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General education requirements set to change in Fall 2013

Throughout the past four years, UMKC faculty members have worked towards revising  general education requirements. The new gen ed model will apply to all future undergraduate students. Previous general education requirements varied between schools.

The new requirements will be implemented for incoming freshmen in fall  2013 and incoming undergraduate transfer students in fall  2014. They will not affect current students or graduate students.

One of the goals was to move from a course-based model to an outcome-based model, explained Dr. Jerry Wyckoff, chair of the General Education Oversight Committee.

“We now have specific outcomes that we’re trying to measure for students, known as assessment,” Wyckoff said. “We’re trying to assess how well the University is doing in having students learn based against specific outcomes and objectives .”

Students will be required to take three levels of interdisciplinary courses, called anchor courses, which will focus on different subject areas. Level one is reasoning and values. Level two is culture and diversity, and level three is civic and community engagement.

Each level is a prerequisite for the next level and requires two three-credit hour classes. The subject matter in the interdisciplinary ‘anchor’ course is complemented with a co-requisite ‘discourse’ that focuses on speech and writing.

The interdisciplinary anchor courses and their linked discourse courses  account for 18 credit hours. Current required courses – English 110, English 225, and Communication Studies 110 – will be covered in the three discourse courses.

The interdisciplinary anchor courses will have approximately 120 students, and the discourse courses will have approximately 20-25 students.

Students can test out of discourse levels one and two, but level three will be mandatory. Students may also be exempt from level-one and level-two anchor courses with equivalent courses, such as English credits transferred from another university.

An additional 12 credit hours of ‘platform courses’ are required, for a total university-wide gen ed requirement of 30 hours.

The platform courses are 100-300 level courses in four disciplines: scientific reasoning and quantitative values, human values and ethnical reasoning, arts and humanities and a general education elective.

These courses will be filled with current general education requirements, such as College Algebra, Biology, and Art History courses.

Dr. Lynda Plamann, recently appointed Coordinator of General Education, said the faculty decided upon a set of skills students should be expected to know when they graduate.

“Instead of saying that every student should take a course in this subject and a course in that subject, we are saying that students should have a particular set of knowledge and skills when they graduate,” Plamann said.

With the change to an outcome-based model, there will be a wider variety of courses offered, focusing on an interdisciplinary approach that strives to increase student engagement in the subject matter.

“Students in Discourse I will write and speak about topics related to the Anchor I course,” Plamann said.

“Because the discourse classes are tied loosely with anchor courses, the readings in those classes may be tied to readings students are doing in another class so they may be more interested in the course material,” Wyckoff said. “You may take a course on urban planning, and then could be reading about urban planning in your discourse class. This will engage students in a larger conversation that way.”

The new model was also proposed to prevent students from failing writing intensive courses because they will incorporate more writing and speech skills in more of their introductory classes.

Wyckoff said the new general education model will “probably make it easier for students transferring between two units in the school, [because] under the previous model, every unit was responsible for their general education, and now there’s a university-wide requirement.”

Specific schools, such as Arts & Sciences, will require additional unit-specific and degree-specific requirements beyond the university-wide requirements. Not all of the nine UMKC schools have finalized their specific additional major requirements.

“You come to college because it’s an opportunity to interact with a broad group of people and the anchor courses will allow students to meet others outside what they traditionally took as introductory subjects,” Wyckoff said.

Students are encouraged to begin general education requirements as soon as possible after starting courses at UMKC. Wyckoff said the General Education Curriculum Committee has already begun approving new course proposals,  which will be announced after Feb. 18. Additional courses will be accepted on a rolling basis.

“We’ve got numerous really outstanding proposals. I’ve got a lot of faculty who’ve come up to me and are eager to put in more classes,” Wyckoff said. “I think as the new requirements roll out we’ll see more faculty participate. I can tell you there are professors who’ve been teaching here for some time and are very well respected who are putting in new courses.”

The Faculty Senate approved the new requirements, with an 18-0 vote with  two abstentions.

lgepford@unews.com

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