Innovative New General Education Program at PSU

September 1st, 2004 by Adam

Three years of planning, research, travel, writing, revision, explanation and a certain amount of convincing came to fruition when the Plymouth State University faculty voted in April 2003 to accept the proposed new General Education program. The first part of this new program, the First-Year Experience, begins with the new fall semester this September 2004.

The task force’s challenge was to come up with a new General Education program that would address the issue of transferring credits between University System of New Hampshire institutions and to make the program more general and less prescriptive, with fewer credits. The program also needed to stand on its own, independent of any major.

“There had been numerous discussions by faculty committees and several motions brought to the general faculty meetings for piecemeal revisions in the current Gen Ed program,” explains Professor of Business Daniel Moore, co-chair of the General Education Task Force along with Professor Kathleen Arecchi, of Plymouth’s Department of Music, Theatre, and Dance.

“This program builds on what we do well,” says Moore. “The task force read widely; visited other campuses; reviewed student, alumni and faculty surveys; and designed the new Gen Ed program based upon this information. We found that Writing Across the Curriculum was mentioned as an effective approach for improving student writing here at PSU. Therefore, we decided to stress the other necessary skills of a generally educated citizen in a like manner: to emphasize these skills as we had writing, through the curriculum.”

The new program groups 45 to 47 credits of General Education courses into three broad categories: First-Year Experience, Directions and Connections. A group of skills have been identified as expected of an educated person and needed for lifelong learning. All courses will address some of these skills: critical thinking, reading, quantitative reasoning, writing, speaking and listening, conducting research, working with information technology and collaborating with others.

The First-Year Experience component will connect students to life in an academic community. Courses will include a first-year seminar, a composition course and a mathematics foundation course.

Directions courses introduce students to different ways of considering and understanding human experience and challenge them to see how different perspectives shape people’s interpretation of ideas and experiences. Directions courses will fall into four areas: self and society, past and present, scientific inquiry and creative thought.

The Connections component connects General Education courses in certain areas to students’ majors. Courses addressing diversity, global awareness, wellness and integration (of two or more disciplines or perspectives) can be double-counted for a major, minor or any other general education requirement.

“Certain fundamental concepts regarding general education remained constant from the earliest design stages to the end: courses should integrate material from across the disciplines, course content should be perceived by students as relevant to their lives, some of the general education course requirements should be separate from requirements within major degree programs, but means should be found to create strong links between general education and the majors,” noted Co-chair Kathleen Arecchi, adding, “One of the most exciting consequences to the new program is that there is a platform from which all faculty will have equal opportunity to create and launch new courses. I’ve had one rumbling around in my head for quite a while, and look forward to the development process.”