment" to "Environmental Sustainability."

A word about integrating liberal education into the major:

Members of the Association of American Colleges and Universities and other experts note that one of the problems with current debates about reforming the curriculum in higher education is that they tend to be "fixated" on general education, which typically makes up only about one-third of the courses students take for the undergraduate degree. Meaningful reform of liberal education, they argue, almost inevitably involves making changes in other parts of the curriculum, most importantly the major. The task force strongly agrees with this view and our recommendations reflect that opinion.
The new LE Core allows for integration with a student's major in multiple ways. Since liberal learning courses may also serve as requirements for the major, and upper division liberal education courses may be designed specifically for students within the major (should the department choose to do so), programs will be able to create a tightly integrated approach to achieving the goals of a liberal education, as described in the new Liberal Education Mission Statement. This type of integration will, in most cases, be possible in Part II, Knowledge Domains, and Part III, Key Topics. With respect to Part I, Language and Reasoning Skills, programs will be asked to identify one or more upper division courses within their major that build on the fundamental skills developed in the required Writing Studies and Oral Communication courses. Thus, beginning with a basic writing and information literacy course taken in the freshman year (WRIT 1120), students will move on to a more discipline-focused Writing Studies course (WRIT 3XXX) and the structured learning and application of writing skills in one or more of their major courses. Similarly, students will take an Oral Communication course (or a Foreign Language), ideally early in their program, followed by structured learning and application of oral communication skills in one or more of their major courses.

In previous drafts of these recommendations, we included two "themes" that are not directly addressed in the proposed Liberal Education Core: civic engagement and moral and ethical reasoning. In both cases, we believe that relevant learning outcomes can be achieved without making them explicit requirements within the core. We assume that moral and ethical reasoning skills are currently taught, and will continue to be developed in a variety of courses, especially within the major. The office of civic engagement is currently helping faculty integrate community-based learning strategies into course curriculum, sustaining strong volunteer opportunities and generating other kinds of co-curricular activities to promote citizenship. Another "theme" from our mission statement that is not specifically addressed in the Liberal Education Core is collaborative work. We believe collaborative work is used extensively across the campus, and could be specified as a requirement either for LE Core courses or in the major, or both. However, rather than placing more requirements within the LE Core, we believe that since most majors are already covering these "themes" to some extent, it is reasonable to expect majors to identify where they are accomplishing these goals.

We therefore recommend the following liberal education curricular and co-curricular components be addressed within UMD programs:

1. Moral and Ethical Reasoning
2. Social Responsibility & Civic Engagement
3. Collaborative Work


The explicit and implicit coordination between the major course of study and the Liberal Education Core requirements will create a more holistic approach to accomplishing the goal of a liberal education and, more generally, the academic mission of the University of Minnesota Duluth.

March 11, 2009

Additional Recommendations March 2009

The Final Report from the Liberal Education Task Force contains additional recommendations to the Vice Chancellor of Academic Administration. They are excerpted and included here, as well as contained in the text of the complete report.

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March 4, 2009

Liberal Education Core Program with Criteria March 2009

This version of the Liberal Education Mission Statement and Liberal Education Core with Criteria was endorsed by the Educational Policy Committee on February 25th, 2009. Additional recommendations from the Task Force to the VCAA will be posted prior to Spring Break.


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January 26, 2009

January 26, 2009 draft Recommendations to EPC

The following incomplete draft recommendations include the new Liberal Education Mission Statement and the new Liberal Education Core with criteria, including context and rationale for both. These draft recommendations were sent to the UMD Educational Policy Committee for their feedback on Friday January 23, 2009. The Liberal Education Task Force is scheduled to meet with EPC for feedback and discussion on February 11th, 2009.

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January 15, 2009

January 2009 Revised LE Core

The Liberal Education Task Force has revised their proposal for the General Education component of the Liberal Education program at UMD. The following, newly named the Liberal Education Core, will be discussed over the next two months through the Educational Policy Committee. Campus constituents are encouraged to respond to the new proposal by blogging, by contacting their EPC representative, or by contacting members of the Task Force.

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December 12, 2008

December 2008 Summary of Department Feedback

In September of 2008, the Liberal Education Task Force requested feedback from each depart on the UMD campus regarding the latest draft proposal for a General Education Program. The following is a summary of that feedback arranged by academic unit.

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September 5, 2008

September 2008 UMD General Education Program Draft Outline with Criteria

This new draft outline of the proposed General Education Program reflects input from last April's Public Forum, a LE Task Force retreat this past July, and many responses from various constituencies around the UMD campus. Read it over and blog a reaction.

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June 30, 2008

April 2008 LETF Public Forum Comments/Notes

This document is a compilation of notes taken during the April Public Forum. About 50 members of the UMD campus community attended the forum. They were asked to join small groups to discuss five questions and members of the LE Task Force recorded the commentary. The Forum offered the opportunity for each person to join at least two different discussion groups. This Forum has led the Task Force into another revision process for the proposed General Education Program structure. A new draft of the Program structure will be presented in the Fall.

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April 2, 2008

April 2008 draft General Education Program structure

This draft for a new General Education Program Structure for the UMD Campus is a work in progress. The following document attempts to outline both a new structure for General Education requirements, and present criteria for courses that would satisfy each theme and/or category in that program. All members of the Liberal Education Task Force have helped to generate this working document. This document will be the focus of the next Liberal Education Public Forum Wednesday April 9th in Kirby Ballroom C from 1:30-3:00 p.m. The forum will involve several small group discussions giving participants the opportunity to respond to the new program presented here, as well as suggest other ways that our campus can effectively achieve the desired learning outcomes of a liberal education.

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March 4, 2008

February 2008 Draft Recommendations from the Liberal Education Task Force

Download file

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November 9, 2007

What is Liberal Education - from the AACU Website

What is Liberal Education?

Liberal education is a philosophy of education that empowers individuals with broad knowledge and transferable skills, and a strong sense of values, ethics, and civic engagement. These broad goals have been enduring even as the courses and requirements that comprise a liberal education have changed over the years. Characterized by challenging encounters with important and relevant issues today and throughout history, a liberal education prepares graduates both for socially valued work and for civic leadership in their society. It usually includes a general education curriculum that provides broad exposure to multiple disciplines and ways of knowing, along with more in-depth study in at least one field or area of concentration.

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Four Models of General Education

Four Models of General Education

Adapted from

Our Underachieving Colleges: A Candid Look at How Much Our Students Learn and Why They Should Be Learning More

By Derek Bok

2006 Princeton University Press

Chapter 10 Acquiring Broader Interests

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October 10, 2007

Liberal Education Task Force Research Data 2001-2007

Links to Other Liberal Education Programs

LE Task Force Partial Reading List 2007

Student Focus Group Summary 2002

Student Survey Results 2001-2004 (cumulative)

Student Survey Comments Summary 2001-2004

Alumnae Survey Results 2007

Alumnae Survey Comments 2007


May 2007 Liberal Education Task Force Year End Summary

The Liberal Education Task Force was constituted in late fall 2006 and given the following charge: to look at recommendations drafted by the Liberal Education Policy Subcommittee of EPC; to review, in-depth, the information gathered by that subcommittee and any other data the task force wished to collect, and, finally to “propose a future direction and mission for the liberal education program at UMD.�?

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