University of Minnesota, Morris
Morris, Minnesota 56267
April 25, 1997
TO: Members of the Campus Assembly
FROM: Curriculum Committee (General Education Committee and
Common Experience Task Force)
SUBJECT: Proposed General Education Program
The Curriculum Committee offers this proposal for the General Education Program under semesters for the consideration of the Campus Assembly.
I. The Common Experience. (One two-credit course.)
- Two-credit course
- Offered first semester
- Small group, discussion-based course
- Volunteer faculty
II. Skills for the Liberal Arts. (One to five courses.*)
A. College Writing. (Zero or one course.*)
B. Foreign Language. (Zero to two courses.*)
C. Mathematical/Symbolic Reasoning. (Zero or one course.*)
D. Artistic Performance. (One course.)
III. Wellness. (Zero or one course.*)
IV. Expanding Perspectives. (Seven courses of at least two credits each.)
A. Historical Perspectives. (One course.)
B. Human Behavior, Social Processes and Institutions. (One course.)
C. Literature, Language and Philosophy. (One course.)
D. Fine Arts. (One course.)
E. Physical and Biological Sciences. (One course with lab.)
F. The Global Village. (Two courses, one from each of two areas.)
1. Human Diversity.
2. People and the Environment.
3. International Perspective.
4. Ethical and Civic Responsibility.
*This requirement may be reduced or eliminated through exemption.
General Theme: Human Diversity (in Ethnic, Cultural, and Gender Issues)
The theme of the CE course is expected to change at regular intervals. To be eligible for a common ground subject, a theme focuses on a current and critical issue which will attract seminar participants' attention to the extent that it provides a setting for eager discussions. At the same time, the theme is expected to be broad enough to entice sufficient faculty to teach the course with individualized syllabi drawn from their own expertise.
In addition, where appropriate, the classes attempt to incorporate some
common skills needed for students to pursue their education at UMM. For
example, the current proposal strongly encourages "writing assignments"
in the individual sections acknowledging that well-organized and well-documented
written expression is universally valuable-a commonly needed tool for learning
in all subjects. Also, incorporated into the current program is an "information
literacy" segment which can be accomplished in a partnership between
the instructor and the library and computer center staff.
Format: First Year, Discussion-based, Small Group Experience
The first year experience is crucial to those attending college in that
students' first impression will have a lingering impact throughout their
four year college life. Hence, all entering freshmen will take the course
during the first semester at UMM. The program fosters collaborative learning
in a discussion format. Classes are to consist of 15 - 18 students and approximately
15 - 18 faculty will teach. Individual sections, building on a general theme,
are designed and taught by UMM instructors. Where possible, students register
for their section by choosing from a list of topics provided by the course
Instructors: Faculty Volunteers and Individualized Syllabi
Voluntary participation of willing faculty is essential. Individualized
sections of this course draw upon the expertise and interests of the faculty
who teach them with individualized syllabi in a Freshman Seminar format.
The participation of the seasoned and proven veteran instructors as well
as competent and eager new faculty is vitally important to establish a superb
program. Each instructor teaches two sections. Teaching the CE courses for
a semester counts as a full course in calculating the teaching load.
Structure of Course: The course carries 2 semester credits. The section
meets for 100 minutes a week for 15 weeks. The course consists of two components:
a common reading and Convocation(s) at the outset and the more substantive
individualized syllabus based on the instructor's design. Grading is based
on the ABCD-F and S-N systems. There will be an annual assessment of the
Initially, the Common Experience Task Force (CETF) studied the CE course which carries 4 semester credits. However, the Task Force soon realized that in order to teach approximately five hundred fifty freshmen in groups of 15 - 18, we would need 30 to 36 faculty volunteers. To stay practical and realistic, this course is now proposed to carry 2 semester credits with 15 - 18 faculty teaching it. In the same vein, the section can meet twice a week (50 minutes each) for 15 weeks if scheduling difficulty does not prevent us from doing so. (Another option which the CETF seriously considered was the section which would meet twice a week(100 minutes each) for 7.5 weeks. Then, the instructor would teach one section the first seven weeks and another section the second seven weeks, allowing for the "information literacy" session in each section.)
The instructor will arrange days and weeks for the library/computer lab components with an appropriate librarian/computer center staff as they proceed with their relevant subject matter, particularly with written assignments which require library search.
To ensure a minimal variance among sections, there should be a set of standards consistent across the sections and among instructors. Parameters for the course will be established by the faculty selected to teach the CE course: e.g., the amount of writing and types of writing, amount of reading, and the minimum work required for a "S" grade. Students must perceive that there is an equal amount of work required in all sections and that the evaluation of the work is consistent.
II. A. College Writing: To understand the writing process through invention, organization, drafting, revising, and editing; and develop writers who can write about a range of ideas for a variety of readers.
II. B. Foreign Language: To develop some fluency in the skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing in a second language, and critical insight into another culture.
II. C. Mathematical/Symbolic Reasoning: To strengthen students' ability to formulate abstractions, construct proofs, and utilize symbols in formal systems.
II. D. Artistic Performance: To introduce an understanding of
the creative process through individual performance, and demonstrate skill
in such activities as composition, theater, dance, studio art and music.
III. Wellness: To develop an understanding of, and enable the
making of informed decisions concerning human health and fitness.
IV. A. Historical Perspectives: To increase students' understanding of the past, the complexity of human affairs, the ways in which various forces--economic, cultural, religious, political, scientific--influence efforts to control events, and the ways historians verify and interpret their findings.
IV. B. Human Behavior, Social Processes and Institutions: To increase students' systematic understanding of themselves as functioning humans, their individual similarities to and differences from others, their awareness of the nature and significance of their conscious experience, and the forces that shape their interpersonal attachments and interactions; or to increase students' understanding of methods of analyzing modern society or some significant political, economic, religious, social or scientific component of it.
IV. C. Literature, Language and Philosophy: To expand students' capacity to understand, analyze, and discuss the complexity of the human condition through the study of languages, and works of thought and imagination.
IV. D. Fine Arts: To develop students' understanding, analysis and appreciation of the arts.
IV. E. Physical and Biological Science: To increase students' understanding of the structure and dynamics of the physical and biological worlds, and of the scientific method.
IV. F. The Global Village: To increase students' understanding of the growing interdependence of nations, peoples and the natural world.
1. Human Diversity: To increase students' understanding of individual and group differences (e. g. race, gender, class) and their knowledge of the traditions and values of various groups in the United States.
2. People and the Environment: To increase students' understanding of the interrelatedness of human society and the natural world.
3. International Perspective: To increase students' systematic understanding of national cultures other than those in which they received their prior schooling.
4. Ethical and Civic Responsibility: To broaden and develop students'
capacity to question and reflect upon their own and society's values and
critical responsibilities, and to understand forces, such as technology,
which cause us to modify these views and often mandate creation of new ways
to resolve legal, social and scientific issues.
ProsPer and the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum. This revision of ProsPer brings our general education program (GEP) into fairly close alignment with the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum (MNTC). The specifics appear below.
Skills for the Liberal Arts. The category called "Process Requirements" has been renamed "Skills for the Liberal Arts." The goals are to develop writing, reasoning and linguistic tools, and to demonstrate a performance skill. The term "process" is vague compared to the crispness of "skills."
Courses not Credits. Satisfying the requirements means taking a certain number of courses, not a certain number of credits. However, in order to satisfy Expanding Perspectives requirements, a course should be two or more credits. More detail appears below under "The Approval Process."
Mapping. A standard task in semester conversion is mapping requirements from quarters to semesters. Mapping is a convenient vehicle for providing explanation and rationale. The following begins with the trivial and works towards the complex.
P2, College Writing I and II-->II.A. College Writing.
P6, Foreign Language-->II.B., Foreign Language.
E2, Historical Perspectives-->IV.A, Historical Perspectives.
E10, Abstract Systems-->II. C. Mathematical/Symbolic Reasoning. The title "on the semester map" is from the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum. The GEC thinks this is a "skill" category, so the mapping goes, along with a change of title, from
Expanding Perspectives-->Process-->Skills for the Liberal Arts.
Similarly, E7, Performance, maps from Perspectives to Skills. A one-credit course will continue to satisfy this requirement.
E5,Wellness-->III. Wellness. The General Education Committee understands that the Education Division will bring forward two or more one-credit courses suitable for meeting this requirement. For the GEC, suitability means that the courses should be analytic rather than prescriptive, that is, that they should present the results of scientific studies of nutrition and health, and of risks to health, as opposed to an uncritical promotion of certain "life-styles." Further, if there are other courses in the curriculum that meet the goals of this requirement, and are so proposed, then they should be accepted as meeting it.
C1, Computing-->IV.F.4, Civic and Ethical Responsibility. The Computer Science discipline has proposed replacing its C1 courses by a two-credit course entitled Ethical and Social Implications of Technology. The MNTC has a category Ethical and Civic Responsibility. The GEC has folded the new course into a new category. Other courses already in the curriculum will naturally find a home here, and it seems likely that the Computer Science faculty's initiative with respect to the ethical implications of technology might inspire other faculty to create similar courses.
E6, Analysis and Interpretation (of the arts) and E8, Arts and Culture-->IV.C. Literature, Language and Philosophy, and IV.D. Fine Arts. This is more than a simple mapping; it's a significant rearrangement. The goals of the GEP ought to be clear. Although the distinction between E6 and E8 is clear on paper, it is lost in practice. It is particularly muddied by the fact that many courses carry both the E6 and E8 designations, so the way that a course with those designations is used to satisfy the requirements of ProsPer is, so to speak, a coin-toss. By contrast, the proposed Literature, Language and Philosophy requirement is for literature courses in English or a foreign language, or appropriate courses in rhetoric and philosophy, or possibly other areas, whereas Fine Arts calls for a course in music, theater arts, studio art or possibly other areas. In practice, those are much more distinct than the E6 and E8 categories. The Minnesota Transfer Curriculum has a category, Humanities and the Fine Arts.
E9, The Natural World-->IV.E. Biological and Physical Sciences. Besides a mapping this is a narrowing. Sometimes only by narrowing can we guarantee breadth of experience. Under ProsPer, one can satisfy E9 without taking a biological or physical science. The IV. F. requirement is for only four credits, which is a by-product of the constraint described below. By narrowing we guarantee that graduates will have a lab course in a physical or biological science. The MNTC category is Natural Sciences. Under the MNTC goal is the statement, "Students should be encouraged to study both the biological and physical sciences."
E1, The Self and E4, Social Institutions-->IV.B, Human Behavior, Social Processes and Institutions. Of course, this is not a simple mapping, but a folding of two large categories into one requirement, just as the biological and physical sciences are folded into a single requirement. The closest MNTC Category is History and the Social and Behavioral Sciences. The majority of members on the General Education Committee believes that the Self category would have to be either so narrowly defined that only certain psychology courses would satisfy the goals or so broadly defined that the goals are already widely met elsewhere in the curriculum, and that in neither case does it warrant a separate category in the General Education Program.
At this point, the notion of mapping gets somewhat artificial, but very roughly, the mapping E3, Different Cultures and Non-Western Focus-->IV. F, The Global Village. However, this new category is so different from what we have under ProsPer that it requires a separate discussion.
The Global Village.
1) Relationship to the MNTC. Global Perspectives, Human Diversity, and People and the Environment are three separate MNTC categories. The Global Perspectives category is closely related to what we have termed The International Perspective. Thus, the GEC has proposed a reconfiguration of these categories.
2) Relationship to ProsPer. The preceding statements along with the goals for the Global Village categories help to clarify the mapping E3, Non-W-->The Global Village: the former are subsumed by the latter but lose some degree of prominence.
3) Human Diversity. There seem to be two broad views on how to integrate this subject into the curriculum. a) The high-profile approach. One has a separate course in which diversity is a major course theme. Then the topic is taught with breadth and rigor. b) The low-profile approach. Diversity is a minor component in many of the core general education courses so that the topic is part of the core. Otherwise, it gets "marginalized." In one sense, the human diversity category in the proposed GEP is high-profile, but in another it's low-profile in getting integrated into a group of issues which ought to concern all people, but especially liberally educated ones.
A Constraint. Under our current quarter system, a student takes 36 5-credit
courses to graduate, but under the future semester system will take 30 4-credit
courses. This loss of six courses constrains what we can do.
Two-Credits or More for Expanding Perspectives Courses. In order to assure sufficient depth of exposure to a subject, only courses of two or more credits will satisfy an Expanding Perspectives requirement. However, to require courses of more than two credits would be to make the requirement, de facto, a credit requirement. In addition, this proposal is consistent with the proposed two-credit Common Experience course.
Approving Courses in Expanding Perspectives. Courses can be proposed to satisfy only one of the Expanding Perspectives categories. For example, given a biology course, Bio 1xxx, Environmental Issues, with lab: it could be proposed to satisfy either the Physical and Biological Sciences requirement or the People and the Environment requirement, but not both. Naturally, any course would have to meet the goals of the category for which it is proposed.
This does not prohibit courses from a given discipline appearing in more than one category, only one course from appearing in more than one category. Consider a discipline such as Art History, which is strongly cross-disciplinary in nature. Some of its courses, for example, might appear under the Historical Perspectives requirement and some under the Fine Arts requirement, but no individual Art History course could be proposed for both. The decision-making process would begin with the faculty proposer.
The purpose of the one course/one category constraint is to assure, as far as possible, that students will satisfy their general education requirements by taking courses in as many disciplines and from as many different instructors as possible. The purpose is to assure breadth of experience, which requires a degree of rigidity in the structure of the program. At the same time, the requirements are not conceived as being narrowly disciplinary. However, if all restraint is thrown aside, if single courses can satisfy many categories, or courses in a single discipline can span most of the categories, then opportunities arise for satisfying many requirements by taking courses from a few faculty in a few disciplines.
Skills for the Liberal Arts and Expanding Perspectives. Under ProsPer, courses can be cross-listed under both the Process and Expanding Perspectives headings, and students can satisfy both requirements with a single course. Under this plan, there will be relatively few such opportunities, since the principal aim of an Expanding Perspectives course is not the acquisition of a skill.
ProsPer has the C2 and W requirements. The GEC proposes moving these out of general education and into the major. In effect, in the description of each major there would be a statement about how students majoring in that area formally acquire computing and writing skills.
There are four reasons.
1) Simplifying the approval process. Currently, C2 and W courses go through a series of criteria-based approval steps involving the discipline, division, GEC, Curriculum Committee and Assembly. This seems overly-elaborate.
2) Simplifying the governance system. By removing these from general education, it will be easier to drop the GEC as an adjunct committee. The Consultative Committee said we ought to simplify campus governance.
3) Availability of W courses. It is evident that there are more courses in the curriculum which might be used to satisfy the W requirement than carry the W designation. The reason is simple. Instructors can't afford to have students "flooding" the course for the sole purpose of obtaining the W credit. It is easy to cite examples. C2 courses are in short supply, perhaps for a similar reason. If the computing and writing requirements are moved into the major, the greater availability of these courses is likely to become manifest.
4) Appropriate experiences. Instructors in the area of the major are
well-positioned to know what sorts of writing and computing experiences
their majors ought to get.