Balance on the BRIDGE: Graduating Students for the Future

Melissa Dickson

Tom Foster

Lenore Horner

Sara Sawyer

Abstract

SIUE, through its Mission and Vision statements and those of its component Schools and Colleges, has set itself the task of rigorously educating students from a wide variety of backgrounds, academic and cultural, into life-long learners who can communicate their knowledge, reasoning, and understanding effectively in order to apply it to a diverse and complex world. In light of these commitments, we view the General Education curriculum as having two distinct purposes. The first purpose is to provide a foundation, which all students need to succeed in their college education and as life-long learners. The second purpose is to pursue an education, as opposed to mere training. The second purpose requires students to acquaint themselves with various sets of knowledge, ideas, ways of knowing and ways of thinking outside the scope of their chosen majors and their own personal backgrounds. An SIUE education should expand the opportunities and horizons of our graduates.

 

Our goal is to accomplish these purposes with a program that is balanced across the three main divisions into which human endeavor is conventionally divided, specifically: arts and humanities, social sciences, and the sciences. The program must be flexible enough not to unduly hinder students in their varied (and often changing) paths towards knowledge and understanding. This program must also encompass enough rigor so as to meet purposes one and two from above. Additionally, such a program must be simple enough for students, parents, and advisors to confidently plan educationally meaningful routes to graduation.

 

Our proposed program acknowledges the excellent education provided by SIUE's faculty and staff. We expect to build this program to capitalize on and strengthen the existing arc of SIUE's educational program from Freshman Seminar to Senior Assignment. Further, we expect that our program will encourage the curricula of departments and programs in certain directions but will not constrain them by reliance on specific courses. Our program must respect individual differences, intellectual freedom and the diversity of thought present across all campus units. In particular, we hope to strengthen the II/IC/IGR curriculum and to stress not only the breadth of the curriculum, but to add some depth to the curriculum as well.

 


Introduction

Our goal in this proposal is to create a general education program that encourages both fundamental skills and breadth of knowledge in our students. Additionally we wanted to create a program that would maximize student potential yet at the same time simplify the general education requirements. We believe a good general education program should have as its aims increasing student knowledge, student understanding and appreciation of diversity, and creating students who are lifelong learners and as well giving students some of the necessary tools to maintain a healthy lifestyle as that is needed to be a lifelong learner. To achieve our goals, we have created a program that is broken down into fundamentals to give our students the requisite scholarship and health maintenance tools and a breadth requirement that includes courses in diversity to ensure that students gain some understanding of areas outside of their major. To maximize student potential we are requiring that students not test out of these requirements. The program is outlined below, and a discussion of the program follows the program outline.

 

Program

Except as noted, courses must be taken for a grade, or transferred from another accredited post-secondary institution in accordance with established protocols. Specifically, none of the fundamental or breadth requirements may be fulfilled by any form of test-out, placement, AP, or CLEP credit.

 

Fundamentals (15 CR minimum)

          to be completed in the first semester at SIUE

                       •  New Freshman Seminar (3 CR)

          to be completed in the first 30CR at SIUE

                       •  Written fluency - 6 CR of composition-focused courses carrying the WF classification

                       •  Quantitative fluency - 6 CR of quantitatively-focused courses carrying the QF classification

          to be completed before graduation

                       •  3 units meeting the PA classification

          Courses fulfilling the Fundamentals requirements may carry the major designation.

 

Breadth (30 CR minimum)

          1 interdisciplinary course (3 CR minimum) that bridges at least two divisions

          3 courses (9 CR minimum) from each of the following divisions

                       •  Fine Arts & Humanities

                       •  Natural Sciences & Mathematics - must include at least one lab course

                       •  Social Sciences

                       Constraints

                               •  courses carrying the major designation may not count towards this requirement

                               •  at least two of the 9 courses must carry the Diversity designation (DV)

          Senior Assignment which must include a written component (also counts towards major)

 

           No course may be used to fulfill both the Fundamentals and the Breadth requirements by a single student

 

Definitions of Classifications

WF

In order for a course to carry the Writing Fluency classification, it must have college-level composition as a primary focus of the course. Freshman seminar and senior assignment may not carry the WF classification. Examples include:

•  ENG 101 and higher

•  Advanced literature courses in foreign languages

•  Courses using essay exams and term papers.

 

QF

In order for a course to carry the Quantitative Fluency classification, it must have college-level quantitative methods as a primary focus of the course. Examples include:

•  MATH, STAT, CS, PHYS, CHEM or other courses having MATH120 or higher as a prerequisite

•  ACCT210 or higher.

 

PA

In order for a course or activity to carry the Physical Activity classification, it must have physical activity as its primary focus. Examples include:

•  KIN 1xx and 2xx courses

•  DANC 114 and 21x courses

•  Intramural, club, and varsity sports.

 

IS

In order for a course to carry the Interdisciplinary Studies classification, it must be team-taught by members of departments in two different divisions and focus on integrating significant aspects of their respective fields.

 

DV

In order for a course to carry the Diversity classification, it must have one of the following as a primary focus of the course.

•  History, culture, and status of a non-dominant group (cultural, religious, ethnic, or racial) within the US

•  History, current culture and language of another country

•  Contemporary and historical relationships between at least two specific different cultural, religious, ethnic, or racial groups domestically or abroad.

 

 

Ancillary Recommendations

Incoming students should be required to demonstrate proficiency by transcript or examination upon admission in grammar, rhetoric, and basic computer skills. For remediation:

•  Create an AD course covering basic computer skills

              Use of a mouse and/or trackpad and/or trackball

              Saving files

              Going on the web

              Using webmail and basic email etiquette

              Elementary use of a word processor

              Elementary use of a spreadsheet including entering equations and graphing data

•  Since MATH 106, MATH 111 have prerequisites which are explicitly lower than University requirements for regular admission, we recommend that these courses be subsumed, in one form or another, into the AD course offerings.

•  Similarly, ENG 100 seems to be below the level of the entrance requirements and so ought to be subsumed into the AD course offerings.

 

 

Rationale

A college education is not just about knowledge and skills but is more fundamentally about becoming intellectually self-sufficient. In order to become so, students need to learn to think for themselves and to teach themselves. As a means to this end, we have devised a program that promotes study of various modes of thinking about the world and advancement of a student's knowledge and learning skills. In particular, the prevailing notion that students who arrive at college especially well prepared in some area should be rewarded by being permitted to cease learning in that area strikes us as nonsensical.

 

Fundamentals

 

Written fluency

Disciplines each have their own characteristic writing conventions. As such it is important that students learn to write in context. Hence this program begins with a year of writing in either a creative or an analytical context. From this base, students will then write to various ends within the context of their breadth courses and finally in a very focused way within the context of their majors culminating in the written component of the senior assignment. This approach is predicated on writing occurring throughout the curriculum and in particular does not count a large (50+ students) 111 classes as writing-intensive loci.

 

Quantitative fluency

Quantitative and analytic literacy under the current program are inadequate. This program will enhance both through requiring all students to advance from their entering abilities through a minimum of a year of college-level mathematics. Not only is the knowledge itself useful in many fields, but it's learning will enhance students' skills as life-long learners and broaden their lifetime field of career choices. Ultimately, this is a miniscule step towards raising the mathematical literacy of the nation as a whole, which would enable debate about substantial areas of public policy to take place at a more thorough and more efficient level.

 

Physical Activity

The lack of physical fitness, in a time of increasing national waistlines with decreasing access to medical care, creates a need both societal and individual for everyone to work on physical fitness.

 

Computer Skills

Very basic computer skills are quite commonplace today so we should not find many of our students needing a basic computer-use course, but we should not require instructors in content course to teach these basics.

 

Breadth

The breadth section explicitly balances students' exposure to all facets of human knowledge and ways of knowing. The lab requirement addresses SIUE's objective that all students have first hand experience in scientific inquiry. Beyond this we have left the program flexible to minimize the extent to which the general education program is a complicated exercise in hoop-jumping and maximize the extent to which it is a tool with which students can pursue their interests and aptitudes and fortify their weaknesses.

 

Learners rarely integrate knowledge across boundaries without explicit instruction, hence we have included a requirement for at least one course explicitly addressed to integration of knowledge across boundaries.

 

As individual nations become more mixed and as parts of the world interact more strongly and more quickly, it is increasingly imperative our students graduate with a specific understanding of some of the issues that can be involved in intergroup interactions. The diversity requirement (replacing both II and IGR) is intended to focus on the impact of cultural differences in our world. It is our expectation that the criteria laid down for these courses will permit flexibility as years and events pass while keeping the curriculum focused. We have explicitly included aspects of international culture in this program as a reminder that cultural differences play important roles at all scales and as a counterweight to the traditional cultural isolation of the Midwest and the periodic isolationism of the nation as a whole.

 

No specific course to address ethics has been included on the grounds that the ethical conundra of each discipline are better served by discipline-specific focus on them whether in a distinct course or incorporated into various courses through the curriculum. Further, it is expected that all instructors are inculcating students with fundamental ethical standards with respect to property and persons (the physical and intellectual aspects of both) as befits the nature of each class.

 

Pursuing the revisions in progress to the freshman seminar program, Freshman Seminars should be discipline- or cross-discipline-based courses which introduce new freshmen to the concept of and skills and attributes necessary for life-long learning. Practical milestones to this goal will include: understanding the level of work expected of both quality and quantity, the time-commitment required to learn effectively, campus resources available to meet those expectations, ethical considerations in completing coursework, and introduction to self-assessment and self-reflection.

 

Administrative, Technical, and Practical Hurdles to implementation

A system for accrediting courses for the WF, QF, IS, DV classifications should be created through Faculty Senate's curriculum council.

 

A system for accrediting activities for the PA classification should be created through the Student Fitness Center, Kinesiology, and Intercollegiate Athletics. Creative solutions for students with long-term injuries or permanent disabilities will need to be found. This should involve Disability Support Services. Our goal is to promote physical activity for each student in forms consistent with that student's abilities.

 

At a minimum of 45CR plus certified physical activity, this program is slightly larger than the existing general education program. The difference is a direct result of incorporating freshman seminar as a requirement. B Because absolutely no specific courses are required, this program is substantially more flexible and robust than the existing program and so should reduce student problems when switching majors or combining unusual goals. In particular, breadth is now implemented in a single package rather than the existing 2-tier system. Furthermore, constraints on when the general education courses are completed have been reduced. This will facilitate degree programs where major requirements must be completed a semester or year before graduation (for testing or practicum purposes). As an additional simplification, the number of types of course designators (and concomitant approvals) is reduced from the present seven (skills, intro, dist, IC, IGR, II, IS) to five (WF, QF, PA, IS, DV). Administrative, practical, and logistical implementation are all anticipated to be considerably less difficult than the current program due to the proposed program's independence from individual courses and administrative divisions.

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BRIDGE Proposal Overview - Self-Assessment

 

1. How does your proposal support the values of SIUE (citizenship, excellence, integrity, openness and wisdom)?

Citizenship is indirectly addressed through the concept of the well-informed person via the breadth requirement and more directly through the 6CR diversity requirement. Excellence is addressed with the requirement of 6CR of improvement in communication and quantitative fluency and through the balance of the breadth requirement. Openness is directly addressed through the diversity requirement. Wisdom is indirectly addressed through the flexibility of the general education program which that will require wise choices rather than skilled schedule juggling as the current program does.

 

2. How does your proposal support the stated objectives of the baccalaureate degree (oral/written communication skills, analytic/problem-solving skills, value of diversity, scientific literacy, ethics, foundation in the liberal arts and sciences, preparation in/for a discipline)?

Communication skills are directly addressed via a 6 CR written fluency requirement plus a written component to the senior assignment and indirectly through stated expectations of writing in breadth and major courses. Analytic/problem-solving skills are directly addressed with a 6 CR quantitative fluency requirement and indirectly through the breadth requirement of three further courses in the areas most commonly associated with these skills. The plan includes a two course focus on diversity and a broad but explicit definition of what should count for a diversity course. The requirement of three courses in the natural sciences and mathematics addresses scientific literacy in a broad way while permitting disciplines and courses to focus on aspects of literacy in ways that are appropriate. The breadth section requires three courses from each of the divisions encompassed in the concept of the liberal arts and sciences. Freshman seminar should address at least matters of academic ethics. Preparation in/for a discipline is the provenance of the major and so is not directly addressed in the general education proposal.

 

3. Does the proposal support the diverse range of needs of SIUE's student body and the special needs of the various professional and academic programs at SIUE?

Through it's breadth and flexibility, this program is ideally suited to meeting the diverse needs of our students whether they are changing majors, pursuing multiple majors, or pursuing a major in parallel to professional preparation (teaching, pre-health, pre-law, engineering etc.). In particular, the limited number of hours required to be completed within the first 30CR is a great boon to the more hierarchical programs typical of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields and to programs which effectively require students to complete their major coursework during their junior year to make way for student teaching or for pre-professional school testing.

 

4. Does the proposal respond to and address the ‘emerging concerns' of the faculty for general education to be relevant it must address (integration, information, communication, application)?

The question as phrased does not parse. We will answer the question: Does the proposal respond to and address the ‘emerging concerns' of the faculty that for general education to be relevant it must address integration, information, communication, and application?

Integration is addressed directly through the interdisciplinary studies component of the program and may be addressed through cross-disciplinary freshman seminar courses. The proposal treats fundamental information technology skills (including email) as prerequisites for all college courses, explicitly addresses ownership of information in freshman seminar, and thereafter expects information to be treated as necessary in the courses, general education or not, a student pursues. Communication is addressed as a skill in the 6CR linguistic fluency requirement and as a tool in the 6CR diversity requirement. The proposal considers that all courses should address application, but that the modes will and should vary.

 

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