GEMs Pathways

AAC&U’s GEMs Pathways project is working with two- and four-year schools, in partnership, to support coherent, guided-pathway general education and major programs that help to prepare students for appropriate level Signature Work and reduce barriers to transfer. Faculty and staff teams at partner institutions in three LEAP States are approaching this work through strategies such as:

  • affirming or amplifying shared essential learning outcomes for Signature Work at the two-year and four-year levels;
  • ensuring  that curriculum design (at the program, course, and assignment level) is mapped to learning outcomes;
  • developing or clarifying outcomes-based articulation agreements;
  • improving student support systems, such as collaborative advising or peer mentoring;
  • developing authentic assessments of student learning, using VALUE rubrics; and/or
  • piloting shared e-portfolios to document and assess student learning.

Context: The LEAP Challenge and GEMs

The LEAP Challenge is the next frontier in AAC&U's ongoing educational change initiative, Liberal Education and America's Promise, or LEAP. The LEAP Challenge calls for all college students to pursue their own Signature Work, integrating and applying their learning to complex problems and projects that are important to the student and important to society. In Signature Work, a student uses his or her cumulative learning to pursue a significant project related to a problem she or he defines. In the project conducted throughout at least one semester, the student takes the lead and produces work that expresses insights and learning gained from the inquiry and demonstrates the skills and knowledge she or he has acquired. Signature work can be completed through different kinds of integrative and applied student work, such as undergraduate research, civic engagement, capstone projects, internships, and practica.

Students are prepared for Signature work through integrative, guided-pathway curriculum designs and effective student support. In taking on the LEAP Challenge, institutions can use the principles for general education that are framed in General Education Maps and Markers: Designing Meaningful Pathways to Student Achievement. The GEMs principles and guidelines—Proficiency; Agency and Self-Direction; Integrative Learning and Problem-Based Inquiry; Equity; and Transparency and Assessment—promote a more intentional, integrated, and inquiry-centered undergraduate experience.