General Education Review Program Proposal
Each component of the proposed program is described in more detail in the attached document.
The Core 15 credit hours
The Core addresses the academic and interpersonal skills needed by all students. It implements the Fundamental Skills component of the Fundamental Principles. The core consists of five three-credit-hour courses: Freshman Seminar, Writing, Mathematics, Oral Communication, and Wellness.
Learning Communities group students and instructors in selected classes to explore the relatedness of disciplines and knowledge. Learning communities implement the Integration of Knowledge component of the Fundamental Principles.
The Freshman Seminar provides a forum for establishing a connection between the student and the University, and for easing the transition to the college environment. It is a rigorous academic experience that challenges students to begin to think, read and write at the college level, and promotes understanding of the objectives of higher education. A Freshman Seminar implements the Student Sense of Place component of the Fundamental Principles, and also addresses the Integration of Knowledge, Moral Reflection, and Liberal Arts and Sciences Emphasis principles.
Perspectives 24 credit hours
The Perspectives component is familiar from the old General Education program, but it has the new priorities of getting students excited about learning for learning's sake, and energizing faculty commitment to the program. The Perspectives implement the Liberal Arts and Sciences Emphasis component of the Fundamental Principles. Perspectives consist of 24 credit hours including: Social Sciences (6 hours), Natural Sciences (6 hours), Humanities (3 hours), Fine and Performing Arts (3 hours), History (3 hours), and Comparative Cultures (3 hours).
Upper Level Component 4 credit hours
The Upper Level Component includes a writing-intensive experience (3 credit hours), and a presentation requirement and assessment opportunity (one credit hour) as part of the Senior Capstone experience. Upper level Perspectives courses may be offered as well. The upper level presence in General Education reflects a genuine commitment to implementing the Integration of Knowledge component of the Fundamental Principles.
Total: 43 credit hours
General Education Review Program Proposal--WORKING DRAFT (2/98)
This document describes the basic structure of a proposed new General Education program. It identifies significant new ideas in the program and ties the program back to the Fundamental Principles of General Education presented to the faculty in the Fall of 1997.
Differences from the present program include:
The Core implements the Fundamental Skills component of the Fundamental Principles, with its stress on the development of communication and thinking skills. The Core courses will be taken by all students who enter Western for their first year of college. The five courses (3 credit hours each) are: Freshman Seminar, Wellness, Writing, Mathematics, and Oral Communication.
The Freshman Seminar implements the Student Sense of Place component of the Fundamental Principles, and can be offered by any department in the University. The primary goal of the seminar is to ground students intellectually and personally in our university, in the region, and in the world community, and to get them excited about learning at WCU. The Seminar is a rigorous academic course, where instructors will incorporate readings from their own disciplines and from a common reading list, and will require written responses. The Seminar is a forum for discussing the purposes of higher education and the role of general education, and for easing the transition to the college environment. The course will address diversity and ethical issues relevant to the university community, and will include hands-on learning activities such as attendance at lectures, performances and exhibits, visits to local natural environments, and service opportunities.
The College Writing courses, taught by the English Department, will introduce first-year students to college level writing.
The Mathematics course is an activity-based course serving as an introduction to applications of mathematics to daily experience. Emphasis is on the development of conceptual understanding rather than on computational drill. Out of class projects in which students do mathematical analysis of observations will be required. Higher-level mathematics courses will also satisfy this requirement.
The Oral Communication courses will be the same as in the current program.
The Wellness course will provide the student with a foundation of health/wellness information, including opportunities to improve health/wellness related skills. The course will inform their health/wellness beliefs and values, and thus challenge students to make thoughtful and voluntary behavioral changes that will promote lifelong health and wellness.
Learning Communities implement the Integration of Knowledge Fundamental Principle. The goal of participation in a learning community is to discover and appreciate the relatedness of disciplines and knowledge. Learning Communities consist of cohorts of students and instructors in grouped courses who participate in out-of-class interactions aimed at revealing connections between disciplines. Learning communties will be organized in a variety of formats reflecting faculty and student interests, schedules, and resources. Examples of course groupings include: a writing course + another core course + a perspectives course, or an oral communication course + another core course + a perspectives course, or a freshman seminar + a writing course + a perspectives course. Students in majors that begin in the freshman year (Art, Music) will be accomodated by including major courses in the groupings. Participation in a learning community is a general education requirement.
The Perspectives component implements the Liberal Arts and Sciences Emphasis and Faculty Commitment Principles. The goals of the Perspectives are: (1) for students to develop a love of learning and an active curiosity for knowledge; and (2) for faculty to build commitment to the program as a result of being trusted to explore individual and disciplinary creativity in courses. The course classifications of the Perspectives are more traditional than the present program to relieve difficulties that have resulted from more creative course classifications. The skills practice requirement that proved cumbersome in the present program has been relaxed. Class sizes will be dictated by the needs of effective teaching and learning. The Perspectives will (1) build upon the Core's foundation to provide students with a broadened world view and knowledge base; (2) provide experiences in the arts, humanities, and social and natural sciences from which connections between disciplines can be revealed; (3) provide an introduction to the challenges of living in a global society; and (4) create opportunities for reflection on values, and for discussing differences in values in a critical yet tolerant manner. Each discipline must assure that (1) their general education courses are the best they have to offer; (2) each course is taught by an instructor who is excited about the topic, and (3) instructors will make every effort to see that students leave the course more excited about learning in the subject than they were upon entering.
Categories of courses. A more traditional organization of courses facilitates identifying where disciplines can best contribute to the program. Development of course guidelines and assessment strategies for these categories should be straightforward. However, nontraditional candidates for these categories will be welcomed. The categories are:
Social Sciences (6 hours from two areas)
Natural Sciences (6 hours from two areas; lab incorporated into each course)
Humanities (3 hours)
Fine and Performing Arts (3 hours)
History (3 hours)
Comparative cultures (3 hours)
Course content. Departments will be trusted to determine the content of perspectives courses in their discipline. The "breadth" aspect of the Perspectives component will come from the variety of course experiences and the reinforcement of integrative experiences begun in the Core courses and learning communities, not from the particular content of the courses. Courses will be specifically designed to appeal to a general audience without dealing with technical disciplinary details. New approaches that are intellectually defensible will be welcomed. Upper division versions of Perspectives courses will be welcomed (see Upper Level Component).
Areas of Emphasis. Every perspectives course will address communication and information skills. A Writing Across the Curriculum Coordinator will see that perspectives courses provide writing experiences that form a bridge from the first college writing course to the upper-level writing course. In addition, each perspectives course will be expected to include emphasis on one or more of the following: (1) technology use; (2) quantification skills; (3) environment and sense of place; (4) cultural diversity and sensitivity; (5) moral reflection; (6) health; or any other creative but defensible area of intellectual development that a discipline wants to focus on and the program chooses to adopt. Disciplines will be given latitude in the means by which these emphases are taught, but will be expected to provide ways to assess their attainment.
The inclusion of upper level requirements implements the Integration of Knowledge component of the Fundamental Principles. The goal of the upper level component is to honor the developmental nature of the educational process by extending general education throughout the undergraduate experience. The following two upper-level components will be required:
Writing Component. All students will take a three-hour 300/400-level writing course, coordinated by a Writing Across the Curriculum authority, but designed and presented by any department wishing to offer such a course. A writing course at this level provides an opportunity to monitor writing skills development that has occurred in Core and Perspectives courses, and to tailor student's writing skills toward the needs of their major.
Assessment Component. All students will be required to participate in a set of assessment experiences, tied to the senior capstone seminar in the major. Students will make a public presentation of a senior-level project at some time during the semester, possibly in a Senior Expo day toward the end of the semester. They will also be involved in departmental and University-wide assessment activities.
In addition, departments will be encouraged to offer upper-level courses that fit within the Perspectives categories and incorporate the Perspectives areas of emphasis. These courses will be on focused topics, provide considerable depth, and would probably not be offered every semester or in multiple sections.
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