Submitted by the Executive
Proposed Restructuring of the UNF General Education Program
Chair, General Education Council and
eneral Education Task Force
September 3, 2013
Revised October 1, 2013
In spring 2012, the Florida State Legislature passed a bill that requires that all state universities, state colleges, and community colleges offer a 15 credit-hour "common core" curriculum in their General Education programs.
The State-Mandated (Common Core) Curriculum (15 CHs): This curriculum is composed of a menu of courses (at the 1000- and 2000-levels) in each of five disciplinary areas: Communication, Humanities, Social Science, Mathematics, and Natural Science. This "common core" of courses is to be the same at all universities in the State University System (SUS) and at all of the colleges in the Florida College System (FCS). Students must take one three-hour course in each of the five areas. Although each of the core areas has learning competencies associated with them, the focus of the Common Core curriculum is the content of the individual courses in the specific disciplines that are included in the five areas.
Each SUS and FSC institution has the freedom to design the rest of its General Education curriculum according
to its particular aims.
II: The Proposed UNF General Education Competencies
and Outcomes Curriculum (21 CHs)
This proposed restructuring of the UNF General Education Program was initially developed by the General Education Task Force in consultation with the General Education Council, a wide range of faculty, the administrative leadership of each of the five colleges, and the international expert in curriculum innovation and assessment, Dr. Ann Ferren, who reviewed the UNF General Education Program last December. The proposal has been distributed to the UNF faculty and others in conjunction with presentations in college, department, and other unit meetings this fall. The proposal has received the support of the five college deans and their leadership teams as well as of, among others, the Dean of Undergraduate Studies, the acting dean of the library, and our provost.
The Questions that Guided Our Approach: In developing our proposal, we set ourselves the task of answering the following sets of questions:
Learning Competencies and Outcomes: As Dr. Ferren noted during her on-campus visit, the students she talked with view the current General Education curriculum as a set of 12 courses that for the most part have little or no obvious connection to one another. The proposed General Education Competencies and Outcomes Program overcomes this disconnection since all General Education courses, their differences in disciplinary content notwithstanding, will share a common focus on cultivating one (or more) of four basic competencies. Each course will emphasize one (or more) of the following: (i) quantitative reasoning and analysis and the use of the scientific method, (ii) thinking critically, (iii) communicating effectively, and (iv) cross-cultural awareness, experiential learning, or integrative learning. These competencies align with the competencies that are central to all of the university's upper-division courses as well.
The courses in the General Education program will identify the component features of these competencies in terms of explicit learning outcomes, which students will be expected to achieve. Students for their part will be responsible for mastering, at sufficient levels of proficiency, the component features (the specific learning outcomes) of the general intellectual competencies that are the backbone of the curriculum. Students who succeed in developing quantitative reasoning and analysis skills and in using scientific methodology expertly, in extending their critical thinking skills, and in learning how to communicate adeptly in many different kinds of communicative situations will thereby prepare themselves for developing these capabilities further and in more sophisticated ways in their upper-division programs.
How the Common Core Maps onto the UNF General Education Competencies and Outcomes Curriculum: The courses and competencies in the Common Core menus are divided into five groups by intellectual discipline. These courses are also available in the UNF General Education Competencies and Outcomes Curriculum, where they are divided into four groups by intellectual competencies (see Table 1, page 7).
Departmental Participation in General Education: When the General Education Competencies and Outcomes Curriculum is adopted, departments will have the option of devising assessment plans that include more than the one (default) competency listed above for any given General Education course and then of seeking approval of their plans from the General Education Council.
For example, if a department that offers a Social Sciences or a Humanities course wanted to assess student writing skills in addition to student skill in critical thinking, the department would devise an appropriate assessment plan and submit it to the Council for its evaluation. If the Council were to approve the plan, the course would carry the attribute for both Critical Thinking and Writing competencies. In this case, the course would remain a 3 credit hour course but would carry 6 credit hours of learning competencies.
Pilot Assessment: In fall 2013, the General Education Council will initiate a pilot assessment program with each faculty member who teaches a General Education course assessing the extent to which students have met the competency associated with his or her course. A task force for assessment met in May in a workshop format to design and develop these assessment instruments.
Course Review: When this proposal is adopted, the General Education Council will review all current General Education courses and proposals for new courses. The Council will develop evaluation criteria based on the extent to which a course focuses on one (or more) of the above-described programmatic learning competencies and outcomes, includes an appropriate set of assignments aimed at providing students multiple opportunities
to develop and achieve these competencies and outcomes at the requisite level of proficiency, and has an appropriate plan of assessment with explicitly (operationally) defined measurements.
Benefits: The proposal accomplishes seven major purposes.
In sum, in accordance with the new programmatic direction being taken by the U. S. Department of Education, the proposed restructuring aims at reconceiving the UNF General Education Program in terms of learning competencies and outcomes and then mapping these onto the current (and traditional) credit-hour course system. All indications-including those coming from professional accrediting bodies, the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), many of the highest profile universities in the nation, and the pages of such publications as the Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, and Highered.com-are that outcomes-based programming is the future that higher education is beginning to embrace.
The members of the General Education Council and the General Education Task Force believe that this proposal, which developed out of an intense study of the conceptual issues involved in such programming, provides a clear, operationally specific, and workable plan for moving to such programming (the first such General Education programming among the SUS schools) within a curricular structure that in the foreseeable future will remain tied to the traditional three credit-hour course and the 120 credit-hour Bachelor's degree.
How the Common Core Courses Map onto the UNF Competencies and Outcomes Curriculum
Common Core Courses:
UNF General Education Competencies in:
ENC 1101-English Composition 1
All current GE writing courses**
2. Social Sciences
AMH X020-Introductory Survey Since 1877
ECO X013-Principles of Macroeconomics
ANT X000-Introduction to Anthropology
POS X041-American Government
PSY X012-Introduction to Psychology
SYG X000-Principles of Sociology
2. Critical Thinking
All current GE Social Science courses
All current GE History, Philosophy, Art, Music, Film, and Theater courses**
ARH X000-Art Appreciation
HUM X020-Introduction to Humanities
LIT X000-Introduction to Literature
MUL X010-Music Literature/Appreciation
PHI X010-Introduction to Philosophy
THE X000-Theater Appreciation
MAC X105-College Alegebra
MGF X106-Liberal Arts Mathematics I
MGF X 107-Liberal Arts Mathematics II
STA X023-Statistical Methods
3. Quantitative Reasoning and Analysis and Scientific Method
All current GE Mathematics and Statistics courses**
All current GE Natural Science courses
5. Natural Sciences*
AST X002-Descriptive Astronomy
BSC X005-General Biology
BSC X010-General Biology I
CHM X020-Chemistry for Liberal Studies
CHM X045-General Chemistry I
ESC X000-Introduction to Earth Science
EVR X001-Introduction to Environmental
PHY X020-Fundamentals of Physics
PHY X048-General Physics with Calculus
PHY X053-General Physics I
[No corresponding competency]
4. Cross-Cultural Awareness, Experiential Learning (Internships, Study Abroad Courses, TLOs), Integrative Learning
All current Cultural Diversity and Foreign Culture courses.**
* Higher-level required courses in Mathematics and Natural Sciences will satisfy the listed GE courses.
**For 2013-14, the GE Council has begun reviewing the assessment protocols of all current GE courses as well as of proposals for new courses.
 In the present General Education curriculum, students must pick 12 (predominantly content-specific) courses from among five categories. In trying to plan a course of General Education study, they are confronted with thousands of 12-course combinations. This fact, according to the students who talked with Dr. Ferren, makes a hodge-podge of traditional general education programs that are based on content-areas. A program based on competencies provides students with a competency-focused map through the maze of 12-course options.
Cited in Dr. Ann Ferren's external review of the UNF General Education program (December 2012). Dr. Ferren is Senior Fellow in the Office of Quality, Curriculum, and Assessment at the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U).
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