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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.

UMD General Education Program
Draft Outline with Criteria
September 2008

The proposed UMD General Education Program has three parts. The first part expands an emphasis on written and oral communication skills, including information literacy. Part two reorganizes the knowledge domains to offer students experience with various modes of inquiry. Part three expects students to bring together knowledge and skill to study three key contemporary issues.
In this draft, proposed criteria for all components of the plan, with the exception of the Writing & Information Literacy portion of Part 1, are included.

General Recommendations
• The Task Force recommends a focused effort to re-commit our faculty, staff and students to the importance and value of a liberal education, both in terms of pedagogy and advising. Emulation of national trends and current best practices will be encouraged.
• To be considered for inclusion in the new liberal education curriculum, all courses will be resubmitted for approval. Course proposals should clearly show that the course satisfies the new criteria for the General Education Program.

Proposed Criteria for all General Education courses

Courses approved for general education credit will---

o Be suitable for a wide spectrum of students
o Be taught by those familiar with the goals and methods of teaching liberal education courses
o Make use of active learning strategies, including those which require writing, speaking, and accessing information beyond that provided in the course textbook and assigned readings
o Help students to understand the nature and value of a liberal education and to recognize how the course in question contributes to such an education
o Be offered at the 1000-, 2000-, 3000-, or 4000-level
o Be offered regularly (at least once a year)


I. Writing, Information Literacy, and Oral Communication Skills

WRITING Writing Studies 1120
Writing Studies XXXX

The Task Force recommends that the existing introductory writing class, WRIT 1120, be followed with a second course preferably within the student’s first two years of study. Programs will identify an additional upper division course or courses within the major that provide additional writing experience.

The process of creating the details of the above portion of the new draft General Education program is not complete. Course criteria will be developed at a later date to suit the agreed-upon writing sequence.

ORAL COMMUNICATION 1 Course selected from a variety
of courses across several disciplines

The oral communication requirement redefines the current Category 3 by recommending that all courses approved for this area provide instruction in formal and/or informal oral communication.

These courses emphasize the theory and practice of oral communication in a variety of settings – one on one, small groups, and/or formal and informal presentations to larger groups. The courses emphasize effective spoken communication of ideas related to a broad range of subjects and/or to a specific area of study. General education courses in oral communication teach the fundamentals of oral communication which can be adapted for use in any field, including listening respectfully and critically, explaining points clearly, asking questions to gain understanding, and adapting messages for different audiences and contexts.

Through a variety of assigned and evaluated oral communication activities, such as those listed below, these courses must provide instruction and feedback for students in order to increase their competence in spoken communication.

Criteria for Oral Communication courses

In addition to meeting the Criteria for all General Education Courses, courses approved for general education credit in Oral Communication will:

o Examine the thought processes necessary to organize speech content
o Analyze components of effective delivery and language
o Analyze ways in which oral communication is amplified or inhibited by non-verbal forms of communication
o Require students to demonstrate, through at least two assignments in formal and/or informal settings, the ability to communicate information and ideas effectively to groups and/or individuals. These assignments should include critical evaluation and feedback and account for at least 20% of the students’ final grade.

Assignments that can satisfy this requirement include, but are not limited to:

o Group presentations-- incorporating individual presentations
o Facilitating/Participating in group discussions and community gatherings
o Chapter/Section presentations to class
o Individual presentations/Speeches-- formal/informal
o Panel discussions
o Engaging in outreach activities that incorporate oral communication skills (e.g., community teaching, coaching, presenting)
o Various forms of interviews/interrogations
o Press conference
o Various persuasion/influence appeals (e.g., sales presentations, solicitations, motivational presentations)
o Individual creative/aesthetic performances (e.g., storytelling, performance of literature, interpretations and readings, stage performance)
o Debates (individual and team)
o Critiques of and responses to others' performance, presentations.

II. Knowledge Domains – Ways of Knowing

All UMD students complete general education courses in the four major knowledge domains. In addition to content intrinsic to each of these areas, these courses will introduce students to the principle modes of inquiry within each domain.

By reducing the number of categories from ten to four, and by requiring that knowledge domain courses discuss the multiple ways in which scholars and researchers acquire knowledge in these broad areas of intellectual inquiry, the new general education curriculum substantively revises the distribution model upon which the current UMD Liberal Education program is based.

Criteria for all Knowledge Domain-Ways of Knowing courses

In addition to meeting the criteria for all general education courses, courses approved for credit for the knowledge domains will—

o Identify the established modes of inquiry within the knowledge domain and explore some of the various ways in which scholars/researchers/practitioners investigate, test, and create knowledge
o Identify some of the controversies and/or unanswered questions within the particular knowledge domain
o Explain how knowledge in the domain is professionally validated and enters the public realm and with what effect
o Point out connections to other fields and disciplines, as appropriate
o Situate the course content, at least minimally, within the historical development of major ideas in the field
o Courses approved for Knowledge Domains may come from a variety of departments and may involve instructors from more than one department or collegiate unit.


THE NATURAL SCIENCES AND MATH (2 courses, different designators)

Natural Sciences

The natural sciences focus on the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theory of natural phenomena. Disciplines that typically are included in this domain are biology, chemistry and biochemistry, the geological sciences, astronomy, the environmental sciences, and physics.

General education courses in the natural sciences teach students how to formulate and test scientific hypotheses, interpret experimentally obtained data, and draw conclusions from the data. They also create a link between scientific ideas and problems that arise in the everyday world.

In addition to meeting the Criteria for all General Education Courses and the Criteria for Knowledge Domain-Ways of Knowing Courses, courses approved for general education credit in the natural sciences will:

o Focus on content appropriate for the natural sciences
o Familiarize students with the scientific method by actively engaging them in the process of objectively developing and empirically testing hypotheses
o Address the variety of ways by which scientists arrive at, develop, and test ideas about the natural world, including the distinction between statistical distribution of patterns, testing of hypotheses using experiments, and the development of theory to guide experiments and observations, and the distinction between prediction, statistical analysis, and experimental data in drawing conclusions about cause and effect
o Help students to understand how established scientific methods and accepted theories have developed historically out of a process of discovery, debate, and consensus-building over time within the scientific community
o Increase quantitative literacy skills and engage students in mathematical thinking through the analysis and interpretation of data and by providing direct problem-solving experiences.

Mathematics

As a knowledge domain, mathematics includes uses formal symbolic systems to treat such concepts as quantity, space, change, and structure. It consists of many fields including but not limited to algebra, geometry, calculus, arithmetic, trigonometry, topology, probability, statistics, set theory, group theory, graph theory, and chaos theory.

In addition to meeting the Criteria for all General Education Courses and the Criteria for Knowledge Domain-Ways of Knowing Courses, courses approved for general education credit in math will:

o Develop students’ ability to understand, use, and analyze formal symbolic systems by which mathematics operates and expresses itself
o Demonstrate and engage students in the processes of mathematical reasoning and discovery
o Represent mathematics as both a tool applied in other fields of science and as a body of knowledge that is valuable in its own right
o Create a link between mathematical ideas and problems that arise in the everyday world, for example, probabilistic thinking and decision-making.


THE SOCIAL SCIENCES (2 courses, different designators)

The Social Sciences are those branches of knowledge that investigate how cultural, social, and structural factors influence human social behavior. Disciplines typically included in this domain are anthropology, geography, political science, psychology, sociology, and economics; interdisciplinary fields and sub-disciplines that make important contributions to social science inquiry include education, communication, women’s studies, and cultural studies.

General education courses in these fields introduce students to the major theoretical perspectives in the given field, such that students understand the meaning and application of key concepts, learn how to both test and build theory, and articulate policy implications of theory. Students are introduced to the standard methodological approaches utilized by social scientists so that they learn how to formulate hypotheses, collect data, interpret and analyze data, and draw conclusions.

In addition to meeting the Criteria for all General Education Courses and the Criteria for Knowledge Domain-Ways of Knowing Courses, courses approved for general education credit in the social sciences will:

o Focus on content appropriate any of the many branches of social science
o Demonstrate some of the ways in which social scientists study human group behavior
o Engage students actively in one or more of methods by which social scientists formulate hypotheses, gather and interpret data, and reach conclusions
o Acknowledge and, where appropriate, demonstrate the relevance of other disciplines—especially those within the domain of the social sciences-- to the material under study.


THE HUMANITIES (2 courses, different designators)

The Humanities are those branches of knowledge concerned with human thought and culture. They typically include language, literature, history, and philosophy, as well as important interdisciplinary fields and sub-disciplines such as English; linguistics; foreign languages, literature, and cultures; cultural studies; and communication.

In humanities courses, students learn to describe, analyze, interpret, and otherwise critically examine the products and processes of human culture, including material artifacts, activities, and systems of meaning and value (such as particular philosophical, linguistic, and intellectual traditions or innovations). Humanities courses typically situate the objects of study historically and within the context of a particular culture or cultures. Humanities courses introduce students to the theories and methods of inquiry relevant to a particular field, or fields, of humanistic study, and they make students aware of the controversies within that discipline. Humanities courses therefore encourage students to examine objects of humanistic study closely, analytically, and critically in order to deepen their appreciation for the diversity and complexity of human culture.

In addition to meeting the Criteria for all General Education Courses and the Criteria for Knowledge Domain-Ways of Knowing Courses, courses approved for general education credit in the humanities will:

o Focus on course content appropriate to the wide field of humanistic studies
o Involve students in the active, critical examination of the products and/or processes of human culture
o Situate the objects of study historically and in relation to the culture(s) that produced them
o Familiarize students with the established mode(s) of inquiry in the relevant subfield(s) of humanistic study
o Identify some of the controversies and/or unanswered questions within the field.

THE FINE ARTS (1 course)

The Fine Arts use imagination, creativity, and discipline-specific skills to reflect the complexity of human life. They typically include art, creative writing, dance, graphic design, music, and theatre.

Fines Arts courses develop the student’s ability to think and act with creativity, demonstrating intellectual curiosity, imagination and flexibility. These courses also develop the student’s ability to appreciate the aesthetic value of static and kinetic fine art.

In addition to meeting the Criteria for all General Education Courses and the Criteria for Knowledge Domain-Ways of Knowing Courses, courses approved for general education credit in the fine arts will:

o Provide students opportunities to learn about the techniques of artistic creation.
o Provide students opportunities to experience or observe the creative process.
o Enable students to draw on the intellect, emotions, and knowledge of historical context in order to comprehend, analyze, and interpret works of art.
o Enable students to comprehend the relationship between the creative process and the historical, socio-economic, and cultural forces surrounding it.
o Familiarize students with the established modes of inquiry in the relevant subfield(s) of the fine arts.
o Identify some of the controversies and/or unanswered questions within the field and/or about the material under study.
o Develop aesthetic values and the ability to appreciate art.



III. Key Contemporary Issues

Engaging appropriately with people of various cultures, functioning effectively in international situations, and recognizing the impact one has on the natural environment have become essential competencies in the 21st century. Being liberally educated today means being knowledgeable and capable in these three critical areas.

The proposed new general education program therefore requires that students take a Key Contemporary Issues course in each of the following three categories: Global Perspectives, Cultural Diversity, and the Natural Environment. Contemporary yet enduring, these three issues may be defined in different terms five to ten years from now; the categories therefore should be reviewed and possibly undated on a regular basis.

Ideally, these courses are taken later in the student’s course of study and build on their developed communication skills and experience with the knowledge domains. Courses approved in this section can also satisfy requirements in a student’s major or minor and must focus on only one of the three designated key issues.

Criteria for all Key Contemporary Issues courses

Courses approved for general education credit in Key Contemporary Issues will---

o Examine one of the three designated key contemporary issues and explore ways in which it may affect the life of the student in the present and in the future
o Identify some of the controversies and/or unanswered questions the issue presents.
o Examine connections to other fields and disciplines, as appropriate.
o Situate the course content, at least minimally, within the historical development of the critical forces contributing to the issue.
o Make the chosen issue the dominant focus of the course, integral to its content and objectives, as evidenced by the syllabus, course assignments, and learning activities described in the proposal.

GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES (1 course)

Courses approved for the Global Perspective requirement focus on developing an awareness of contemporary global issues and transnational connections. Global issues entail interrelationships among cultures, societies, nations, and other social units worldwide, and they include transnational processes such as migration, urbanization, trade, diplomacy, and information flow. Courses can come from a variety of disciplines, including interdisciplinary approaches involving two or more departments.
Courses will examine global issues facing at least one country other than the United States, with an emphasis on shifts in cultural, economic, political, and social relationships. Students will have the opportunity to consider matters such as the rights and responsibilities of global citizenship and to develop greater cross-cultural competence.

In addition to meeting the Criteria for all General Education Courses, courses meeting the requirements of this theme will:

o Critically examine the rights and responsibilities of the globally competent citizen
o Examine at least one non-U.S. country, culture, or region
o Help students to understand current global developments, to consider how they will participate in global change, and to anticipate how they might be impacted by current and future trends in international politics, economics, and social and cultural norms
o Provide students with opportunities to develop cross-cultural competence.

CULTURAL DIVERSITY (1 course)

Courses approved for the Cultural Diversity in the United States requirement focus on creating awareness of diverse cultural values and increasing a commitment to knowledge and competence across various cultures, with an emphasis on those represented in the United States. Courses can come from a variety of disciplines, including interdisciplinary approaches involving two or more departments. These courses provide students with an opportunity to broaden their knowledge of the culturally complex social fabric of the United States and to enhance their abilities to interact with the diverse groups that make up our nation.

In addition to meeting the Criteria for all General Education Courses, courses meeting the requirements of this theme will:

o Critically examine issues of human and cultural diversity
o Provide an understanding of differences based on race, class, gender, ethnicity, age, disability, affectional orientation, and/or religious affiliation
o Examine diverse traditions and values, as well as the social, cultural, and political contributions of different groups
o Advance students’ understanding of how different cultures historically have shaped, and been shaped by, social, political, and economic realities in the United States, with an emphasis on past and present aspects of social justice
o Provide students with opportunities to develop cross-cultural competence.

THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT (1 course)

Courses approved for the Natural Environment requirement focus on developing an awareness of the interaction of the natural environment with societal needs and desires. Courses can come from a variety of disciplines, including interdisciplinary approaches involving two or more departments. Courses will examine the relationship between the science of the natural environment and its interaction with economic, social, and political forces in a local, national and/or global context. Students will develop the ability to understand and analyze the impact of their lives on the natural environment.

In addition to meeting the Criteria for all General Education Courses, courses meeting the requirements of this theme will:

o Address in detail one or more important environmental issue or topic.
o Consider both the scientific as well as the economic, social and political dimensions of the topic, with some attention to the relationship between scientific inquiry and policy-making.
o Cover fundamental scientific principles applicable to environmental issues, and utilize these principles to evaluate the validity of information pertaining to the topic in question.
o Provide the economic, social and political context necessary to analyze the issue or topic from a public policy perspective, with special consideration to the challenge of reconciling the needs of human society with those of the natural environment essential to sustaining all life.

Comments

Bill
I have just really looked very quickly through the program and you and the task force have put a lot of effort into it. But the first thing that comes to me is: "Is it really your intent to have math majors for example, just take a class in math and one in stats and it would cover the knowledge base of Science and Math?"
Also where does Computer Science fit into this program? We all use computers all the time and we must make sure that our students can too?

Thanks to the task force for the Draft Outline with Criteria, (September 2008. It surely reflects much work.

Two of the "Proposed Criteria for all General Education courses " trouble me.
The second bulleted item says that courses will "Be taught by those familiar with the goals and methods of teaching liberal education courses". This has implications for teaching assignments and training of faculty or for hiring criteria. Is there a plan to offer or require training of faculty? Unless implications of this bullet are clear, it is not necessary. I suppose that when a department head assigns a faculty member to teach a course, the department head believes the faculty member to be is familiar with the goals and methods needed to teach the course.
The third bullet specifies "use of active learning strategies." That may be a worthy goal for all courses, but unless it is specific to general-education courses it need not be included in this list of criteria. I prefer that learning strategies be determined by the department or instructor, subject to approval as part of the course proposal.

Concerning Category I, "Writing, Information Literacy, and Oral Communication Skills," the document calls for programs to " identify an additional upper division course or courses within the major that provide additional writing experience." An upper-division course within a major is unlikely to meet the first general criterion, that courses be suitable for a wide spectrum of students. For that reason, specification of an upper-division writing-intensive course in the major may not belong in the general education program. Perhaps departments should have such courses, but probably not within the scope of General Education.


The proposed change from liberal-education categories to fewer Knowledge Domains is a valuable simplification.

I suggest the Knowledge Domains should include Computer Science somewhere. Perhaps the first domain, Natural Sciences and Math, could be split into two:Natural sciences Math, Statistics and Computer Science


The number of courses required in the various domains might more simply be one per domain. Otherwise, requiring two courses in Humanities, for example, but only one in the Fine Arts seems arbitrary. I would prefer the more flexible requirement of an overall total number (e.g., seven as proposed) with at least one course per knowledge domain.


I recommend removing category III, "Key Contemporary Issues." As the Draft Outline indicates in bold italics, maintaining a three-item list of important, teachable contemporary issues will require regular review and possible updating. Regular substantive review is itself difficult, a major task for some committee. Progressing from review to change will be too slow. Momentous inertia to changing general education will impede the regular updates that would be needed to keep the list of contemporary issues contemporary.

Concerns I have:

1. Natural science needs more prominence; currently our students take a science course with lab and this has to be one of the most important active learning experiences a person can have; I would hate to see us lose that.

2. The additional writing course threatens to worsen our students' prospects of graduating in a timely manner.

3. The additional 'oral communication' course does the same thing. Unless both the writing and the communication categories are construed very broadly, we will create curricular bottlenecks of great severity for no very obvious educational benefit. (I believe in leaving these skill-level decisions to the departments and their majors.)

4. I agree with Paul Siders that the third category of "Key Contemporary Issues" should be dropped, thus freeing up space for the restoration of science including computer science (per Penny Morton's suggestion above), and a promotion of fine arts courses from their proposed reduction as well. The contemporary issues that are most important within each discipline are covered by our strong departmental majors.

5. I would love to see us develop some writing course alternatives that are discipline and department-based, so that freshmen could take their entry-level writing class in Philosophy or any other department that cares to offer a writing-intensive introductory class. Thus I hope Category I above can be amended to read "Writing Studies 1120 or other approved writing-intensive course". I think this is more in the spirit of liberal education, if we can still use that term...I've never liked the idea of a Lib Ed category with only one course in it (freshman comp).

First, I would like to thank the committee for the time and effort that they've put in revising the Lib Ed structure.

I have some questions:

1. Under the Writing category, the proposal recommends a second Writing Studies course, at any level, 1000-4000. The reasons for the recommendation are not presented, so it is difficult to see what student need would be served by any writing studies course, but not served by any other course, no matter how writing intensive it might be.

2. The general description of the Oral Communication category seems pretty open, and would admit of courses across several disciplines. However, the Criteria look very restrictive, especially the requirements that any such course:

"Examine the thought processes necessary to organize speech content

Analyze ways in which oral communication is amplified or inhibited by non-verbal forms of communication

Require...at least two assignments...including critical evaluation and feedback and account for at least 20% of the student's final grade"

If those criteria are strictly adhered to, then it is unlikely that a variety of courses across several disciplines would satisfy the requirement. This seems more likely to create a curricular bottleneck, as Prof. Browning notes. In any event, the tension between the description and the Criteria should be resolved.

3. I second (or third) the concern about lumping the Natural Sciences and Math into the same Knowledge Domain, particularly given the very different ways of knowing presented in the proposal's own descriptions.

4. The proposal doesn't specify whether double-dipping would be possible, allowing a single course to satisfy both a Knowledge Domain requirement and a Key Contemporary Issues requirement.

5. In the Proposed Criteria for all Gen Ed Courses, the proposal recommends that active learning strategies include, "those which require writing, speaking and accessing information beyond that provided in the textbook..." Is that "including" meant to be "necessarily including" or "including but not limited to"?


The Educational Policy Committee discussed this revised proposal yesterday. Here's a quick summary of the reactions:

1. Concern about the reduction of quantitative analytical course work (math, formal logic, computer science) in the new system.
2. Concern about the confusing structure of the new system, esp. as compared to our current one.
3. Concern about the additional writing course esp. in light of its having no content description or rationale.
4. Concern about the oral communication requirement as adding additional obstacles to graduation and having a negative impact on our graduation rates.
5. Concern about the criterion re: 3000- and 4000-level courses and the criterion of openness to wide spectrum of students: conflicting criteria.
6. Concern about the undefined nature of the categories; it is not even very easy to say how many there are, let alone what they really mean.
7. Appreciation of the opportunity to consider upper division major requirements for their writing intensiveness.

8. Why "General Education"?
9. What about the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum in relation to this proposal?

10. Concern about the Task Force's proposed time line: in light of the proposal's very incomplete state here in mid-September, this may not be realistic.

Thanks to the task force for their work.

The knowledge domains for math and science (and computer science) need strengthening. The center of gravity of our knowledge and culture has shifted more towards understanding and using technologies.

The descriptions of the criteria for the oral communications and contemporary issues raise concerns about increasing the total credit impact of the proposed GE program for students in science engineering. I am hopeful that these courses will be satisfied with individual program courses and the knowledge domain requirements for no net gain in total credits required.

I have another thought about double-dipping (allowing one class to satisfy two or more Gen Ed requirements). Double-dipping might be permitted as a way of easing the students' burden and making graduation within normative time that much simpler. However, if double-dipping is allowed, then satisfying the Writing requirement (with the two Writing Studies classes) would also automatically satisfy the Humanities Knowledge Domain requirement.

So, if the Humanities Knowledge Domain requirement is to have any meaning, double-dipping should be explicitly prohibited.

I have some concerns and questions about the proposed general education program:

In a world where the U.S. educational system is increasingly criticized for producing graduates who lag behind in math and science, we at UMD are considering dumbing down the math and science requirements! It is scary to think that a college graduate could meet all math and science requirements by taking Human Nutrition and Life and Death of the Dinosaurs or two similar courses.

I would suggest the following:
-One course (3 credits minimum) in computer science
-One course (3 credits minimum) in mathematics or statistics
-Two courses (3 credits minimum each) in the natural sciences, with different prefixes, limited to Physics, Chemistry, Biology, or Geology

I am also concerned about the addition of credits to the engineering programs. The oral communication requirement would almost certainly add a course to our programs, and it would be hard to imagine an upper-division course in Mechanical Engineering meeting the cultural diversity requirement. Our programs already total 128 credits and increasing them above 130 would make four-year graduation almost impossible.

I also have some questions. The old liberal education program had a 35 total credit requirement. Would there be a similar total credit requirement in the new program? In a related matter, is there any minimum credit requirement in each category? For example, would a one-credit course in guitar satisfy the fine arts requirement?

1. The proposal in its present form causes concern because it would appear to add courses to our 4-year program that presently stands at 129-131 credits. If this were to be the case, then our program’s own process of self-improvement, required by the accreditation body (ABET), would become even more difficult; there is precious room for maneuver within our program as it now stands.

2. It is puzzling that the Natural Environment is not included within the Natural Sciences for the following reasons:
a. A science, at a quantitative level, is necessary for an understanding of the Natural Environment.
b. The Natural Environment provides a marvelous “laboratory? within which to study and learn a quantitative science.

3. However “general education? may be defined, in its broadest sense components of it are advanced naturally in upper-division courses within separate disciplines. As an example from the program within which I teach, there are 4-courses in the final year (two 3-credit lab courses, two 4-credit design courses) in which both writing and oral communication are an integral and important part. Will there be a means by which the UMD General Education Program will recognize this?

Thanks for all your work – this is an unenviable task!

Thanks, Eve, for posting the summary of the conversation that took place at EPC last Wednesday. The Task Force would like to respond to a few of the areas of concern/reactions.

The Educational Policy Committee discussed this revised proposal yesterday. Here's a quick summary of the reactions:

1. Concern about the reduction of quantitative analytical course work (math, formal logic, computer science) in the new system.

One of the challenges facing the design of a new program is that many constituents want more course work in certain traditional components of a liberal education, in addition to new challenges facing graduates today (like Computer Science, global trends, etc.) AND they need the number of requirements to remain the same. This has led to many compromises in terms of what one General Education program can realistically achieve. Regardless of how we shape this program, we will not be able to accommodate, in a single undergraduate experience, everything that needs more attention. We have attempted to find a balance. The discussion of whether or not this balance works for the campus is the next step.

2. Concern about the additional writing course esp. in light of its having no content description or rationale.

The writing component of the General Education program is still being discussed. We hope to have a more complete proposal in the near future. What is currently in the plan is an idea that has prompted more substantive discussions between the Task Force, the Writing Studies Department, and the VCAA.

3. Concern about the oral communication requirement as adding additional obstacles to graduation and having a negative impact on our graduation rates.

The Oral Communication section of Part 1 is a redefining of our current Category 3 rather than an additional requirement.

4. Why "General Education".

The following is from the American Association of State College’s and Universities website “What is Liberal Education?:

Often-Confused Terms

Liberal Education - A philosophy of education that empowers individuals with broad knowledge and transferable skills, and a strong sense of values, ethics, and civic engagement. Characterized by challenging encounters with important issues, and more a way of studying than specific content, liberal education can occur at all types of colleges and universities. "General Education" (cf. below) and an expectation of in-depth study in at least one field normally comprise liberal education.

General Education - The part of a liberal education curriculum shared by all students. It provides broad exposure to multiple disciplines and forms the basis for developing important intellectual and civic capacities. General Education may also be called "the core curriculum" or "liberal studies."

5. What about the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum in relation to this proposal?

The EPC Liberal Education Subcommittee dealt with the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum issue several years ago. Our current system of categories (established during semester conversion in the 1990’s) does not correspond completely with the MTC categories. A new list of UMD courses approved for LE, was generated using the MTC categories. This was posted as our version of the MTC requirements. MTC serves a minority of students that can still meet the requirement by using this list. The Task Force felt that adopting the MTC program as our General Education program would not serve the majority of our students or programs well.

We will continue to stay connected to the blog and respond here occasionally. We appreciate all of your interest and your willingness to contribute to the discussion.

Bill, thanks for your responses to the EPC criticisms. In some cases perhaps I didn't make the concern clear enough so here's a quick follow-up:

1. Concern about the impact on natural science, math, and computer science learning opportunities was a strong theme in our discussion (and can be seen in this blog's comments as well). This is not a concern about 'balance' but a concern about 'loss'.

2. Category 3 presently contains courses with 13 different prefixes. The criteria for the oral communication category threaten to narrow this focus to 1 or possibly 2 course prefixes. Hence the concern about curricular bottleneck.

3. As long as the additional writing requirement is entirely a 'pig in a poke' (old Southern expression having nothing to do with politics), we can only discuss it in the most general of terms. Those terms include its impact on our already alarming graduation rates and students' debt burdens upon graduation (an area in which UM systemwide compares unfavorably to peers). It is hoped that we can think about how writing is already integrated into majors, and how this can be strengthened.

Thank you to Bill and the committee for all of the time spent on this project and for seeking and responding to an enormous amount of feedback.

I appreciate the changes to the proposal, the newest version is much easier to understand and, I believe, to explain to students.

Looks like a total of 12 courses would be required? I am curious about the format used to communicate this to students (how it will visually appear), but perhaps this won't come until later in the process.

Communicating one consistent and concise message about the curriculum is something we currently lack and will be especially important with the changes.

Again, thank you for your work.

It looks to me like the minimum number of classes in the proposed system would be 13 (unless double-dipping is allowed).

Writing - 2
Oral - 1
Knowledge Domains - 7
Key Contemporary Issues - 3

That's a net increase of 3 classes over the current system's minimum of 10 (presuming the courses average to 3.5 units - the current system also has a unit minimum of 35).

If I've made a mistake, please let me know.

Just a few quick, unofficial thoughts. I don't speak for anyone but me!

Jason: I just want to be clear about the differentiation between Writing Studies courses and Humanities courses. While it is true that rhetoric, as a humanistic tradition and skill set, is a core part of the writing curriculum, that does not mean that all Writing Studies courses are humanities courses. Indeed, the field is bifurcated in the way that many contemporary fields are: humanistic/theoretical work and social scientific work coexist in the same departmental structure. There are empirical studies of writing, conducted using the empirical methods of the social sciences, and there are humanistic studies of writing, often using historiographical, rhetorical or critical theoretical research methods.

So, the presumption that any WS course is a humanities course will vary, course by course, based on that course's place in the curriculum. For example, WRIT 1506, Literacy, Technology and Society, is a Humanities course that does not fulfill the Category 1 requirement.

It is fair to say that modes and methods of humanistic inquiry is not the core of the FYC curriculum. To use some philosophical language, it is neither nomothetic nor idiographic. Rather, the instructors of those courses are committed to a genuine openness to objects of study of the majors of the students enrolled in the class, in terms of the information literacy and written communication skills necessary to enter college intellectual life.

I cannot speak to the possibility of double-dipping in the hypothetical pig-in-the-poke, as Dr. Browning has correctly identified the second course.

The improvement of writing is the one thing that politicians, faculty, and corporate leaders can all agree is a priority. One of the troubling aspects of the debates, as I have heard them, is that the participants all share this common value, but only vary in how to achieve it. I hope that as we discuss further, we can begin with that common value, rather than focusing on the minor differences in implementation.


Some more thoughts:

1. "…include, but is not limited to..." language should be in the list of exemplar departments in each of the knowledge domains. Without this language, these lists can be seen as encompassing the whole, rather than exemplifying what extends far further. (We don't want to constrain future departments and future faculty based on the list of departments we have now, as they are structured now.

1a. "Writing Studies" is also a domain of knowledge as well as a skill set (see note above to Jason). So, it could be represented in the Humanities to be sure and in the Social Sciences, potentially.

2. Mandating that courses be offered once a year is more stringent than is required now and will create more complex enforcement than is currently required of the Lib Ed Subcommittee of EPC.

3. The math articulated, in going from "ten categories to four domains," is off. In fact, two categories are moved up and one category (the basically Current Events category) has moved down. It's moved from seven categories to seven courses in four categories. That's an improvement, but not as substantial as indicated.

4. Only the Soc Sci category uses this language, and I think it should be in all domains: I like this from the SS category and would add it here.
“Acknowledge and, where appropriate, demonstrate the relevance of other disciplines—especially those within the domain of the humanities -- to the material under study.?

More thoughts as they arise and as issues become clearer.

David

There seems to be a presumption here that the problem with lib ed as it exists today is in how the categories are put together or defined. I don't think that's the case. I think the larger problem is that some departments are clearly approaching lib ed in what I would call a cynical manner designed to boost their student counts and increase the number of courses that they offer. They are doing this by populating many different lib ed categories with classes, and in some cases making them really really easy, so they represent a well known path of least resistance through the lib ed program. I think that's unfortunate, and will continue unless there are some structural changes that specifically limit the number of categories in which any department may offer courses (or in which students may take them). I would sugges that the current lib ed program could have been salvaged simply by requiring that departments list their courses in one category only, if that would have been done I think we'd see much less of the random scrambling of classes that we now see in lib ed.

The hard work going into this new proposal will be wasted unless some hard constraints like that are in place, otherwise we'll end up with exactly what we have now. So each department that wishes to offer lib ed classes should decide which SINGLE category they wish to be included in, and then only offer courses in that category. Lib ed is about many things, but perhaps most importantly it is about breadth, and I think having students go out and take course from as many different departments as is possible is a very good thing, and would be better than what sometimes occurs now.


Hello, Anonymous,

It seems to me that several departments would be forced to have uncomfortable discussions about preferred methodologies defining the department's work if forced to choose only one lib ed category, at least in the proposed configuration.

Is history a social science or a humanity? Some history classes integrate novels as sources of historical narrative; some historical work depends on statistical and economic data thoroughly entrenched in the social sciences.

Geography is one part techne, one part human science, and one part humanistic theory.

Philosophy contains strands throughly humanistic and also intimately tied to mathematical reasoning.

Communication and Writing Studies share a bifurcation in the human sciences and humanities.

Anthropology consists of both physical and cultural methodologies.

While it might serve a maieutic function to have discussions about the ways of knowing in each department, to presume that a consensus could be reached that would not simply wallpaper over disciplinary tensions (or create them) seems unlikely, to me.


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