Curricular Framework: 2016 Institute on General Education and Assessment
The Institute curriculum is designed around a set of principles for re-imagining general education developed as part of AAC&U's General Education Maps and Markers (GEMs) initiative. These principles can guide development of general education, from first to final year, to empower students and increase achievement of key learning outcomes. Participants have the opportunity to engage in both shorter information and discussion-based sessions intended to foster dialogue and spark new ideas, and also longer workshops intended to provide opportunities for deeper analysis and application of ideas to campus-based reform efforts. The principles allow participants to engage with Institute faculty and colleagues from across the country around a set of intentional guidelines to help faculty, staff, and students see the point and purpose of a liberal education and empower them to develop educational pathways that foster academic proficiencies and life success.
Principle 1: Proficiency
General education, in all settings, should provide programs, curricula, and experiences that lead to the development of demonstrable, transferable proficiencies on learning outcomes that are portable across contexts and disciplines. Proficiencies, such as critical thinking, integrative learning, problem-solving, and intercultural competence, are broad skills honed over time through intentional and rigorous application across settings and disciplines. Where and how does general education intentionally develop these skills and provide opportunities for practicing and applying proficiencies? How can these expectations be fostered in the context of transfer?
Principle 2: Agency and Self-direction
General education should play a critical role in helping all students develop the proficiencies needed for work, life, and responsible citizenship. Undergraduate education should empower students to develop the intellectual and personal capacities to achieve their educational and professional goals, enrich their lives, and act in principled and constructive ways, both as individuals and in their roles in society. How does general education enable students to take responsibility for co-creating their learning and find meaning in their roles as learners and contributors?
Principle 3: Integrative Learning and Problem-Based Inquiry
Students should develop and demonstrate proficiency through an integration of curricular, co-curricular, community-based learning, and prior learning experiences, all of which can include digital communities of learning and practice. Students will achieve and demonstrate proficiencies most effectively through consistent engagement in problem-centered work on significant issues that is relevant to a student’s interests and that requires students to draw upon insights from multiple areas of study. How does general education engage students with integrating knowledge for complex, unscripted problem solving?
Principle 4: Equity
General education programs should be equity-minded in design and implementation. To do so, faculty, staff, and administrators must be encouraged to understand and address inequalities in outcomes among students of color, students with disabilities, low-income and first-generation students, returning adult students, veterans, transfer students, and others. General education programs should advance practices and policies that are aimed at achieving the full spectrum of learning outcomes for all students regardless of their backgrounds. How does general education ensure that all students experience quality in their educational experiences and outcomes?
Principle 5: Intentionality, Transparency, and Assessment
Students, faculty members, and other stakeholders should understand what proficiencies are being developed in any general education program, course, or activity, and how they can be demonstrated at key milestones. Students and institutions should be able to point to student work, especially problem-and project-based inquiry (signature work), as demonstrations of proficiency worthy of credit across institutional settings and as a body of work associated with earning the degree. How can general education be assessed so that students can demonstrate achievement while also promoting reflection, actions for improvement, and community-building? How do we report student learning outcomes and proficiencies in ways that are meaningful, externally and internally?
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