BRIDGE Proposal

“Simplifying Our Successes”

 

Abstract

       Southern Illinois University Edwardsville has a tradition of liberal arts education. Our BRIDGE team's inspiration derives from the strength and simplicity of the current Deans' Scholars program, and was amplified by the Illinois Articulation Initiative (IAI). We also feel that there are important competencies to be addressed across the curriculum. The biggest disadvantage of the current general education system is that is has become opaque: faculty and students alike find themselves at a loss to properly interpret its' requirements. In particular, navigating the system of introductory and distribution courses has become difficult.

       We are proposing a distribution system that we have called Liberal Learning. This system upholds the values of a liberal arts education, and the values of SIUE. Within this system, we have established Core Literacies, kept our Skills options, simplified our Liberal Learning distribution component. We are also keeping the component we refer to as Diversity of Experiences and Thought, but modify the definition of an Interdisciplinary Studies course. We feel that Distribution systems offer students the control to design their liberal arts experience and get a broader education. We also feel strongly that maintaining a Distribution system that works with rather than against the IAI will permit all of our students, including transfers, the opportunity to make the most of their experiences at SIUE. We are instituting one new course, in Quantitative Literacy, as a part of our Core Literacies in order to better educate our students as participating citizens in this society.

 

Purpose/Role that General Education should play at SIUE

       General Education should serve two overarching goals: to give our students a breadth of educational experience, and to allow our students to receive an education which meets the goals explained in the following documents: SIUE values; CAS Desired Characteristics and Capabilities of Graduates; Statement of Objectives for the Baccalaureate Degree. These three documents combined give a sense of purpose to our educational endeavors, and to ignore the common themes is to betray our common sense of purpose.

       The common themes here include producing graduates who are well-informed, participating citizens in our democracy, capable of self-reflection and life-long learning. Graduates should be capable of ethical and rational reasoning, particularly in the framework of problem solving and critical thinking. These graduates should be able to demonstrate informational, quantitative and scientific literacy, as well as strong oral and written communication skills. Graduates will be exposed to a diversity of ideas, cultures, and backgrounds. And graduates demonstrate responsibility to self and others, holding all to a high standard in all arenas, academic and otherwise. Some of these themes are explicit in curricular offerings, while others are part of the integrated whole.

       We have designed a simpler but meaningful general education program that faculty, staff and students can keep track of. The purpose of all requirements will be based on the role of general education, as seen through the lens of SIUE Values, CAS Desired Characteristics, and the Statement of Objectives for the Baccalaureate Degree. Students should take a broad range of courses which allow them to develop as people, as citizens, and as learners within these goals. We also challenge each department, and each faculty member, to hold our students to higher standards. If we expect less than their best from our students, we will succeed at getting just that. We have also held that it is important to be able to work with transfer students as well as our incoming freshmen, and to leave out this vital asset to our community will be our downfall.

 

Institutional needs and strengths of SIUE that are driving our team's design

 

Proposal for Liberal Learning

       We propose that the future of general education at SIUE is in “Liberal Learning”. We value the opportunities that students at SIUE have for a liberal arts education, and the opportunities that this provides to broaden their educations and experiences. To that end, we propose that the future Liberal Learning Program for SIUE students be the following:

       The intent of liberal learning is to broaden the experiences of our students. Courses from the student's major department cannot count towards liberal learning (so a physics major may not count physics courses here), but courses required for a major outside of the major department will count for liberal learning credit (so the same student may count math or chemistry for natural sciences, even though she/he cannot count physics). However, any course currently listed for general education credit, whether it is an introductory course or a distribution course, may count. Further, students may fulfill all of the liberal learning requirements with 111 courses, should they so choose. However, it is also possible to take higher level Liberal Learning courses, and have them also count for the Diversity of Thought and Experience course requirements, provided the student meets the course prerequisites.

 

This program requires a possible 45-47 credit hours . A checklist for students and advisors is included in the Appendix.

 

Linkages of this Proposal to Objectives for the Baccalaureate and More:

       The SIUE Statement of Objectives for the Baccalaureate Degree list the values of citizenship, excellence, integrity, openness, and wisdom. While we can envision citizenship being well addressed in a political science course, and openness being addressed in a Diversity of Thought and Experience course, we cannot picture a Wisdom 101 course and feel that prescribing one or two courses for these values sells short the vision that described these objectives. These values are to be considered in every course in our curriculum, and not as part of a course description in order to check off a box on a checklist.

       Objectives for the Baccalaureate include analytic skills, problem-solving skills, decision-making skills, and oral and written communications. We feel that high quality Liberal Learning classes will provide students with an excellent grounding in these objectives.

       Analytic skills can be developed in a variety of contexts, and a liberal arts education will allow students to do just that. Traditional analytic skills can be developed in our Quantitative Literacy class, and developed further in other Natural Sciences and Mathematics coursework. However, analytic skills can be found in any discipline. English majors find that analytic skills are useful in literary criticism as well as in improving their own writing, as well as in developing research for a research paper. Art and Design majors can develop analytic skills to better understand a work of art, and to analyze their own needs in the creative process. History majors use analysis to understand events in centuries past, and to interpret source materials.

       Problem-solving skills are likewise skills that can and should be developed in the students' discipline and in other contexts as well. Problem-solving skills serve our graduates in myriad ways. Students can begin to develop these skills through our Quantitative Literacy class and Natural Sciences and Mathematics Liberal Learning courses. However, this does not limit problem-solving to these arenas alone. A course with a Service Learning component by its very nature lets students address a problem they perceive in the greater community, and work towards a solution. Any class with a design project, whether this is in Art and Design or Chemistry or Engineering or Education, requires students to address a problem and deliver a solution appropriate to the context.

       Decision-making skills are also critical, and can be woven into the curriculum of analytical and problem-solving skills.

       Oral and Written Communications skills are critical to our society and to the success of our students. Currently, we may not do enough to emphasize this to our students. Part of our challenge to the SIUE faculty to enhance rigor is this: insist on higher standards in all of our communications with students, oral, written and electronic. These skills begin to develop with English 101 and English 102 in the Literacies part of our proposal. They continue with our inclusion of Speech Communications or Foreign Languages courses in the Skills Options of our proposal. Continued training of our students in discipline-specific standards for oral and written communications is or ought to be a part of any student's preparation in an academic or professional discipline, and so is more determined by the department than by general education.

       A liberal arts education also demonstrates the value of diversity to our students. A starting place for our students here are the Diversity of Experience and Thought courses. These classes will include the Intergroup course, the International Issues/International Cultures course, and the Interdisciplinary Studies course. Throughout these courses there is a thread which values the experiences of others unlike ourselves, and exposes students to ways of thinking that are not solely within one culture, or one discipline. These have the potential to really challenge our students to grow as people and as students.

       In many ways, Scientific Literacy can be accomplished by the NSM courses in Liberal Learning, as set up by the Quantitative Literacy course. Introducing students to mathematics and science coursework exposes them to current scientific understanding, as well as scientific modes of reasoning and observation. Students should be educated as to what science can and cannot do, as well as discussing the ethics of research where appropriate. A well-educated citizen in our increasingly technological society needs to have a background in how science is done and the current standards of knowledge, in order to better evaluate proposed scientific policies by government, and products on the market from corporations. Some of the IS courses already in our catalogs address these issues as well, and we anticipate that IS courses may be proposed in the future that address these issues as well.

       Student preparation in an academic or professional discipline is a goal that we are all striving towards. But we feel that this preparation is better determined and accomplished by the departments, units, and professional schools, and is outside the scope of Liberal Learning.

       We feel that the Freshman Seminar that is being instituted has a great deal of potential for student learning. This Freshman Seminar will count as one of the Liberal Learning courses in our proposal. These seminars, by their very design, touch on many of the values and objectives in the SIUE Objectives for the Baccalaureate Degree. Freshman seminar proposals this year were explicitly supposed to be designed to have small class sizes that gave our new students a more rigorous introduction to university life. Freshman seminars are expected to be student-centered classrooms with a focus on active learning. They were expected to utilize or incorporate SIUE's existing resources, and to have a technology component. We do not plan to require transfer students to complete a freshman seminar – this requirement will be waived for students entering SIUE with sophomore or higher class standing.

 

       There are several core areas that the BRIDGE committee has indicated are of particular interest. These include

•  student-centered and diverse learning environments

•  integrative thinking

•  core competencies in languages, technology, quantitative reasoning, information literacy, communication and interpersonal skills, cultural and global awareness

•  community service and citizenship

•  incorporation and/or creative use of SIUE's existing physical and human resources

•  incorporation and/or creative use of SIUE's distinctive programs and curriculum, such as IS, II/IC and         Senior Assignment courses

Our team finds that all of these areas have value in a liberal arts education, but should be implemented in different ways.

       Student-centered learning environments are ones in which the focus of the classroom is taken away from a faculty member lecturing in the front of the room, and turned instead on the student as a more active participant in their own learning. The formats that this may take are varied, and depend on the goals of the course and the style of the instructor. For that reason, we neither can nor should require that this be the dominant format for every course. However, these learning environments are strongly encouraged, and are a requirement for the freshman seminar that is being instituted this fall.

       Integrative thinking will be found in a variety of settings. Some of the more obvious settings include IS and other Diversity of Experiences and Thought courses. However, there are many ways that integrative thinking should appear in the curriculum. It would be appropriate, for example, for a department to expect such a skill of students in their Senior Assignment, or for the University to include such a component in Freshman Seminars.

       Core competencies are something that we have taken very seriously. According to an editorial in the New York Times on 2/26/06, “The most recent findings from the National Assessment of Adult Literacy revealed distressing declines in literacy, especially among those with the most education. For example, fewer than a third of college graduates – down from 40 percent a decad ago – were deemed “proficient” in terms of literacy as defined by the ability to read and understand lengthy passages placed before them.... the chairman of the Bush administration's Commision on the Future of Higher Education recently suggested that standardized tests be used to determine how much college students are actually learning…. Indeed, more than 40 states have now created accountability systems… Colleges and universities should join in the hunt for acceptable ways to measure student progress, rather than simply fighting the whole idea from the sidelines. Unless the higher education community wakes up to this problem – and resolves to do a better job – the movement aimed at regulating colleges and forcing them to demonstrate that students are actually learning will only keep growing.“

       We view these competencies as valuable not only as job skills, but also for the full development of our students in a liberal arts setting. Core competencies in languages can be addressed via English 101 and 102 (Literacies). They are also addressed via Skills courses, either in Speech Communication (Option A) or in Foreign Languages (Option B). We are instituting a Quantitative Literacy course which will address competencies in quantitative reasoning. Students may choose further development here by taking NSM courses, particularly in mathematics, or by taking sequences within disciplines that emphasize quantitative literacy topics (examples include, but are by no means limited to, economics, business, and engineering majors). Technology and information literacy can be accomplished via skills courses as well – there are a list of potential courses available here. In addition, many faculty utilize BlackBoard and other computer and online resources for their classes. The new technology fee that students will be paying should help maintain the infrastructure needed to implement this goal. Communications and interpersonal skills can begin to be addressed via courses such as Speech 103, 104 or 105, available in Option A of the Skills component, and to a certain extent, the Intergroup requirement in Diversity of Experiences and Thought may accomplish this as well. Cultural and Global Awareness are addressed at minimum through Diversity of Experiences and Thought, with the International Issues/International Cultures course, and potentially through the Intergroup course as well.

       No single course is designed to address community service and/or citizenship. These are values of SIUE and the larger community, and we would do our students a dis-service if we claimed that these were taught in Service 101. There are courses currently offered on campus that utilize service learning, and these should be encouraged. All that a liberal arts education entails has, as one of its goals, the education of a person to be a participating citizen in our democratic society. Our campus culture can also evolve to more explicitly address these goals, but we feel it may be condescending and counterproductive to offer a class in Citizenship 111 to students who have lived in this country all their lives.

       No Liberal Learning program should be complete without incorporating the assets (material and personnel and facilities) which SIUE already has in place. The freshman seminar explicitly lists this as a goal. The Senior Assignment has been recognized nationally as a worthy capstone experience for our students (even though it does not fall under the aegis of Liberal Learning, but rather under the control of departmental majors).

       Finally we must consider the needs of our student body, particularly the professional and academic programs, as well as the needs of students transferring from Illinois community colleges. One of the concerns that has been paramount in our design of this proposal is the needs of students transferring to us from other schools, and the Illinois Articulation Initiative. According to the 2006 edition of the SIUE Fact Book, in 2005 SIUE enrolled 1748 first time freshmen, and 1300 transfer students. This means that students new to SIUE made up 28% of the Fall 2005 student body (including graduate students). Of those new students, 18% were new graduate students. 47% of new students were new first time freshmen, and 35% of those were new transfer students (pages 26-27). Transfer students have long determined the character of our classrooms. To exclude them in determining the needs of our student body is to deny who we are as a University community. It is also financial suicide, as failing to consider their needs will damage our reputation and ultimately, the numbers and quality of our students. Additionally, some of our SIUE students enroll here with the intention of transferring elsewhere after one or two years. Regardless of whether these students graduate at SIUE or at other schools, if we disregard the Illinois Articulation Initiative as inconvenient, we run two risks: decreased enrollment, particularly among talented students that we wish to attract; and declining reputation in Illinois as too arrogant to consider the needs of its students.

       We have intentionally chosen to stay within a conventional distribution model of general education for several reasons. One of these is the needs of transfer students. Students should know that work acknowledged by the IAI will be of value here, and that they will not have to take substantial Liberal Learning coursework in addition to general education coursework done elsewhere in Illinois in good faith. To deny these needs is to ignore our mission to serve as educators for this region of the state of Illinois, as well as callous.

       We should also realize as educators that, by serving the region, we have a widely varied student population. Our students have a large variation in their previous preparation. It is our responsibility to see that they all leave here having met their goals of receiving an education that makes them more “literate” than before, and to hold each student to the educational standards appropriate to a Premier Metropolitan University.

 

Forseen Difficulties in Implementing this Proposal

       One of the benefits of our proposal is that much of the architecture is already in place. We already have in place all but one of the classes which will be required of our students. Quantitative Literacy is the only new class we are proposing, and this course had already been in discussion between the Department of Mathematics and Statistics and CAS. We expect that faculty resources for this course may be needed.

       Another advantage of this proposal is that it eliminates distinctions between Introductory and Distribution courses. This elimination will allow students to pursue a greater breadth of coursework, and make the rules for applying Liberal Learning more transparent than the current system. We have attached a sample checklist that may be used by advisors and students.

       We feel that smaller class size (as seen in upcoming freshman seminars) is also advantageous for our students, but this will require more classroom space and more faculty resources. Some limited application of this principle should also be seen as a hurdle, but not an insurmountable one.

       A strength of our proposal is that transfer students will find the transition to SIUE to be simple due to IAI. Students who attend SIUE intending to transfer elsewhere will find the preparation to transfer simple as well, and may (as currently occurs) decide to remain here upon arrival. We cannot treat transfer students as second-class citizens.

       We are calling for an increase in rigor in our course offerings. Our students arrive with a variety of levels of preparation. They deserve to leave our doors with the highest quality education we can provide them.

       In short, we do not foresee any major difficulties in implementing our proposal for Liberal Learning.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Appendix: Liberal Learning Checklist

 

Literacy Courses (9 hours)

Literacy classes may not be counted toward Liberal Learning requirements. Students may take a proficiency exam for any or all of these courses.

Class Semester taken Proficiency/transfer credit?
English 101    
English 102    
Quantitative Literacy    

 

 

Skills Option A (9-10 hours)     OR     Skills Option B (11 hours)

Skills courses may be double counted for Diversity of Thought and Experience courses. Students will choose either Option A or Option B.

 

OPTION A

Class Category Class options (choose one from each row)
Speech

Speech Comm 103

Speech Comm 104

Speech Comm 105

Critical Thinking

Math 106

Philosophy 106

Foreign Language 106

IME 106

Technology

CS 108

CS 140

CS 141

CS 150

CMIS 108

STAT 107

STAT 244

STAT 380

STAT 480

 

OPTION B

Class category Class options (choose one from each row)
Foreign Language

Chinese 101-102

French 101-102 (or FR 104-108)

German 101-102 (or GER 104-108)

Greek 101-102

Italian 101-102 (or ITAL 104-108)

Latin 101-102

Russian 101-102 (or RUS 104-108)

Spanish 101-102 (or SPAN 104-108)

Critical Thinking and Technology (3 hrs)

Math 106

Philosophy 106

Foreign Language 106

CS 108

CS 140

CS 141

CS 150

CMIS 108

STAT 107

STAT 244

STAT 380

STAT 480

 

Liberal Learning (27 hours)

Freshman Seminar _____________________

(may count one of the classes below – waived for sophomore and above transfer students)

 

Category Class Semester taken Credit hours Proficiency/transfer credit?
FAH        
FAH        
FAH        
SS        
SS        
SS        
NSM        
NSM        
NSM        

 

 

Diversity of Thought and Experience (up to 9 hours)

 

Category Semester taken Double counts w/ what category?
Intergroup    
International Issues/ International Culture    
Interdisciplinary Studies    

Courses from these types may be double counted with one another, or with Liberal Learning or Skills courses, but not with Literacy courses.

 

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

BRIDGE Proposal Overview - Self-Assessment

 

1. How does your proposal support the values of SIUE (citizenship, excellence, integrity, openness and wisdom)?         The SIUE Statement of Objectives for the Baccalaureate Degree list the values of citizenship, excellence, integrity, openness, and wisdom. While we can envision citizenship being well addressed in a political science course, and openness being addressed in a Diversity of Thought and Experience course, we cannot picture a Wisdom 101 course and feel that prescribing one or two courses for these values sells short the vision that described these objectives. These values are to be considered in every course in our curriculum, and not as part of a course description in order to check off a box on a checklist.

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)?

       Traditional analytic skills can be developed in our Quantitative Literacy class, and developed further in other Natural Sciences and Mathematics coursework. However, analytic skills can be found in any discipline. For example, English majors find that analytic skills are useful in literary criticism as well as in improving their own writing, as well as in developing research for a research paper.

       Problem-solving skills are likewise skills that can and should be developed in the students' discipline and in other contexts as well. Students can begin to develop these skills through our Quantitative Literacy class and Natural Sciences and Mathematics Liberal Learning courses. However, this does not limit problem-solving to these arenas alone. A course with a Service Learning component or a class with a design project, can also address this facet of education. Decision-making skills are also critical, and are be woven into the curriculum of analytical and problem-solving skills.

       We currently do not emphasize enough the Oral and Written Communications skills are critical to our society and to the success of our students. Part of our challenge to the SIUE faculty to enhance rigor is this: insist on higher standards in all of our communications with students, oral, written and electronic. These skills begin to develop with English 101 and English 102, and continue with our inclusion of Speech Communications or Foreign Languages courses in the Skills Options of our proposal. Continued training of our students in discipline-specific standards for oral and written communications is or ought to be a part of any student's preparation in an academic or professional discipline, and so is more determined by the department than by general education.

       A liberal arts education also demonstrates the value of diversity to our students. A starting place for our students here are the Diversity of Experience and Thought courses.

       Scientific Literacy can be accomplished by the NSM courses in Liberal Learning, as set up by the Quantitative Literacy course. Introducing students to mathematics and science coursework exposes them to current scientific understanding, as well as scientific modes of reasoning and observation. Students should be educated as to what science can and cannot do, as well as discussing the ethics of research where appropriate. A well-educated citizen in our increasingly technological society needs to have a background in how science is done and the current standards of knowledge, in order to better evaluate proposed scientific policies by government, and products on the market from corporations.

       Student preparation in an academic or professional discipline is a goal that we are all striving towards. But we feel that this preparation is better determined and accomplished by the departments, units, and professional schools, and is outside the scope of Liberal Learning.

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?

       We must consider the needs of our student body, particularly the professional and academic programs, as well as the needs of students transferring from Illinois community colleges. One of the concerns that has been paramount in our design of this proposal is the needs of students transferring to us from other schools, and the Illinois Articulation Initiative. According to the 2006 edition of the SIUE Fact Book, in 2005 students new to SIUE made up 28% of the Fall 2005 student body (including graduate students). Of those new students, 18% were new graduate students. 47% of new students were new first time freshmen, and 35% of those were new transfer students (pages 26-27). Transfer students have long determined the character of our classrooms. To exclude them in determining the needs of our student body is to deny who we are as a University community. It is also financial suicide, as failing to consider their needs will damage our reputation and ultimately, the numbers and quality of our students. If we disregard the Illinois Articulation Initiative as inconvenient, we run two risks: decreased enrollment, particularly among talented students that we wish to attract; and declining reputation in Illinois as too arrogant to consider the needs of its students.

       We have intentionally chosen to stay within a conventional distribution model of general education for several reasons. One of these is the needs of transfer students. Students should know that work acknowledged by the IAI will be of value here, and that they will not have to take substantial Liberal Learning coursework in addition to general education coursework done elsewhere in Illinois in good faith. To deny these needs is to ignore our mission to serve as educators for this region of the state of Illinois, as well as callous.

       We should also realize as educators that, by serving the region, we have a widely varied student population. Our students have a large variation in their previous preparation. It is our responsibility to see that they all leave here having met their goals of receiving an education that makes them more “literate” than before, and to hold each student to the educational standards appropriate to a Premier Metropolitan University. We are calling for an increase in rigor in our course offerings. Our students arrive with a variety of levels of preparation. They deserve to leave our doors with the highest quality education we can provide them.

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)?

We feel that it does. These issues are interwoven throughout the proposal.

 

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