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A New Approach to General Education

by Colin McCoy, staff writer

A new general education system will be implemented next academic year. Incoming students in the Fall 2014 will be the first affected.

The system proposal has gone through and passed faculty body, Forum, Caucus and will soon be brought to the Board of Trustees.

The system will follow a curriculum called AIMS. The final draft of the curriculum states “The AIMS of a Liberal Education curriculum at Warren Wilson College creates a framework for exploration and accomplishment, leading to graduates who are not only prepared but also are already involved in the world.”

Psychology Professor Kathryn Burleson is the former director of General Education, and was involved in the initial research and proposal.

“The new model is explicitly connected to the mission statement and integrates evidence-based, high-impact practices,” Burleson said.

The model will reflect the mission of Warren Wilson by attempting to achieve three main learning outcomes: critical inquiry, effective communication, and engaged citizenship.

“These reflect our priorities of what the academic Gen Ed program contributes to the Wilson education,” Burleson said. “All courses in the new model must relate—with assignments or time spent in class—directly to at least one of these three outcomes.”

Professors will submit their course descriptions, and a team of faculty members will critique their proposal on why a certain class meets or does not meet the new general education system philosophy.

Changes in writing requirements will be key in the new model. College Composition classes will be replaced with four writing across the curriculum classes.

The first writing requirement will be fulfilled in the First Year Seminar class. The second will replace College Composition I. The third and fourth requirement will focus on writing within a student’s major. The third is titled Research in Disciplinary Discourse. The application of this requirement will depend on the department. Some departments will simply add writing instruction to upper level electives. The fourth requirement will be equivalent to what College Composition II is now.

The goal of the writing across the curriculum is to build writing skills in students in any department.

“The writing and research courses are more intentionally designed to be connected to one another so that the skills are building over time,” said Burleson.

History Professor Melissa Blair is the new General Education director, and is overlooking the implementation of the new model.

“By putting writing instruction into already existing classes that are taught by people other than writing faculty, it gives students a more authentic academic context in which to write,” Blair said.

Another primary change that the new system will bring is that students will be required to take a class in social justice, sustainability and international perspectives.

There will also be more direct connections made between education and service. Eventually, service-learning requirements will extend past the First Year Seminar. However, this will not be present in the initial implementation.

Since requirements are being added, and none are being taken away, students will be allowed to “double dip” or even “triple dip,” meaning that one class can fulfill multiple general education requirements.

The new system will include ongoing assessment, so that necessary changes can be made.

“We’ll get data of how students are doing and see what needs to be tweaked,” Blair said. “We’re sort of putting it through the scientific process.”

“It is important that all programs be reevaluated from time to time and checked against new information available about the learning process, what works in higher education, and the knowledge and skills that are of most importance in a world today,” Burleson said.

The stagnancy of the previous General Education model was one of its major flaws, according to Burleson.

“We had very little oversight or attention given to the Gen Ed program,” Burleson said. “We didn’t have conversations about it. The goals of the program were hard to articulate. . .It wasn’t that the particular courses in Gen Ed were problematic—the particular courses aren’t the issue—but that the story or connection to the mission statement wasn’t present.”

Under the new system, students will inevitably be exposed to the values that make up Warren Wilson as an institution.

“Gen Ed is the one place that Warren Wilson academics can leave a signature mark on the lives of our students,” Burleson said, “It is what we all share in common.”



3 Responses to “A New Approach to General Education”

  1. Hi Colin

    any form of the new education system, we will be ready to deal with it. Because the system is certainly for the sake of our collective progress

    Posted by Andri wahyudi | January 11, 2014, 4:10 pm
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