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General Education Initiative

The College of Arts and Sciences is launching a three-year, General Education ‘Renaissance,’ which aims to drive general education reform from the grassroots up by supporting faculty proposals for new or redesigned courses by individuals, pairs or “clusters” of faculty. Proposals that allow students to experience General Education in a more coherent way—like proposals that thematically link multiple courses—and proposals meant to hone core skills of analysis, synthesis, and written and quantitative reasoning are particularly welcome. The call for proposals insists:

Our General Education curriculum should be a showcase for the kind of great teaching and learning that can thrive only in a research university. Courses of this kind provide many students with their first real exposure to what makes university level learning different from high school. Many students come alive intellectually from having taken an exciting General Education course. But all too often, General Education is treated as an afterthought by both faculty and students – as something to “get out of the way,” frequently at other, cheaper institutions or even in high school. The health of a public research university, and the vitality of its undergraduate program, depend on making the appeal of intellectual inquiry immediately apparent to students.

The Initiative invites not only creative pedagogy from the faculty clusters, but also renewed campus conversation about what makes an excellent general education course and a successful general education program—conversations that help us articulate what is unique and valuable about a UO degree. The Undergraduate Council established the purpose of general education and the criteria for group satisfying courses in proposals approved by the Faculty Senate between Fall 1999 and Spring 2004. As UO students negotiate coursework designated as fulfilling writing, arts and letters, social science, science, mathematics, multicultural, and foreign-language requirements, the University believes they “develop an understanding of and appreciation for”:

As we take stock of the curriculum and add fresh energy and focus to the core experiences of our students, CAS, the Undergraduate Council, and TEP suggest these opening questions for consideration, and welcome more questions, more ideas, and examples of best practice from the excellent faculty who define the value of a UO education with every class:

(1) How do we communicate the nature and value of the core curriculum to students? How do they perceive the transition from general education courses into a major? Do they see themselves as sharing a meaningful, intellectual common experience?

 

(2) What does it mean for our undergraduates to be at a major research university? What does research-led teaching look like in a general education course?

 

(3) What are the characteristics of excellent general education courses?

 

(4) Can creative approaches boost student learning in these courses? How would we know?

 

(5) Is the faculty satisfied with the structure of our general education requirements? Do these requirements still reflect our best thinking about what a core liberal arts education looks like?

 


Selected Resources

(NOTE: The below links will open in a new browser tab or window)

Learn More about the UO programs featured at the "Best of UO General Education" Event:

Annotated Bibliography of key articles on general education reform, teaching practices in general education courses, and student and faculty perceptions of general education. (PDF logo PDF [an error occurred while processing this directive] )

General Education, Association of American Colleges and Universities: provides links to numerous resources, publications, and events on general education reform and effective teaching practices for general education courses. The AAC&U has been at the forefront of general education initiatives since the 1980s, and its site is a significant online hub for work on general education in higher education.

General Education, LEAP Campus Toolkit: presents numerous examples of innovative general education programs at different universities and colleges across the United States, in addition to basic tools for design and assessment of general education programs. The site is based on the Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) initiative that “champions the importance of a twenty-first-century liberal education—for individual students and for a nation dependent on economic creativity and democratic vitality.”

The Journal of General Education: JGE is published by Penn State University Press and is the leading center of scholarship and research on issues in general education. As noted at the site, “JGE features articles on innovative methods in teaching and assessment, profiles of exemplary general education programs, case studies of successful curriculum development efforts, and reviews of books and monographs related to general education.”