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.
Recommendation: Redefining the Mission of Liberal Education at UMD
Recommendation: The Liberal Education Task Force recommends that the following language be adopted as the UMD liberal education mission statement:
Mission Statement: The Goals of a Liberal Education
A liberal education prepares individuals to lead productive and socially responsible lives in a diverse and rapidly changing world. Liberal education at UMD helps students develop competencies that can be adapted for use in any occupation and by virtually any individual. Liberal education at UMD is not restricted to any particular part of the curriculum but is woven through each student’s course of study, including core requirements and requirements for the major.
Liberally educated students are “Aware, Prepared, and Committed.”
• Of the foundations of knowledge and inquiry about nature, culture and society
• Of the past and its relevance to the present and the future
• Of diverse cultural values
• Of the ethical implications of ideas and actions
• Of contemporary global issues
• To identify, analyze and solve problems, demonstrating critical and analytical thinking competency within and across various fields of knowledge
• To think creatively, demonstrating intellectual curiosity, imagination and flexibility
• To communicate effectively through writing and speaking
• To work productively independently and through collaboration
• To access, evaluate, and make use of information gathered through multiple methodologies
• To life-long learning
• To civic engagement and social responsibility
• To knowledge and competence across cultures
Context and Rationale:
The task force began its work by gathering input regarding perceptions of liberal education on the UMD campus. The one complaint that we heard most consistently was that the current program lacks clarity and coherence. We learned that students have difficulty understanding what is required and why; that advisors are often unable to explain the requirements clearly and persuasively to their advisees or even to themselves; and that many faculty see the current liberal education curriculum as a “smorgasbord” of course offerings rather than the unified program it purports to be.
In reviewing the relevant sections of the UMD Catalog, the task force also discovered that the language which currently appears to function as a mission statement for liberal education on our campus is, in fact, merely descriptive of the curricular structure it introduces; the statement does not identify a mission for liberal education, nor does it provide a foundation upon which to develop a set of clear, coherent, and justifiable outcomes for liberal learning.
The task force also read widely in current literature on best practice and contemporary reform of liberal education in the United States. These readings reinforced our determination that it is time to redefine the mission of liberal education at UMD. Recognizing the need for revisions that reflect the realities of the 21st century, the task force crafted the mission statement above.
The proposed mission statement establishes foundational guidelines for the generation of the new Liberal Education Core, which is presented in a later section of this document. The new mission statement also organizes the various learning outcomes a liberal education strives to achieve by categorizing them as three broad competency sets: liberally educated students at UMD are “Aware, Prepared, and Committed”—a succinct and deliberately catchy phrase that we believe summarizes the goals of liberal learning in a coherent and appealing manner.
The proposed mission statement also helps create a foundation for a renewed commitment to liberal education on the UMD campus. It promotes an integrated approach to achieving learning outcomes by explicitly stating that liberal education is “woven through each student’s course of study.” We believe the above set of goals can be easily understood by students and advisors, and that it can guide faculty as they generate learning outcomes for courses to be included in the core.
Recommendation: 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)
a. Writing and Information Literacy
(6 credits, including WRIT 1120, WRIT 31XX [can be offered at 40 credits], plus additional experience provided in writing-intensive course(s) identified by the programs)
b. Speaking and Logic (3 credits)
• Oral Communication
• Logic and Quantitative Reasoning
Part II. Knowledge Domains (21 credits)
a. Natural Science and Math (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)
a. Global Perspectives (3 credits)
b. Cultural Diversity in the US (3 credits)
c. The Natural Environment (3 credits)
1. The above is an outline of the proposed core, which is presented in full, with criteria for approving courses, in the final section of this document.
2. Liberal Education core courses may be offered at the 1000-, 2000-, 3000-, or 4000-level. 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.
3. With the exception of Key Topics courses, which may also be used to satisfy a Knowledge Domain requirement, a particular course may be listed in only one place in the Liberal Education Core. 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:
ß 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;
ß it is a clear set of requirements that can be easily understood by faculty, advisors, students, and parents;
ß 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
ß 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).
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 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 sequence. Thus, beginning with a basic writing and information literacy course taken in the freshman year (WRIT 1120), students will move on not only to a more discipline-focused Writing Studies course (WRIT 3XX) but also to structured learning of writing skills in one or more of their major courses.
In previous drafts of these recommendations, we attempted to include 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. As campus wide learning outcomes, both of these will be assessed in the near future and need not be included in the current liberal education proposal.
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.
UMD Liberal Education Core
Draft Outline with Criteria
The proposed UMD Liberal Education Core has three parts. The first part is designed to strengthen students’ language and reasoning skills, including information literacy. Part two provides breadth of knowledge and experience with multiple modes of inquiry through coursework distributed across four broad knowledge domains. In part three, students bring together knowledge and skill to study three key contemporary topics.
While individual parts of the core have minimum credit requirements, as indicated below, there is no minimum credit requirement for the overall core.
Criteria for All Liberal Education Courses
The use of active learning strategies is strongly encouraged in all liberal education courses.
Courses approved for liberal education credit—
o Will be suitable for a wide spectrum of students;
o Will be taught by those familiar with the goals and methods of teaching liberal education courses;
o Will 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 May be offered at the 1000-, 2000-, 3000-, or 4000-level;
o Will be offered regularly (at least every other year).
If approved by the appropriate department, a liberal education course may also be used to satisfy a requirement within the major or minor.
PART I. Language and Reasoning Skills
A. Writing and Information Literacy (6 credits)
All UMD students become skillful writers and users of information resources through a strong focus on writing that spans the four years of their college careers. A strong foundation in written communication and information literacy is provided through two required Liberal Education Core courses:
Writing Studies 1120 College Writing (3 credits)
This course is normally taken in the freshman year.
Writing Studies 31xx Advanced Composition (3 credits)
The prerequisites for each particular WRIT 31xx course will be determined by the relevant programs in conjunction with the Writing Studies Department. Taking WRIT 31xx in the sophomore year, with a prerequisite of 40 credits, may be optimal for students in some majors.
Advanced skills in these areas are then further developed within the student’s major field of study at the 3000- and/or 4000-level during the junior and/or senior years. Each program will be asked to identify a course or courses where this will be achieved.
B. Speaking and Logic (3 credits)
All UMD students develop skills in speaking or logic by selecting at least one course from the following three categories. Disciplines likely to contribute courses to this part of the Liberal Education Core include communication, computer science, language studies, linguistics, mathematics, philosophy, and statistics.
ÿ Oral Communication
ÿ Logic and Quantitative Reasoning
Courses approved for liberal education credit in Oral Communication will have as their primary focus the development of the knowledge and skill sets necessary for effective oral communication.
In addition to meeting the criteria for all liberal education courses, oral communication courses will-
o Examine the processes necessary to develop and arrange message content;
o Emphasize the need to craft and adapt messages to particular audiences and situations;
o Present the fundamentals of appropriate language and effective style;
o Analyze ways in which delivery is enhanced or inhibited by both verbal and non-verbal forms of communication;
o Emphasize practical exercises and individual presentations that require students to understand and apply the above skills sets in verbal and non-verbal communication.
Courses approved for liberal education credit in Languages will develop students’ communicative skills and/or language competence in languages other than English.
In addition to meeting the criteria for all liberal education courses, language courses will—
o Develop students’ receptive and active skills of listening, reading, writing and speaking (or, in the case of ASL courses, signing rather than speaking), and/or
o Develop students’ grammatical, textual, illocutionary, socio-linguistic and cultural competence.
Logic and Quantitative Reasoning
Courses approved for liberal education credit in Logic and Quantitative Reasoning will develop students’ logic and/or quantitative reasoning skills and enable them to apply these skills to a variety of everyday situations.
In addition to meeting the criteria for all liberal education courses, Logic and Quantitative Reasoning courses will-
o Enable students to understand and use symbolic systems;
o Develop students’ ability to recognize and exercise valid reasoning;
o Help students to analyze and evaluate quantitative and/or logical problems.
Knowledge Domains – Ways of Knowing
All UMD students complete liberal 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.
Criteria for all Knowledge Domain Courses
Courses approved for knowledge domains may come from a variety of departments and may involve instructors from more than one department or collegiate unit. Departments may submit courses for more than one knowledge domain. A particular course may be submitted for only one knowledge domain. If suitable, a course may be approved for inclusion in both a knowledge domain and in the key topics section of the Liberal Education Core. Such knowledge domain courses may be used to satisfy one Key Topic requirement.
In addition to meeting the criteria for all liberal education courses, courses approved for credit for the knowledge domains will—
o Identify 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.
THE NATURAL SCIENCES AND MATH
(6 credits, different designators, 1 course must have a lab)
The natural sciences focus on the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theory of natural phenomena. Disciplines typically included in this domain are biology, chemistry and biochemistry, the geological sciences, astronomy, the environmental sciences, and physics.
Liberal 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 liberal education courses and the criteria for knowledge domain courses, courses approved for liberal 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, 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.
To be approved for liberal education credit as a natural science course with a lab, the course will include one or more of the following:
o a laboratory or field work component, consisting of, on average, at least two hours per week, which may involve direct experimentation, fieldwork, or computer simulations, and in which students have first-hand experience in producing and handling data, using tools of the discipline (i.e., thinking and working like a scientist in the discipline);
o hands-on discovery-based experiments, measurements, simulations or analyses that test basic concepts or hypotheses;
o quantitative examination and testing of phenomena that may be described in terms of principles recognized within the discipline;
o examination of the relationship between structure and function of biological specimens;
o exploration of biological systems to understand how individual organisms interact with each other and the environment;
o use of mathematical models to describe or predict responses and behaviors in living systems;
o laboratory experiments that allow students to confront interpretation of mistakes and unexpected results.
As a knowledge domain, mathematics 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; some types of linguistics study fall within the mathematics domain as well.
In addition to meeting the criteria for all liberal education courses and the criteria for knowledge domain courses, courses approved for liberal 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
(6 credits, 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.
Liberal 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 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 liberal education courses and the criteria for knowledge domain courses, courses approved for liberal education credit in the social sciences will—
o Focus on content appropriate to any of the many branches of social science;
o Demonstrate some of the ways in which social scientists study human group behavior to familiarize students with established modes of inquiry in the relevant social science subfield(s);
o Engage students actively in one or more 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.
(6 credits, 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 liberal education courses and the criteria for knowledge domain courses, courses approved for liberal 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 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
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 liberal education courses and the criteria for knowledge domain courses, courses approved for liberal 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 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 Topics
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.
Ideally, these courses are taken later in the student’s course of study and build on their developed language and reasoning skills and experience with the knowledge domains.
Courses approved in this section must focus on only one of the three designated key topics. Departments may submit appropriate courses for inclusion both in a knowledge domain and as a key topic. Such knowledge domain courses may be used to satisfy only one Key Topic requirement.
Criteria for All Key Topic Courses
Courses approved for liberal education credit in Key Topics will---
o Examine one of the three designated key contemporary topics 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 topic 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 topic;
o Make the chosen topic 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.
Courses approved for the Global Perspective requirement focus on developing an awareness of contemporary global topics and transnational connections. Global topics 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 topics 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 liberal 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 IN THE UNITED STATES
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 liberal 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 identity/expression, ethnicity, age, disability, sexual 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
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 ways in which the science of the natural environment interacts 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 liberal education courses, courses meeting the requirements of this theme will:
o Address in detail one or more important environmental topic;
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 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.