Recommendation from the General Education Task Force
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On Jan. 24, a letter was sent to the university community identifying the broadly representative membership of the task force charged with reviewing the general education requirements. Initially, meeting on a weekly basis, the task force concerned itself with the meaning of general education and with exploring the problems that we perceived to be associated with the existing model. In a letter to the community, dated Feb. 25, the Task Force identified some of these problems. A subsequent letter from the Task Force, dated April 25, outlined the conceptual structure of a new model, along with 13 specific recommendations.
Beginning in late March, members of the task force began to meet with faculty, members of the administration, students and staff in small focus groups. These meetings, involving as few as five and as many as 40 people, were developed to solicit opinions on our ideas and to garner insight as to alternative proposals. These small group meetings continued through the remainder of the spring semester, throughout the summer months, and into the fall semester. (Four meetings were held with students and 37 meetings were held with faculty members, staff and administrator s, as well as 14 meetings with individual department heads.) The points raised during these discussions were brought back to the regular task force meetings and helped guide the development of our ideas. In addition, numerous faculty and staff members communicated their ideas to the Task Force via e-mail and letters. Some faculty members met with the Task Force and participated in their discussions. The Task Force is most appreciative of their ideas and suggestions, which numbered in the hundreds.
After nearly a year of deliberation, the task force finds itself in agreement with the ideals stated by the 1984-1985 ad hoc committee.
"The purpose of general education requirements is to ensure that all University of Connec-ticut undergraduate students become articulate, and acquire intellectual breadth and versatility, critical judgement, moral sensitivity, awareness of their era and society, consciousness of the diversity of human culture and experience, and a working understanding of the processes by which they can continue to acquire and use knowledge. It is vital to the accomplishment of the University's mission that a balance between professional and general education be established and maintained in which each is complementary to and compatible with the other."
However, our recommendations as to how these ideals are to be achieved is sensitive to current realities, a knowledge of the problems that have developed since 1985, and our best assessment of future developments.
II. Immediate Past History
1. Every student shall take at least three courses totaling at least 9 credits in each of three groups, designated I, II, and III.
There were some caveats:
2. As many as three courses in philosophy or science could be substituted for the same number of courses in Groups I, II, and III, provided that no more than one such substitution was made in each group.
3. With the approval of the University Senate, departments were permitted to exclude certain of their courses from Groups I, II, and III; moreover, they were permitted to divide their courses among the groups provided that no course was included in more than one group. Regardless of how courses in a department were divided, however, students could not use more than three courses in a department to meet the course distribution requirement.
4. Courses for which a student had received credit by examination could be used to fulfill the distribution requirement.
5. All students were required to take English 105, unless exempt by virtue of examination or placement, etc.
6. Individual schools and colleges could add to these requirements or make them more specific.
In 1984, the Ad Hoc Committee on General Education began a review of the existing distribution requirements. This initiative was undertaken because concerns had been expressed, both within the University and in society at large, about the quality of general education being delivered in institutions of higher learning. After a year of study, the committee concluded that it was desirable for all UConn students to take a more focused and defined set of general education requirements than those in existence at that time. A new set of requirements was proposed and, following debate, was approved by the University Senate.
The new General Education Requirements consisted of eight groups and introduced skill requirements. Briefly stated, in present catalog language, the new requirements are:
Group I. Foreign Languages. This requirement is met if a student is admitted to the University with three years of a single foreign language in high school or the equivalent. With anything less than that, one year of college level study in a single foreign language is required.
Group II. Expository Writing. English 105 and 109 are required of all students. In addition, two W courses are required, which may satisfy other requirements.
Group III. Mathematics. All students must enter with a competency level equivalent to that obtained in Math 101, as evidenced by a passing grade on the Q-Course Readiness Test, or take Math 101 as a remedial course without credit toward graduation. Additionally, all students must take two Q courses and one C course, which may satisfy other requirements. One Q course must be a mathematics or statistics course, unless the student attains a high pass on the Q Course Readiness Test.
Group IV. Literature and the Arts. All students must take two courses: one that emphasizes major works of literature, which can be elected from English or foreign languages (in English translation or in the foreign language), and one that emphasizes major achievements in art and/or music and/or the dramatic arts.
Group V. Culture and Modern Society. All students must take History 100 or History 101, and a course that emphasizes non-western or Latin American cultures.
Group VI. All students must take one course in philosophical and/or ethical analysis.
Group VII. All students must take one course in social science and/or comparative analysis.
Group VIII. Science and Technology. All students must take two courses in science and technology, at least one of which must include a laboratory component. At least one of these two courses must be a course in chemistry, biology, geology, or physics.
Again, there are some caveats:
Since these requirements were introduced, the use of skill courses expanded. Consequently, courses were developed that provided subject matter content while providing two or more skills.
J-courses - combined W and Q skills
One result of the adoption of these new requirements was a realistic expectation that the number of credits a student would have to take to meet the General Education Requirements would increase. The pre-1985 requirements called for 10 courses or 30 credits. The new requirements also called for 10 courses, usually 31 credits because most science laboratory courses are four credits, plus 2W, 2Q, 1C, and up to two semesters of a foreign language. A worst case scenario was a General Education Requirement of 17 courses totaling 54 credits. This possibility has traditionally been offset, to varying degrees, by the process of double dipping, by which students enroll in classes that meet a group requirement and also carry a skill designation. Alternately, students find courses that are prerequisite to their major or satisfy major requirements and also carry a skill designation. As a result, in an effort by students to meet their requirements in an efficacious manner, registration often has often been driven by skill course availability rather than by educational motive.
The number of courses available to students as part of the general education package is quite large. The 2000-2001 University catalog lists more than 160 courses that can be used to fulfill the Group 4-Group 8 requirements. (Some also carry skill code designations. ) The unmet demand in Group 4 has forced a temporary expansion, bringing the total to more than 190. In practice, even more courses than this are used by students to meet their General Education Requirements, since course substitutions are routinely allowed. Consequently, our General Education Requirements, while not intended to be a set of distribution requirements, can hardly be considered focused. Clearly, members of the Committee on General Education had this concern in mind when they presented their report. They recommended that "the number of introductory courses which are approved for the fulfillment of General Education Requirements must be limited." Further, during the 15 years that our present requirements have been in existence, course content has changed, as different instructors are assigned teaching responsibilities. As a result, the present course content may no longer meet the original intent of the general education guidelines as defined by the Senate Courses and Curricula Committee.
Some of these concerns apply as well to courses that carry skill codes, whether or not they meet the Group 4-8 requirements. There are more than 500 courses carrying skill codes. They are not evenly distributed across academic departments, however. Approximately 80 percent of the Q courses are found in only four departments. Many departments offer no C courses. Even W courses are unevenly distributed: six departments offer 45 percent of the more than 300 W courses. As a consequence, skills that we routinely expect of our students are not necessarily being provided across the entire curriculum. The concentration of courses that carry skill codes in but a few departments results in many of those courses - should they also meet a Group 4-8 requirement - being oversubscribed. Curricular oversubscription in this case, as in any other, results in registration difficulties for students and unwieldy enrollments for the affected departments.
III. Next Steps
Many students view general education simply as a requirement to be gotten out of the way, rather than the broad, challenging series of courses that was originally envisioned. This attitude is exacerbated by the fact that many of our talented faculty members do not participate in the delivery of general education.
Although it was originally conceived as an integrative aspect of the undergraduate curriculum, our current general education program has become a series of disparate and disconnected courses, most of which have been developed for other pedagogical purposes.
The creation of skills courses has had the effect of localizing the responsibility for developing writing, mathematical and other skills to these courses, rather than distributing it more broadly.
The general education requirements absorb too large a portion of an undergraduate's total credit requirements, creating the necessity in many parts of the University for "double-dipping" - choosing courses that will meet multiple requirements simultaneously. This reality contributes to the sense that general education is simply a series of hurdles to be overcome, rather than an important and coherent segment of an undergraduate education.
Many courses in Groups 4 through 8 were constructed not for general education but to meet other curricular objectives, most often as the first course in a disciplinary sequence. Both faculty members and students have commented on the resulting difficulty. Faculty members can find the pedagogical mix difficult, when they are simultaneously trying to train students to go on to other work in the discipline and to teach students for whom this is the only course in the discipline they will ever take. Students often find the situation equally unsatisfying; majors do not get the training they require and the general education students find the course focus too narrow.
Although the current general education curriculum is designated as University-wide, in fact, most schools and colleges have tailored it to their programmatic requirements. They may specify that only one of the course options is acceptable or that some of the course options are unacceptable for their students. Since many students begin in one school or college and move to another during the course of their undergraduate career, these delimitations create barriers to students' progress toward a degree, barriers that would not exist if general education were truly University-wide.
While many of the ideals informing the current general education program remain laudable, the program lacks management. The Senate Courses & Curricula Committee oversees the addition of new courses, but the kind of ongoing attention that any curriculum requires is beyond the scope of what it can reasonably do, given its other obligations.
The Task Force finds that the problems listed above are significant and substantive enough to argue for major reform. While the Task Force agrees, in general, with the principles and ideals elaborated upon by the 1984 Committee on General Education, it seems clear that the outcome of those deliberations - our present General Education Requirements - has proven to be problematic. Consequently, our deliberations have moved us in new directions.
1. We are placing an emphasis on proficiency in those areas that have come to be termed competencies (skills). Those students who enter the University with these competencies well in hand will be able to move ahead in their academic programs at an accelerated pace.
2. Departments across the entire University should become involved in providing components of general education to our undergraduates. Instruction in computer and writing skills, for example, should be carried out across the entire curriculum.
3. Faculty members should seek ways to develop interdisciplinary courses and offer these as a means of providing intellectual breadth and versatility.
4. Some competency requirements should be passed on to individual departments/schools to develop standards pertinent to the students in specific disciplines.
5. Because a large percentage of our students change their major, or enter the University undecided as to their intended major, we recommend that the content areas be common throughout the University. Students would thereby have the flexibility to change majors and still have met the General Education Requirements.
6. The Task Force believes that a distinction should be drawn between courses developed specifically for general education purposes and those whose primary purpose is to serve as prerequisites.
The remainder of this document details this proposal. The proposal has three parts - the curriculum itself, the principles by which the curriculum is to be constructed, and the implementation.
IV. The Proposal, Part 1:
With the exception of information literacy, the structure of each competency below involves two parts - one mandating the establishment of an entry level expectation and the second mandating the establishment of the expectations at graduation. The entry-level expectations apply to all incoming students. The writing and quantitative expectations are consistent with our current entrance requirements. The expectation about second language proficiency is consistent with the current recommendation that students complete three years of a single language in high school. The character of the baseline expectations in computer technology remains to be fully fleshed out, but it is clear that the majority of our students enter the University with skills in this area. Lacking a demonstration of the requisite entry-level competency, students will have the opportunity to bring their skill level to the appropriate point. The exit-level expectations for all five competencies, on the other hand, will vary with each major.
The framework that allows students to develop these competencies extends beyond the major. All courses satisfying the general education content areas should also incorporate one or more of these competencies, as appropriate. In particular, all courses meeting General Education Requirements must involve a writing component, as specified below.
It is unreasonable to place the institutional responsibility for developing these competencies solely on individual courses. So a plan has been developed to enrich the instructional environment through the development of a Learning Center, a place where students can come for asynchronous learning using technology, with the support of tutors, advisors, teaching assistants, peer preceptors and faculty, as needed. With this as a resource, faculty time can be freed for tasks other than developing competencies. Every faculty member should begin undergraduate classes with a summary of the competencies and proficiencies that a student will need to bring to the subject matter. Students can avail themselves of the interactive modules in the Learning Center to bring their skill levels up to these expectations.
Exit Expectations. Each major will establish expectations about the information technology competencies of its graduates and will build the development of these into the major curriculum.
Writing in General Education. In each three-credit general education course there will be an expectation of eight to 10 pages of writing. (The writing expectation in courses with a different number of credits is adjusted proportionally, e.g., a one-credit course would have three pages of writing.) While instruction in writing need not be an intrinsic element of such courses, instructors would make clear their expectations that student writing meet a standard of performance based on the type of writing done in that field. In an effort to improve their writing and critical thinking skills, students will have the opportunity to make use of faculty feedback, either through revising and resubmitting papers or through completing a number of short writing assignments (such as lab reports) that are commented on by the faculty member. In most cases the writing will be in English; when appropriate, some percentage of this writing may be completed in another language.
The "W" model now in use demands 30 pages of writing spread over two courses. In the new model, students will write a minimum of 48 pages spread over six courses in various fields. The intention that inspired the creation of "W" courses - which was to provide the experience of writing across the curriculum - is hereby better accomplished.
Because there will in all probability continue to be general education courses with large enrollments, such writing instruction will demand administrative backing in order to provide the necessary instructional support. In such cases, an appropriate number of teaching assistants or graders must be supplied for meaningful evaluation of student writing to take place. The faculty member in charge of each course will be expected to inform the assistants of the writing expectations for that course and to monitor the grading of student assignments.
Upper-Division Writing and Exit Expectations. Each school, college, and major will mandate writing for its upper division students. This requirement can be met in a number of ways - for example, a discipline-based course with an intensive writing component, a senior research project or capstone experience, or the development of a writing portfolio based on writing across the major courses. In all cases, the expectation is that students will graduate with the writing and critical thinking skills appropriate to their field.
University Writing Center. Any comprehensive restructuring of UConn's undergraduate writing requirements must include the creation of a University Writing Center. This center, which will be included within the Learning Center, will be run by a tenured faculty member whose specialty is writing instruction. It will provide tutorial support for graduate and undergraduate students in every school and college. The director of the University Writing Center will recruit and train graduate and undergraduate tutors from across the disciplines and, with the Linguistics Department, will develop an ESL Center to provide writing support for students and faculty members experiencing difficulties with writing English as a second language. Instructors will be able to refer undergraduate and graduate students with serious writing problems to the Center.
Exit Proficiency. All students graduating from the University of Connecticut are expected to demonstrate proficiency in mathematics. This proficiency can be demonstrated at entry by an SAT score of 600 or greater. A student with an SAT score below 600 is required to take one course in university-level mathematics or statistics. A placement test taken at entrance will determine whether the student must take a preparatory mathematics course to qualify for the university-level course.
The proficiency required for general education is a minimum. Majors may require proficiency at a more advanced level. In order to ensure that students will be able to perform at the expected level in their major, each major will make explicit its mathematical expectations.
Exit Proficiency. By the time of graduation from the University, students must have achieved language proficiency in speaking, listening, reading and writing, consistent with three years of second language study in high school. This may be demonstrated in the following ways:
American students who are native speakers of languages other than English (including American Sign Language) will be accommodated by the appropriate department. International students who are native speakers of languages other than English may fulfill the second language requirement through proficiency in English.
BGS students may satisfy this requirement by completing two courses that concentrate on a non-English speaking culture.
Many majors expect students to attain a higher level of second language proficiency than the minimum for graduation. Each school or college will determine the level of proficiency needed by its majors. To encourage broad-based adoption of a higher level of proficiency, the demonstration of proficiency should not be tied exclusively to seat-time.
All students are strongly encouraged to integrate their second language with their major or other studies, and departments are strongly encouraged to develop such opportunities for their students. Mechanisms for doing so will be developed and overseen by the student's major department in collaboration with Modern and Classical Languages. Students may link their second language to their major, to elective courses, or to co-curricular interests. Such mechanisms may include but are not limited to the following: Linkage Through Language courses, research involving use of the second language, internships and other work experience, travel, immersion courses, or study abroad.
All students who meet a level of language proficiency beyond the minimum needed for graduation will have that level noted on their transcript. In addition, students who have successfully integrated language with other elements of their education will have this noted on their transcript.
Because a demonstration of second language proficiency is a change from the current situation, a transition period is necessary. For the next two years, students will be required either to take the AP test before entrance or to take the BYU test at entrance, with the goal of gathering data on their proficiency. This data will measure the impact of the proposed change and will also allow the University to pass information about the results of language instruction to the high schools. Before the new requirements are permanently adopted, an assessment of their impact will be made and the units delivering language instruction will certify that they can handle the outcome of the change.
The University acknowledges that second-semester proficiency in a language is not optimal. Our long-term goal is to produce graduates who can use a second language to accomplish career or personal goals. This will require, however, that there be more attention to second language study in elementary and secondary schools. Thus, we encourage the University to work with the appropriate organizations to improve K-12 second language instruction. When this collaboration improves the language abilities of incoming students, third or fourth-semester proficiency should become the standard.
Knowledge generation: an understanding of how knowledge is created, disseminated and organized;
Knowledge access: an understanding of knowledge communication processes and a facility with the tools required to tap into these knowledge communication processes; and
Knowledge evaluation and integration: an ability to evaluate, synthesize and incorporate information into written, oral and media presentations.
Exit Expectations. Our graduates will be competent in knowledge generation, knowledge access, and knowledge evaluation and integration. The University Libraries will create a series of interactive learning modules that will equip students with the information competencies that they need to succeed at the University of Connecticut. These modules will be integrated into the orientation program, the First Year Experience program and the first year composition courses. They will also be available for asynchronous learning at any time in the Library or the Learning Center.
Each major program will consider the information literacy competencies required of its graduates and build those expectations into the upper level research and writing curricula of the major. The University Libraries subject area specialist will provide support.
B. Content Areas
In addition, the development of an awareness of and appreciation for diversity is an important theme to be threaded through the content areas. This theme has the following four components: (a) recognizing that there are varieties of human experiences and perceptions; (b) developing an awareness of social power; (c) understanding that interpretive systems and social structure are cultural creations; and (d) appreciating the commonalities that cut across differences. The criteria for Cultural Memory, Diversity & Society ensure that all courses in this content area will include a focus on diversity. Courses in the other content areas will address diversity issues whenever appropriate.
Imagination & Creativity - 6 credits
The requirement in this category is six credits, which will most often be met by two three-credit courses. However, one-credit performance courses may be constructed for this content area. Students may use no more than three credits of such courses to meet the requirement.
Reason & Science - 6-7 credits
Courses in this category should be introductory in nature and must address the following topics:
At least one course taken in this category must involve a regular laboratory component that allows students an active hands-on experience with techniques and procedures appropriate to the discipline. This laboratory requirement is waived for students who have completed a laboratory science course in the biological, physical or chemical sciences. (The possibility of six or seven credits in this content area allows for the option that some Reason and Science courses might be four credits, to accommodate a laboratory experience.)
Cultural Memory, Diversity & Society - 6 credits
Some general education courses may be inappropriate for students who have completed more advanced work in closely related subjects. In such case, the general education course should carry an appropriate restriction, e.g., "Not open for credit to students who have passed a course in a biological science."
V. The Proposal, Part 2: Principles
However, in the absence of a campus-wide agreement about the application of the structure, not all the current difficulties will be resolved. This agreement is multi-faceted.
First, the general education curriculum should be in practice and in fact truly University-wide, rather than determined by a student's degree program. This speaks not simply to the reality of student movement within the University; more critically, it represents the fact that the faculty agrees on an educational foundation. Thus:
Principle 1. Although the particular character of the competencies may vary with the major, the general education structure will apply to all entering students, regardless of intended major. Schools and colleges may not limit students' choices within general education or require certain choices.
Second, general education provides breadth, but it also supplies an educational foundation upon which faculty members can depend in subsequent coursework. This agreement is implicit in the expectation that many students will spend some portion of their first year developing their quantitative and writing abilities, but it reasonably extends to the content areas of general education. Thus:
Principle 2. Courses in each of the content areas will be drawn from a bounded set of courses, all of which meet the same curricular objectives, although their specific content may vary.
The intent of this principle is to support the construction of a curriculum that allows students to meet their requirements in a timely fashion, but not one that is based on an ever-expanding set of courses.
Third, general education is a critical aspect of a student's education. General education courses have objectives that are distinct from the objectives of basic disciplinary introductions or courses that prepare students to take more advanced coursework in a particular discipline. The next principle delineates the character of this difference.
Principle 3. Courses developed for the content areas of general education have the following distinguishing properties:
One important consequence of Principles 2 and 3 is that general education courses will be identifiable as such. Therefore, it will be possible to determine the demand for these courses, as distinct from courses meeting other curricular purposes, and to plan accordingly. Some introductory courses in some disciplines may be consistent with the properties delineated in Principle 3. However, students will not be allowed to use such courses to simultaneously satisfy General Education Requirements and major or programmatic requirements or prerequisites.
Together, these three principles establish general education as the integrative force that it was envisioned to be almost 15 years ago.
VI. The Proposal, Part 3:
"Finally, questions have been raised as to (1) how the new curriculum will be monitored to ensure that guidelines are being adhered to, and (2) the quality of instruction in some of the courses. While the Committee has an interest in these matters, it does not feel that they are primarily its responsibility; it will pursue them with other appropriate committees and officers of the administration."
The structure we propose to address these issues is multi-faceted.
Oversight and Administration
First, we propose the creation of a General Education Oversight Committee, a faculty group appointed by the Senate and representative of the schools and colleges. This committee will monitor the general education curriculum. This will require a change in the University By-Laws. The creation of a Senate-appointed committee recognizes the policy control of the Senate in matters relating to undergraduate education. This committee will work in association with the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education & Instruction, because this office has University-wide responsibility for the health of undergraduate education and the fiscal resources to address emerging issues. A member of the vice provost's office will be a member of the committee. Financial support for the activity of the General Education Oversight Committee will come from the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education & Instruction. In many ways, then, the committee will be analogous to the First Year Experience and Honors Programs.
The committee will be charged with (1) re-view of the University-wide general education program to ensure that its goals are being met, (2) the development of policy regarding the delivery of the University-wide general education program, and (3) the review and approval of all curriculum changes in general education across the University. Courses proposed for general education would be reviewed first by the committee and, if approved, sent to the Senate Courses & Curricula Committee for approval and presentation to the University Senate.
The membership of the committee should be broadly representative across all of the schools and colleges; there should also be student representation. Although its members will be appointed by the Senate, the process of consultation should include the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education & Instruction. Terms of appointment to the committee would be two years, except in the case of student members, where one-year terms may be more appropriate.
The curriculum in degree programs remains vibrant and alive because faculty members constantly attend to it. They debate what is essential and what is optional for a degree program; they assess how the character of individual courses contributes to the whole; and they consider whether courses are properly sequenced relative to one another. If a general education curriculum is to avoid almost instantaneous ossification, it requires a similar level of faculty involvement and on-going attention. Given the responsibilities of the Senate Courses & Curriculum Committee, it is unreasonable to expect this body to add such oversight to its charge. The creation of the General Education Oversight Committee, therefore, is essential to the implementation of the new general education program.
A second oversight issue is administrative. Although general education courses serve a University-wide audience, at the moment no University-level administrative structure is in place to attend to them. The faculty members on the General Education Oversight Committee will attend to broad policy issues, but they will not have the time to ensure implementation of their decisions. It is desirable, therefore, to give the faculty chair of the committee a half-time directorship for this work, as well as administrative support. That is, we propose the creation of a director for general education to keep the program running smoothly. Like the director of the Honors Program, the director of general education will be appointed by the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education & Instruction, with faculty advice and consultation. The director of general education will provide leadership to the General Education Oversight Committee, will work with the committee on identifying issues and concerns, and will take care of the administrative details surrounding the general education curriculum.
Third, faculty members involved in general education have different pedagogical challenges than those facing instructors in major or graduate courses. These faculty members should be brought together on a regular basis to collaborate on issues concerning the delivery of these courses. This can be accomplished by the director of general education, who will organize their regular meetings. These meetings will provide the kind of on going discussion necessary to keep this part of the curriculum vibrant and vital.
In each of the three proposed content areas, there must be enough space every semester for the sum of the freshmen plus a portion of the transfer students (assuming that not all transfer students will have satisfied general education requirements). The University of Connecticut has seen substantial growth in both populations over the past few years, but this growth has been purposefully slowed and is planned to plateau at Storrs at 3,200 freshmen and 700 transfer students per year. Given these numbers and assuming that half of the transfer students will have completed general education prior to entering UConn, the projections are that each content area will require 3,550 seats per semester.
Course availability in general education has been tracked over the past three years. We can use these figures as a measure of our capacity.
Imagination & Creativity: Group 4 currently offers approximately 4,300 seats per semester.
Cultural Memory, Diversity & Society: Group 5 currently offers approximately 4,000 seats per semester.
Reason & Science: Group 8 currently offers almost 6,000 seats per semester, but roughly 2,500 of these seats are in basic science courses, which would not be part of this content area.
Not all of the seats included in this computation are offered in courses that would necessarily be included in the new general education program. However, each content area will draw more broadly than the disciplines represented in these groups. The proposal, therefore, does not obviously create a demand that cannot be met.
Graduate teaching assistants currently deliver the bulk of composition, entry-level mathematics and basic language courses. They are also involved in various roles in general education. Because the allocation of this resource is determined within each school or college, however, the availability and quality of graduate assistants varies widely from program to program. Although deans and department heads must remain central to decisions about the distribution of graduate assistants, some guidelines would be useful to help clarify resource issues.
Graduate assistants involved in the delivery of general education should be advanced graduate students who have manifested excellent teaching skills. The training and assessment systems for all teaching assistants should be enhanced, with only the best of our TAs eligible for general education work. In addition, TAs in Cultural Memory, Diversity & Society will require training in the instruction of diversity issues.
A ratio of one full-time graduate assistant for every 50-60 students in the content courses is reasonable to use in projecting needs, assuming a discussion section of 25-30 and two discussion sections per teaching assistant. Laboratory science courses generally have one graduate assistant for roughly every 35 students, assuming a laboratory size of 16-20 and two laboratory sections per teaching assistant. Ignoring class size and assuming that every general education class is large enough to require a teaching assistant, this ratio yields the following:
Imagination & Creativity: 59-71 graduate assistants per semester
Memory & Society: 59-71 graduate assistants per semester
Reason & Science: 101 graduate assistants per semester
A total of 219 to 243 teaching assistants is a relatively small portion of the more than 1,700 teaching assistants currently employed. Thus, since the general education courses need not be additions to the current course offerings, it is reasonable to conclude that resources currently exist within the schools and colleges to accommodate the projections. (Different assumptions about the ratio of teaching assistants to students yield different totals, of course.) Another issue is how to ensure that instructors from departments without graduate students or with few graduate students receive the appropriate teaching assistant support. This may require some reallocation of resources.
We also must consider whether graduate assistants should be
the sole instructional resource for faculty members. Many universities
are modifying the teaching assistant model to a teaching team
model: instructor/instructors, graduate assistants, and undergraduate
preceptors. A reasonable ratio is three preceptors for every
graduate assistant. Undergraduate preceptors require training
and recompense. The latter can be handled through course credits,
There should be recognition for excellence in the creation and delivery of general education courses. The Task Force recommends that consideration be given to rewarding those faculty who become involved in the creation and presentation of courses for general education (perhaps through the Teaching Fellows program). Further, we encourage efforts at all levels in the PTR process, but particularly at the deans' level, to advance faculty involvement in general education. This is particularly important where interdisciplinary courses, involving faculty in different departments, schools and colleges, are developed.
In the matter of instructional support, the Learning Center - to be created in what is now the School of Business Administration building - will serve two interrelated needs. Faculty members can direct students who need further development in writing or any of the competencies to the Learning Center. In light of increased use of technology in the classroom, the Learning Center will have classrooms where faculty members can try new instructional techniques in collaboration with support staff.
These initiatives should create an environment where curricular initiative is acknowledged and supported.
VII. Remaining Issues
It is important to note in this regard that a universal general education requirement does not create curricular barriers for the large numbers of students who are undecided or who change their major. In fact, because all students share a single general education, changes in major will not create new General Education Requirements or make inapplicable previous curricular choices. Furthermore, the proposed structure reduces the number of credits required for general education, thus opening up the opportunity for students to sample, experiment and explore.
Of course, removing curricular barriers is not sufficient. But a variety of options are available for introducing students to a less well known discipline or for building the number of majors. One is the First Year Experience faculty seminar; another is the Academic Center for Entering Students. If we take advantage of these options, students who have not yet decided on a major should be able to make a more informed major choice.
It is reasonable to characterize the model proposed above as streamlined relative to the current structure. The skill codes are eliminated and the number of content areas is reduced. General education, therefore, should be easier to deliver as a consequence. In addition, because the content areas are not tied to specific disciplines, they do not require particular disciplinary representation among the faculty members at a regional campus. This fact is especially important in light of the development at the regional campuses of targeted four-year degree programs. There may be a need to expand the number of faculty at the regional campuses to offer these degree programs, but this need would not conflict with the need to deliver general education.
Transfer students are of three different types: (1) Students with degrees. These are students with a baccalaureate degree from another institution or community college students with an associate's degree constructed for transfer to a baccalaureate-grant ing institution (rather than an associate's degree developed for immediate employment). (2) Students without degrees. These are community college students without an associate's degree or students from another four-year institution. (3) Students who are moving from a vocational track to a baccalaureate track. These are community college students with a "terminal" associate's degree.
It is reasonable to expect that many students in the first group will have completed a coherent general education program as part of their degree. Although this program may not be identical to UConn's, it should have its own internal coherence. (The University of Connecticut and the state's community colleges will work closely together to ensure that these expectations are met.) For these transfer students, we propose that no further courses in the content areas be required.
Students in the second group will require an evaluation on a course-by-course equivalency, as is currently the situation.
Students in the third group will likely have taken few courses toward a general education curriculum. These students will be expected to complete the three content areas at UConn.
All transfer students will, of course, have to meet programmatic and major requirements, and they will also be expected to demonstrate entry-level competencies and to develop these as part of their major program so that they can meet the exit expectations.
The following are some formats in which honors coursework can be incorporated into general education courses:
Institutional Responsibilities Regarding Diversity
The General Education Requirements, together with some sample student scenarios, are available on the web: http://senate.uconn.edu/GEOC.htm