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Proposal for General Education Requirements
At The University of Connecticut
The Curricula and Courses Committee of the University Senate was charged by the Senate last fall to study, evaluate and make recommendations regarding the Task Force Report on General Education.
The proposal published here in the Advance is the outcome of that assignment. It includes input from two public forums, and from each school and college through the deans.
It will be presented to the full University Senate on May 14 for further consideration.
"While this proposal does represent the considered opinion of the University Senate Curricula and Courses Committee, it should by no means be considered a finished document," says Gary English, professor and head of the dramatic arts department and co-chair of the Senate Curricula and Courses Committee. English adds that he expects the proposal to continue to evolve, as the full Senate considers action.
"We came up with a document that we felt best reflected the views of the entire University on general education," says English. "For those issues that continue to be controversial, the Senate is the best place to resolve them."
He says the biggest issue that has not yet been fully resolved is the writing requirement. A discussion paper on this issue by Robert Tilton, associate professor of English and a member of both the General Education Task Force and the Senate Curricula and Courses Committee, is published on page A4 of this special section of the Advance.
Senate action on the General Education Requirements is not expected until the fall. The Senate approved a resolution last semester that precludes taking action on the recommendations during the same meeting it receives them, allowing for them to be considered over a minimum of two Senate meetings. Because the last full meeting of the Senate this academic year is scheduled for May 14, no vote can be taken until the fall.
Implementation could take two to three years. Once the recommendations are final, the first step will be to establish the General Education Oversight Committee, which will set the criteria for General Education courses. Departments will submit their proposed courses to the committee for approval and a financial evaluation must be carried out to ensure sufficient resources. The new requirements must also be publicized to students before they can take effect.
"Any major change in the General Education Requirements of the University is a serious business," says English, "and should be undertaken only after a carefully considered period of study, reflection and debate. The Senate Curricula and Courses Committee now considers it appropriate to move that process to the Senate as a whole."
English urges the University community to keep an open mind and read the entire report. "We expect there to be many questions and points covered by the proposal that will be discussed further during Senate proceedings," he says.
Questions regarding the proposal may be addressed to members of the Curricula and Courses Committee. Ideas and suggestions about the proposal should be directed to Senate representatives.
The Curricula and Courses Committee of the University Senate has reviewed the Task Force Report on General Education and numerous other documents and recommendations, most notably the alternative proposal from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
The Committee has debated the subject of General Education on a weekly basis since November, conducted two university-wide forums, invited and received feedback from each of the schools and colleges on campus, and met with several deans and their various staff, Vice-Provost Susan Steele, and Chancellor John D. Petersen.
While we find much in the Task Force Report that represents a significant contribution to the subject of General Education, we find that many of the recommendations do not enjoy the support of the university community. Likewise, the CLAS alternative proposal makes a strong case on several key points, particularly in the organization of content areas, but its recommendations are also not universally acceptable. The conflict between liberal education and general education is nowhere more evident than in the different responses that various schools and colleges have offered to the original Task Force Report, or in the differences between the Task Force recommendations and the CLAS response.
It is important to point out from the outset that we have taken the feedback we have received very seriously, and have made many substantial changes to the original Task Force Report. Many of these changes are consistent with the recommendations of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Our approach has been to identify what similarities exist that a substantial portion of the University can support, identify a method of implementation that is appropriate, and move ahead with a recommendation.
We live in a complex university setting that does not enjoy a single, clearly defined undergraduate vision. The result is a complex set of needs, sometimes defined by accreditation requirements , that differ significantly across the undergraduate landscape. These needs require as simple and uniform a solution as possible.
We therefore have opted for those portions of the Task Force Report that reduce the number of credits in General Education, while at the same time maintaining the discipline-based content divisions in group requirements as suggested by the CLAS alternative. We believe that this will continue to guarantee a broad, rigorous
intellectual experience for all university students.
Consistent with the Task Force Report and the original principles set forth by the Ad Hoc Committee on General Education in 1985, we agree with the following statement:
The purpose of general education requirements is to ensure that all University of Connecticut undergraduate students become articulate and acquire intellectual breadth and versatility, critical judgement, moral sensitivity, awareness of their era and society, consciousness of the diversity of human culture and experience, and a working understanding of the processes by which they can continue to acquire and use knowledge. It is vital to the accomplishment of the University's mission that a balance between professional and general education be established and maintained in which each is complementary to and compatible with the other.
There are several principles consistent with portions of both the Task Force Report and the CLAS proposal that the Curricula and Courses Committee believes should be incorporated within General Education. These include:
Universality. All students at the University of Connecticut should have the same General Education Requirements, irrespective of their major, school, or college. Schools and colleges may not limit students' choices within General Education or require certain choices.
Accessibility. All students at the University of Connecticut should have timely access to General Education courses and support services.
Transferability. Students must be able to transfer from one school or college to another without having to repeat General Education Requirements. A procedure should be established for the smooth transition of students who transfer into the University from other institutions.
Regular Faculty Participation. Where feasible, General Education courses should be taught by regular faculty; resources should be allocated to promote this practice.
Consistent with our approach to evaluating the Task Force Report, we are submitting our recommendation to the Senate divided into three parts:
Part One - Competencies
Part One - Competencies
The University of Connecticut places a high value on the ability of its undergraduates to demonstrate competency in five fundamental areas: computer technology, writing, quantitative skills, second language proficiency, and information literacy. The development of these competencies rests on establishing clear expectations for students both at entrance and upon graduation, and on constructing a framework so that our students can reach these competencies.
With the exception of information literacy, the structure of each competency involves two parts - one mandating the establishment of an entry-level expectation and the second mandating the establishmen t of a graduation expectation.
The entry-level expectations apply to all incoming students. The writing and quantitative expectations are consistent with our current entrance requirements. The expectation concerning second language proficiency is consistent with the current recommendati on that students complete three years of a single language in high school. The character of the baseline expectations in computer technology remains to be fully fleshed out, but it is clear that the majority of our students enter the University with skills in this area. Lacking a demonstration of the requisite entry-level competency, students will be given the opportunity to bring their skills to the appropriate level.
The exit-level expectations for all five competencies, on the other hand, will vary with each major.
It is unreasonable to place the institutional responsibility for developing these competencies solely on individual courses. Therefore, a plan has been developed to enrich the instructional environment through the establishment of a Learning Center, a place where students can come for asynchronous learning supported by tutors, advisors, teaching assistants, peer preceptors, and faculty, as well as through the use of technology.
Faculty members should begin undergraduate classes with a summary of the competencies and proficiencies that a student will need to bring to the subject matter. Students can avail themselves of the services within the Learning Center to bring their skill levels up to faculty expectations.
Courses approved for the content areas of the GER must have a significant writing requirement or a component that deals with quantitative reasoning. Each GER course will be designated as either a "W" or a "Q" course. Each student will be required to take a minimum of two courses designated as "W" and two courses designated as "Q." The remaining two courses may be taken at the student's discretion. (Thus, a given student might take three "Ws" and three "Qs" or four of one designation and two of the other.) This allows for flexibility relative to the individual interests of the students.
b. Exit Expectations
AP Scores: Students who receive a 4 or 5 on the English Composition Advanced Placement exam or the Literature Advanced Placement exam receive four credits for freshman English, thereby fulfilling the requirement.
Honors: Honors students may choose English 250, a three-credit seminar taught by full-time faculty, to fulfill the freshman English requirement.
SAT Placement Scores: Students with a Verbal SAT (VSAT) score of 430 and below are automatically placed in English 104. There is no pre-class appeal. Student writing is evaluated after the first week of the term. In rare cases it is possible, based on that writing and with the approval of the director of freshman English, for a student to be moved into an English 110 or 111 section.
Students with VSAT scores of 440-540 have the option to enroll in either English 104 or English 110 or 111. Student writing is evaluated after the first week of the semester and all inconsistenci es are brought to the attention of the director of freshman English. At this point a student may be placed in a course more appropriate to his or her writing competency. All students who remain in English 104 must pass that course in order to move on to English 110 or 111.
Students with VSAT scores above 540 may enroll in either English 110 or 111.
2. Connecticut community college transfer students:
There is an articulation agreement with each community college that prescribes which two three-credit community college courses fulfill UConn's freshman English requirement. (Four of these six credits count toward the four-credit freshman English requirement; the other two credits come in as elective.)
3. Transfer students from other Connecticut colleges and from out-of-state:
These students will be assessed on a case-by-case basis by the director of freshman English.
b. Writing in General Education
We agree with the Task Force Report that skill codes are inappropriate drivers of enrollments. It has been demonstrated many times that there have never been sufficient "W" seats available to UConn students. In addition, the current "W" designation often drives students into courses when they have no interest in the content. By all accounts, it is a system that is broken and not likely to improve.
We are unconvinced, however, that the "Writing Across the Curriculum" model as proposed by the Task Force is workable, or even appropriate in all areas of study. Therefore, we propose an alternative approach to "Writing Across the Curriculum" which includes a "W" component.
In each three-credit General Education course designated as a "W" course, there will be a minimum of 12 pages of writing. While instruction in writing need not be an intrinsic element of such courses, instructors will make clear their expectations that student writing meet a standard of performance based on the type of writing done in that field. In an effort to improve the students' writing and critical thinking skills, students will be expected to make use of feedback from their instructors, either through the revising and resubmitting of papers or through the completion of a number of short writing assignments (such as lab reports). In most cases the writing will be in English; when appropriate, some percentage of this writing may be completed in another language.
Because there will in all probability continue to be General Education courses with large enrollments, such writing instruction will demand administrative backing in order to provide the necessary instructional support. In such cases, an appropriate number of teaching assistants or graders must be supplied on all University campuses for meaningful evaluation of student writing to take place. The faculty member in charge of each course will be expected to inform the assistants of the writing expectations for that course and to monitor the grading of student assignments.
The Curricula and Courses Committee has serious concerns regarding implementation of this portion of the proposal, particularly with respect to the financial considerations implied in the assignment of graduate assistants.
c. Upper-Division Writing and Exit
d. University Writing Center
The director of the University Writing Center will recruit and train graduate and undergraduate tutors from across the disciplines and, working with the linguistics department, will develop an English as Second Language Center to provide writing support for students and faculty members experiencing difficulties with writing English as a second language. All instructors will be able to refer undergraduate and graduate students with serious writing problems to the University Writing Center.
b. Quantitative skills in General Education
c. Exit Proficiency
d. Learning Center
b. Exit Proficiency
Many majors expect students to attain a higher level of second-language proficiency than the minimum for graduation. Each school or college will determine the level of proficiency; the demonstration of proficiency should not be tied exclusively to seat-time.
All students are strongly encouraged to integrate their second language with their major or other studies, and departments are strongly encouraged to develop such opportunities for their students. Mechanisms for doing so will be developed and overseen by the student's major department, in collaboration with the Department of Modern and Classical Languages. Students may link their second language to their major, to elective courses, or to co-curricular interests. Such mechanisms may include, but are not limited to, the following: Linkage Through Language courses, research involving use of the second language, internships and other work experience, travel, immersion courses, or study abroad.
All students who meet a level of language proficiency beyond the minimum needed for graduation will have that level noted on their transcript. In addition, students who have successfully integrated language with other elements of their education will have this noted on their transcript.
Because a demonstration of second-language proficiency is a change from the current situation, a transition period is necessary. For the next two years, students will be required either to take the AP test before entrance or to take the BYU test at entrance, with the goal of gathering data on their proficiency. These data will measure the impact of the proposed change and will also allow the University to pass information about the results of language instruction to the high schools. Before the new requirements are permanently adopted, an assessment of their impact will be made and the units delivering language instruction will certify that they can handle the changes.
The University acknowledges that second-semester proficiency in a language is not optimal. Our long-term goal is to produce graduates who can use a second language to accomplish career or personal goals. This will require, however, that there be more attention to second-language study in elementary and secondary schools. Thus, we encourage the University to work with the appropriate organizations to improve K-12 second-language instruction. When this collaboration improves the language abilities of incoming students, third- or fourth-semester proficiency should become the standard.
Each major program will consider the information literacy competencies required of its graduates and build those expectations into the upper-level research and writing curricula of the major. The subject-area specialist at the library will provide support.
Part Two - Content Areas
The Curricula and Courses Committee agrees with the CLAS proposal that this organizing principle is advisable for the following reasons:
All courses offered for the General Education Requirements must be approved by the General Education Oversight Committee. (See Part Three.)
There must be a significant commitment to several principles:
1. Multiculturalism and Diversity
Our conclusion is that diversity-related issues are of sufficient importance that they must be embedded across the General Education curriculum. However, understanding the different emphases among the courses in the three content areas, the Curricula and Courses Committee recognized that issues related to diversity, multiculturalism , ethics, and social bias can be addressed in different ways in different courses. (For example, in some Group Three courses the focus may be on the social ethics of scientific inquiry and the relationship of public policy to scientific and technological practice.)
As a guideline toward the development of an awareness of and appreciation for diversity, the committee identified the following four themes: (a) recognizing that there are varieties of human experiences and perceptions; (b) developing an awareness of social power; (c) understanding that interpretive systems and social structures are cultural creations; and (d) appreciating the commonalities that cut across differences.
2. Introductory courses
4. Other operating regulations and procedures will
While many courses may require both quantitative reasoning and writing, and indeed the Curricula and Courses Committee applaudes the efforts of those faculty who create such courses, for the purposes of order and clarity there will be no multiple designations. This in no way should inhibit departments from requiring writing in their "Q" offerings or quantitative analysis in their "W" courses.
Part Three - Oversight &
Therefore, the Committee proposes the creation of a General Education Oversight Committee (GEOC), a faculty group appointed by the Senate and representative of the schools and colleges. This committee will monitor the General Education curriculum. This will require a change in the University By-Laws.
The creation of a Senate-appointed committee recognizes the policy control of the Senate in matters relating to undergraduate education. This committee will work in association with the Office of the Vice-Provost for Undergraduate Education and Instruction, because this office has university-wide responsibility for the health of undergraduate education and the fiscal resources to address emerging issues. A member of the Vice-Provost's office will be a non-voting member of the committee. Financial support for the activity of the GEOC will come from the Office of the Chancellor.
The GEOC will be charged with:
New courses, once they have been approved by the GEOC, will be submitted to the Senate Curricula and Courses Committee for formal approval and submission to the Senate. Existing courses, once they have been approved by the GEOC, will be submitted directly to the Senate for final approval.
The membership of the GEOC should be broadly representative across all the schools and colleges, consistent with current nominating committee practice; faculty who are central to the delivery of GER courses should be appropriately represented. There should also be undergraduate student representation. While its members will be appointed by the Senate, the process of consultation should include the Vice-Provost for Undergraduate Education and Instruction.
Terms of appointment to the GEOC would be two years, except in the case of student members, where one-year terms may be more appropriate. In addition, one half of the first group of GEOC members shall be appointed for one year to ensure some overlap in membership from year to year. Normally no member shall serve more than two terms of two years each, without taking at least two years off from the committee.
Although General Education courses serve a university-wide audience, at the moment no university-level administrative structure is in place to attend to them. The faculty members on the GEOC will attend to broad policy issues, but they do not have the time to ensure the implementation of their decisions. We propose the creation of a director for general education to be chosen by the Chancellor from a list of candidates approved by the Senate Nominating Committee.
The director of general education will provide leadership to the GEOC, will work with the GEOC on identifying issues and concerns, and will take care of the administrative details surrounding the general education curriculum. It is desirable to give the faculty chair of the GEOC a 50 percent-time directorship, as well as administrative support. The director will serve a three-year term, not to be renewed.
Faculty members involved in General Education have different pedagogical challenges from those facing instructors in major or graduate courses. These faculty members should be brought together on a regular basis to collaborate on issues concerning the delivery of these courses. This can be accomplished by the director of the GEOC, who will organize their regular meetings. These meetings will provide the kind of ongoing discussion necessary to keep this part of the curriculum vibrant and vital.
The GEOC shall establish a set of faculty sub-committees to determine and to review on a continuing basis the entrance and exit expectations for each of the five skill areas.
The GEOC shall establish three faculty sub-committees to establish the criteria for all courses to be approved for each of the content areas. Membership of each of these sub-committees must be representative of all the schools and colleges, and should be limited to a workable number.
Once the criteria for each of the content areas are developed and accepted by the GEOC, they must be submitted to the Senate for final approval.
Once criteria are approved by the Senate, courses may be submitted to the GEOC for approval and listing in one of the three content areas. After one year of course submissions and approvals have taken place, the GEOC will submit the entire menu to the University Senate for final approval.
Upon submission of this menu, there shall be an evaluation made by the Budget Committee of the Senate to determine: