New gen ed models for all of UMKC pose problems for the College of Arts & Sciences: A&S discusses its own general education proposals

Kynslie Otte

The outcome of UMKC’s general education curriculum overhaul hasn’t settled well with some faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Faculty from across campus have worked on revisions to general education requirements since 2009 when the Higher Learning Commission, which oversees the University’s accreditation, found the existing requirements unsatisfactory.

The Commission suggested that the university move to a “Student Learning Outcomes”-driven model that requires no more than 30 credit hours of general education courses.

In April 2012, UMKC adopted the new general education model, which consists of “anchor,” “discourse” and “platform” courses, but this poses a predicament for the College of Arts and Sciences, whose many academic programs depend on students enrolling to fulfill general education requirements.

Dr. Stephen Dilks, Director of Composition for the English Department, said that unless action is taken, A&S will not have any general education requirements beyond the university-wide 30 hour block beginning in the fall of 2013.

“This means the faculty in the College need to decide to either develop a degree requirements program for the College in addition to the University gen eds, or we need to decide to have no requirements other than the 30 hour gen ed plus major requirements,” Dilks said.

Under the current general education model, A&S students are required to take 45-50 hours of general education courses. Under the new program, course requirements specific to A&S will be eliminated, including cluster courses, writing intensive courses, physical education and 36 hours of 300/400 level coursework.

Because of this, A&S faculty have mapped out two primary proposals for general education requirements specific to the College that will take effect next fall, provided they receive approval from the General Education Curriculum Committee (GECC) and the Faculty Senate.

The first proposal, drafted by Dr. Elizabeth Miller, assistant professor of political science, follows what Miller called a “traditional” model for general education requirements.

She said that its main goal is “to ensure students in the CAS have a breadth of knowledge beyond their own discipline.”

Beyond the University-wide 30 hour block of general education credits, this model would require A&S students to complete six hours in social and behavioral sciences, six hours in arts and humanities, four hours in natural and biological sciences including a lab, three hours of math or statistics, a writing intensive course and 36 hours of 300/400 level courses.

Changes to the proposal to involve six or more hours of foreign language credits have been discussed, but are yet to be added.

The traditional model aims to enable transfer students to more easily receive transfer credits that count toward their degree.

Miller said that it would make double-majoring a straightforward process, while ensuring that changing majors does not complicate degree completion and making advising easier for both students and faculty.

The approach exposes students to the College’s many programs and could be implemented immediately, as it does not require extensive revision to existing curriculum.

However, the traditional model would also give departments less control over degree requirements, and it could potentially leave students with less room for elective courses. The approach itself will require assessment from a college committee or director.

The second proposal, drafted by Dr. Kati Toivanen, professor and Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences, is based on a major/degree oriented model.

Toivanen said it attempts to “simplify the requirements by having only two sets- the university general education requirements and degree/major-specific requirements and to empower departments to [authorize] the degree requirements for majors in a more comprehensive manner. In recognition of the Liberal Arts Education, students are expected to explore a modest set of discipline and content-specific courses in the college.”

This proposal would require departments to submit a form for each degree, and propose a set of courses that would replace the current A&S general education requirements.

Under this model, students would be required to take a minimum of 12 credit hours from A&S that would be included in the major on top of the University-wide 30 hour general education block, and double majors would be able to share any number of credit hours within the major requirements.

Toivanen said this approach aims to broaden the scope of general education requirements, enhance student performance and allow more flexibility with courses, simplify advising, make it easier to apply transfer credits to major requirements and empower departments to author degree requirements broadly based on what each department believes its majors would benefit most from.

However, the major/degree model would initially complicate advising due to differentiating degree requirements and students who change majors more than once may not graduate on schedule. Additionally, double majors would experience a larger block of degree specific general education courses that may not be the same for both degrees.

Dilks originally submitted a third proposal, but withdrew it on Oct. 25, stating that his “approach is too visionary” and, “the other two models are more practical at this point.”

The Faculty Senate will continue discussing general education requirements for A&S in the weeks to come. The next Faculty Senate meeting will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 6th at 3 p.m. in the Admin Center’s Plaza room.

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