March 1998 Senate Agenda
FINAL REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS
of The Special Committee on General Education
for The University Faculty Senate
MOTION: To adopt the Vision, Mission and (amended statement of) Goals for General Education at Penn State as given in The Senate Agenda for 10-21-97, Appendix “B,” pages 7 & 8, the ten recommendations as presented in Appendix “B,” pages 9-27, and the framework for General Education at Penn State as given in Appendix “B,” page 32.
VISION [from Appendix “B” page 7]
To develop and deliver a general education program that emphasizes learning, that functions as an integral, provocative, and enlightening part of students’ higher education and that represents a source of pride and identity for the entire Penn State community.
MISSION [from Appendix “B” page 7]
The General Education program at Penn State reflects a deep conviction by leaders in all professions that successful, satisfying lives require a wide range of skills and knowledge.
Scientists and artists, administrators and teachers, and public policy makers and private entrepreneurs in both their professional and private lives need the skills to reason logically and quantitatively and to communicate effectively. All need broad overviews of the world they live in–of the sciences that make sense of its natural and manufactured environments, of the cultural movements that have shaped its diverse values, and of the enduring art that best expresses, inspires, and continually challenges those values.
GOALS [from Appendix “B” pages 7-8]
General education ENCOMPASSES the breadth of knowledge involving the major intellectual and aesthetic SKILLS AND achievements of humanity. This must include understanding and appreciation of the pluralistic nature of knowledge epitomized by the natural sciences, quantitative skills, social and behavioral sciences, humanities, and arts. TO ACHIEVE AND SHARE SUCH AN UNDERSTANDING AND APPRECIATION, SKILLS IN SELF-EXPRESSION, QUANTITATIVE ANALYSIS, INFORMATION LITERACY, AND COLLABORATIVE INTERACTION ARE NECESSARY. General education aids students in developing intellectual curiosity, a strengthened ability to think, and a deeper sense of aesthetic appreciation. General education, in essence, aims to cultivate a knowledgeable, informed, literate human being.
An effective general education program enables students to:
a. acquire knowledge through critical INFORMATION GATHERING–INCLUDING reading, listening, COMPUTER-ASSISTED SEARCHING, AND SCIENTIFIC EXPERIMENTATION AND OBSERVATION;
b. analyze and evaluate, where appropriate in a quantitative manner, the acquired knowledge;
c. integrate knowledge from a variety of sources and fields;
d. make critical judgments in a logical and rational manner;
e. [Delete] recognize and comprehend the role of physical activity in meeting the demands of daily living [End Delete] DEVELOP THE SKILLS TO MAINTAIN HEALTH, AND UNDERSTAND THE FACTORS THAT IMPINGE UPON IT;
f. [Delete] learn to [End Delete] communicate effectively, BOTH IN WRITING AND ORALLY, AND USING THE ACCEPTED METHODS FOR PRESENTATION, ORGANIZATION AND DEBATE PARTICULAR TO THEIR DISCIPLINES;
G. PROCEED INDEPENDENTLY AND IN COLLABORATION WITH OTHERS IN SEEKING AND SHARING KNOWLEDGE;
H. [Delete] g. comprehend the reality of [End Delete] GAIN UNDERSTANDING OF international interdependence and cultural diversity, AND DEVELOP CONSIDERATION FOR VALUES, LIFESTYLES, AND TRADITIONS THAT MAY DIFFER FROM THEIR OWN;
I. h. comprehend the role of aesthetic and creative activities in [Delete] meeting the demands of daily living [End Delete] EXPRESSING BOTH IMAGINATION AND EXPERIENCE.
RECOMMENDATIONS [from Appendix “B” pages 9-27]
Recommendation #1: Establish a first-year seminar experience for incoming, first-year students, provided by each of the colleges and campuses as part of the general education program.
Recommendation #2: Improve the diagnostic instruments and measures used in the placement of entering students in skills courses and reduce the incidence of students taking courses with content that they have already mastered by encouraging placing out or exemption when proficiency has been attained and/or demonstrated.
Recommendation #3: Identify the specific competencies and levels of proficiencies expected for, and constituting college-level mastery in, each of the skill areas (writing, speaking and quantification); identify the subsets of these competencies that are relevant for students intending on entering majors within each of the broad disciplinary categories (natural or applied sciences, business, social sciences, humanities, arts, communications, etc.); where needed, revise or develop new courses that will emphasize and help achieve these learning outcomes.
Recommendation #4: Integrate key competencies for active learning (writing, speaking, quantitative reasoning, information retrieval and computer literacy, problem solving and critical thinking, collaboration and teamwork, intercultural and international competence), as appropriate, in all general education courses in the domain-knowledge areas (health sciences, sciences, arts, humanities, social and behavioral sciences).
Recommendation #5: Develop policies, procedures and guidelines for the general education curriculum and its attendant requirements that will stimulate creative, collaborative approaches, both in terms of curriculum development and delivery and in the ways students may meet the spirit of the requirements.
Recommendation #6: Restructure the existing, 4-credit, Health Science and Physical Education requirement to create a new, 3-credit, Health Sciences requirement that emphasizes an academic approach and rationale to issues and research concerning health and which may include physical activities that focus on lifespan wellness and fitness.
Recommendation #7: Refine the guidelines used in approving courses intended to develop intercultural and international competence, to emphasize student engagement and active learning.
Recommendation #8: Institute a new option to substitute 3 credits of study in a second language (at the third semester level or above) towards satisfaction of the general education requirements.
Recommendation #9: Initiate a systematic, formative, assessment mechanism: namely, a faculty-oriented, administratively supported, general education assessment interest group. The goal of this initiative is to gain timely, practical insights into what students should be learning, what and how well they are learning, the opportunities provided by Penn State’s curriculum, and how the University can continually improve general education.
Recommendation #10: The University Faculty Senate leadership shall develop an appropriate mechanism for oversight of the implementation of the recommended changes to the general education curriculum. This shall include making necessary revisions to the “Guide to Curricular Procedures;” examination and refinement, as warranted, of the faculty committee/subcommittee organization for course approvals; study of the process used for submission of, and action on, course proposals; and monitoring and coordination of the implementation process and schedule.