Notes from the Forum on General Education and
Responses to the Fundamental Principles
Sense of place
It doesn't emphasize enough this region's relationship to the world. Maybe this is too limited and too narrow; there is too much emphasis on western North Carolina.
University needs more links with the community.
Incorporate this in another place in the document, such as Moral Reflection & Criticism-Here are global/universal issues, now where do you stand?
There is something good here, but not as a stated principle. Another question is-Should general education be a vehicle to build a sense of place??
Begin this process in orientation, possibly by expanding orientation to a full week. This theme could also be used as the foundation for a freshman seminar.
The reference to the Forest Service might be better stated "and National Forest lands." That makes it clear that you are not referring to the NC Forest Service, which has a different function n the area.
Change item e to "the role of cultural diversity in the mountain region." Change item f to: "the process and impact of regional change."
Why is "student's sense of place" so much more specific than other principles? More easily defined?
Liberal Arts & Sciences Emphasis
Are these principles more appropriate to a liberal arts institution? Do they really fit what we are trying to do with our students? If we implement them, will our students understand what we are doing? If they understand, will they approve?
This statement about the humanities appeared, of all places, in a computerized placement exam. As Doug Eder would say, it makes the curriculum evident.
In a world bound to the wheel of change the humanities stress the persistence of unchanging issues. They do not offer the prospect of progress in knowledge as the sciences do, nor do they even offer, as do the social sciences, the promise of such progress. They raise questions about meaning, purpose, and values that a hurried world, enamored of technique, finds uncomfortable.
This principle lacks scientific method as a component.
Add reading. Should study skills be required? We should include a statistics course.
Several members expressed relief that the oral communication component was not included in the fundamental skills, noting that most of us have no training in this and it is very time consuming to do it properly. Include the ability to identify the context of problems and an awareness of their audiences. This could then serve as a useful link to the first principle of sense of place.
Physical self is not included. Words/phrases describing this area include self and physical being, socialization, leisure time, recreation, fitness, wellness, activity, life long learning, and sense of self. Maybe the area could be part of Balanced Life Style with Intellectual Self, Physical Self, and Spiritual Self being sub parts.
The university would be negligent in its duties to educate if the general ed program did not include a requirement regarding wellness for lifetime health. With the nation addressing healthy lifestyles, health insurance, and preventative health care, this to me is an educational issue one which should be addressed and required of all students. I do not believe we need the traditional bowling PE classes: basketball, golf, tennis, etc., but one should be required to understand that physical activity is part of the wellness concept. Wellness should be part of the gen ed curriculum in whatever way that is configured.
I am firmly committed to the concept that a college student is not fully educated until he or she has been exposed to the importance of a lifetime of physical activity and has developed at least enough physical skill to participate in some form of physical activity for a lifetime. I don't think this issue should be addressed in the Fundamental Skills category. I think it would best be addressed as a separate category, possibly under the heading of Personal Well-being
Integration of Knowledge
This is the best part of the document, but the hardest to implement. It must convey that GE isn't isolated.
Capstone courses would help. Gen ed shouldn't be confined to freshmen/soph.
Several comments related to the area of Integration of Knowledge being a principle which is lacking now. How do we get students to make connections? To expect 18/19 year old students to make such connections is beyond their maturity level. Perhaps offering general education experiences to seniors would better accomplish this. Including experiences which are cross disciplinary, as well as inclusive of freshman through senior students could work.
This is both the strongest and the weakest section. It is strongest because it is the most clear and worthwhile goal, and weakest because it is most unlikely to be administered.
The current program is a series of courses that are not unified and are therefore not perceived by students or faculty as unified
It is important that "the idea of the university" is clearly and openly defined for students because this influences how we introduce the ideas of the "university" to students. State this clearly so students will understand what they're doing and will be informed of the goals and the idea
It would help if we were to spread gen ed across four years, rather than the current practice of getting it out of the way in two. George Mason University uses four required interdisciplinary seminars to achieve this goal. The Governor's School's system of area studies that serves a similar purpose. Both models require that faculty work closely together in the design and implementation of interdisciplinary programs. At George Mason, faculty are paid extra to perform this necessary coordination.
Treatment of this area could be perceived as "preachy". The general feeling seemed to be that students should have opportunities to reflect on moral issues.
The principles seems almost idealistic, especially those dealing with Moral Reflection and Criticism. Perhaps the implications here are too broad. These principles, however, are not designed to promote a particular set of moral issues or a dogmatic outlook, but to state that moral judgment is an important part of living in society
While we need some commitment to these principles, our group was bothered by the apparent incongruity between the insistence that it was not our place to "indoctrinate or impose," yet the expected outcome was a "moral maturity." Who, for example, decides when someone has achieved moral maturity?
It should not be listed as a principle. If you sell the faculty on the other principles, then the faculty will commit. It is more a part of an action plan than a principle. It is a process more than an intended outcome or principle. Isn't faculty commitment actually embodied within the other topics?
Faculty commitment does not seem to be the same kind of concept as the first five principles. It is an input, not an output. Should it be included as a principle or is it a means to an end? Others argued that commitment is vital because lack of commitment has been a major failure of the current system. Several participants noted that Gen Ed. teachers are treated like second class citizens. Others noted that many faculty and students view Gen. Ed. classes as something to be "gotten out of the way."
Faculty commitment is necessary, but we are concerned with the implication that everything depends on the faculty and if gen ed fails only the faculty are to blame. Several members raised the importance of proper administrative support for small classes and interdisciplinary teaching. These things take resources.
Placing too much emphasis on gen ed can be a hindrance to smaller departments. Faculty, in turn, need to stimulate students' sense of commitment
It is not possible to measure faculty commitment. This could be changed to "Faculty Involvement." While commitment is needed to make this work, faculty involvement is going to be much easier to assess.
Should read "Faculty and Student Commitment." Should read "Faculty Commitment and Collaboration."
One participant did not like the wording "eliminate prejudice."
"Role models" needs to be integrated into all areas not just diversity.
A number of participants were not clear as to the relationship of these principles and the ultimate goals of General Education. It should be stated in the first paragraph.
Human Environmental Science is not included in Gen Ed. Applied Science has apparently been "shut out" from inclusion in Gen Ed requirements. Turf War? However, it seems there are fewer problems related to turf in this current process.
While we want an innovative General Education program, we don't want it to be so different that it's not desirable to students transferring from either community colleges or other schools
General Education ought to give some body of common knowledge which all students share. For the sake of cultural cohesion, it may be something like the "Great Books" notion. Or, it does not necessarily have to be a print experience but just some sort of experience that all students share. Assessment is difficult if there is not some sort of common experience among students.
The principles must lend themselves to assessment. Staff, students and faculty should understand the principles and how they are going to be assessed. Build assessment into the Gen. Ed. Program and continually evaluate the program and the process.
The document is too metaphysical and philosophical. Others stated it was reasonable to have a document like this as an underpinning but it was critical to have more measurable goals and outcomes as part of the program. Maybe assessment should be a principle.
There ought to be linked courses, interdisciplinary learning communities, in order to integrate ideas. In other schools there are models in which the university adopts a theme, like Utopia for example, and each department addresses this in its own way. There ought to be a way to get around the limiting bureaucracy that inhibits effective implementation of the principles. For example, we might try changing the number of hours that courses are given (i.e., changing from a 50 minute course to a 2 hours course), and this means we faculty members have to change the way we do things.
General education ought to emphasize cohorts more.
Some more structured way needs to be developed to emphasize collaboration in teaching general education. The present system creates too great a difference between general education and other courses and the respective faculties.
The philosophy of the principles should apply to the entire four years of the students' education. Senior seminars might need to include some of the principles of general education.
General education must have administrative support in many ways. For a start, the registrar should be able to provide variable credit courses and to include interdisciplinary courses in a clear and understandable way. We should be able to get rid of the difficulties in the course numbering system, the inability to use general ed courses for more than one purpose, and specific requirements of all courses in a category which stifle instructor creativity.
Gen ed faculty need to be rewarded
The program needs a dean, not at director in charge of gen ed, with structure, budget and clout. But we don't want more administration taking $ away from teaching!
All faculty need constant reminder about the importance of GE-must be continuously marketed
The principles should be revisited to ensure that they are logically consistent with the mission statement. For example, citizenship seems to be missing from the Fundamental Principles. Make sure the wording is consistent between the mission statement and principles and all other documents generated from this process.
Sense of self was missing from the principles. Sense of Place needs to be expanded. How are classes meaningful and how will they help develop the core of the sense of self. The sense of who I am develops throughout a career at WCU but needs to be better "targeted" by the General Education Program.. The book The Abandoned Generation was related to this aspect of our discussion and recommended by one of the participants. From this book and review of the principles, one participant felt that values was missing from the principles although Moral Reflection may indirectly address this critical area.
I would have liked more said about "outofclassroom" learning experiences and processes. I strongly support community or service learning. Should there be a practical component of general education (community service maybe)? There should be included some statement about social responsibility for the less fortunate of the community in the region.
The principles have gone away from thinking, reasoning, and expression. Why?
The issue of cultural diversity, while not explicitly stated, seems to be admirably implicit within the whole document
Important not to include Technology because it is a tool that facilitates. There is no difference in General Education principles whether they're taught with or without computers.
3. How does accepting this document reflect on what we do currently?
The feeling "I just want to get these out of the way" creates a negative attitude toward the general ed. experience. Perhaps if more choices were available this could help this situation. The program should force students into situations which add breadth to their experience.
Faculty don't like to teach and students don't like to take Gen Ed courses.
We need to be sensitive to these issues: personal relationship issues; sense of self and relationship to others; building community (e.g., inappropriate behaviors such as excessive drinking, sexual behavior, etc.); "family issues" (interpersonal communications). Gen Ed allows opportunity for these issues to be addressed.
Words carry weight, even in our TVbesotted society. Inherently they convey values whether we explicitly assign them (those values) or not. Consequently, would it be possible to consider substituting some other label for "General Education?" By its very nature that label conveys blandness, "indistinctness." It is, in other words, "valueless." How about "Core Curriculum" or anything else the Committee might deem more effective at projecting the curriculum's importance to our students' progress.
The term "General Education" may contribute to the lack of commitment to the current system. "Core requirements" might be a better term.
The Student Development staff should be included in the processes of development and implementation
How does the requirement that every student have a computer fit into the principles? Shouldn't the fact that every student has a computer imply that all WCU graduates will have an above average ability to use computers? Is a certain level of computer skill is now a "given" (like reading and writing skills) or do computer skills still need to be emphasized in Gen. Ed. and other courses.
How the new Gen. Ed. should be different from the current system:
A. The courses need to be more challenging. Many students and some faculty expect General Ed. courses to be easy.
B. There needs to be more commitment in terms of the quality of teaching and especially in terms of who teaches General Ed. classes. This is really an administrative commitment.
C. General Education could be integrated throughout the curriculum. Some upper level courses might be General Ed. courses. Gen. Ed. courses could build upon each other. It might be a good idea for Gen. Ed. to include a university wide discussion of a particular book each year.
The present program limits interdisciplinary experimentation. Mechanisms for team teaching, for example, are not presently available.
Depending on our goals, class size can be an issue. It is, for example, impossible to give meaningful writing and oral communication assignments in large classes.
Teaching general education courses creates special problems for tenure-track faculty that need to be studied and changes made in the departmental tenure and promotion documents. Is, for example, training in the use of technology in the classroom "professional development."
It might be good to have the next stage (whatever that may be) be charged to folks outside the committee. This would take some pressure off of the committee and would open the process up to others on campus.