Archive for Sunday, August 19, 2012

General education curriculum changes to focus on core skills

August 19, 2012

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It’s a change that will quite possibly reach to Kansas University’s core.

As part of the “Bold Aspirations” plan to revitalize many aspects of the institution’s administration and education, committees of professors and students have been working on creating a new approach to general education. It’s a core curriculum affecting what kind of classes — and possibly also how they’re taught — are required for all undergraduate students, regardless of major. Its aim, proponents say, is to provide everyone a base skill set from which individuals can build in particular fields of interest.

Last spring, the committee overseeing the changes finalized the set of core goals and learning outcomes that it felt general education should provide. Under the plan, a class should fit into one of the goals. If it doesn’t, it can be taken as an elective or designated by a particular school as a major requirement course, said Holly Storkel, a committee member and associate professor in the speech-language-hearing department. The core goals:

• Build core skills of critical thinking and quantitative literacy.

• Strengthen written and oral communication.

• Develop a background of knowledge across fundamental areas of study.

• Respect human diversity and expand cultural understanding and global awareness.

• Practice social responsibility and demonstrate ethical behavior.

• Gain the ability to integrate knowledge and think creatively.

Each goal has a rubric, a set of “learning outcomes” that are like guidelines for what a student should “get” from taking the course that’s related to one of these goals, Storkel said.

“It’s about shifting the focus in choosing classes from just picking topics to what particular skills they will acquire,” she said. “It all makes it more practical — instead of ‘Oh, I just have to take two English courses and two math courses,’ students can think, ‘Oh, now I see how I would use good communication skills’ or good numerical literacy or whatever.”

It’s a major overhaul of the course designation and advising process. It’s now going into its fourth year of development. The next step will take place this fall, said Chris Haufler, the chair of the committee. A new committee will meet to review applications from professors. The professors have submitted plans for how their courses fit into one or more of the goals, and the new committee will determine approval of those designations.

“We’re working to begin identifying the courses and educational experiences that will fit into this foundation,” Haufler said. “That’s going to start with a bang this fall.”

By “educational experiences,” Haufler meant co-curricular activities like study abroad, independent research and service learning.

The core curriculum approach will launch with students entering in fall 2013. Undergraduate students who enrolled before then but who won’t graduate until after can opt in to the core-rather-than-block approach.

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