The Vision and the Essential Learning Outcomes for General Education at CSB/SJU
This report has noted the importance of developing a clear vision statement for general education at CSB/SJU. Terrel L. Rhodes suggests that "the one-quarter to one-third of an undergraduate degree that is devoted to general education often is wasted if we cannot communicate clearly to ourselves and to our students what the purposes of general education are and should be" (2010, p. 242). Similarly, in his article, "Principles of Strong General Education Programs," Paul L. Gaston argues: "First, strong programs embody and express a clear vision for general education, one grounded in an institutional commitment to the benefits of a liberal education for all students...Strong programs do not emerge by happenstance. They express the deliberate pursuit of a design aimed at that institution's vision of a well-educated graduate" (2010, pp. 17-18). Articulating a vision for general education, then, must be the next step in the process of Common Curriculum reform.
The CCVC presents the following working draft of a vision statement as a place to begin discussion and deliberation. The vision statement was drawn from the discussions we had with faculty at the faculty workshop and our department meetings. We stress that this is a working draft, meant to help guide the discussion of the learning outcomes discussed in more detail below. Once the learning outcomes have been adopted, we fully expect that we will revisit and revise this vision statement.
The CSB/SJU General Education Program reflects our commitment to prepare our graduates for a complex, changing, and interconnected world. Grounded in the liberal arts and Benedictine values, our general education program encourages students to make connections between their lives, their studies, and their communities. Our general education program provides students with high-level transferable skills, including critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, communication, team and leadership skills and promotes desirable learning traits such as curiosity, creativity, and openness to new ideas. We produce graduates who have the ability to continually reimagine and reinvent both themselves and the world.
We hope that the vision statement will offer a useful starting point for discussions about the philosophy underlying our general education curriculum as we begin discussion of the learning goals. Another helpful document is the AAC&U's set of "Essential Learning Outcomes" (referred to as the ELOs) which was developed as part of a larger initiative, Liberal Education and America's Promise (LEAP). These can serve as the starting point for campus conversations about learning outcomes for the general education program. AAC&U launched LEAP in 2005 to generate public discussion about the core learning outcomes required for students in the 21st Century, and the ELOs emerged from a multi-year dialogue with hundreds of colleges and universities about what students needed to learn. The ELOs are grouped into four main categories: knowledge of human cultures and the physical and natural world (through study of the sciences and mathematics, social sciences, humanities, languages and the arts); intellectual and practical skills (including inquiry and analysis, critical and creative thinking, written and oral communication, quantitative literacy, information literacy, and teamwork and problem solving); personal and social responsibility (including civic knowledge and engagement, intercultural knowledge and competence, ethical reasoning and action, and foundations and skills for lifelong learning); and integrative learning (including synthesis and advanced accomplishment across general and specialized studies) (see Appendix E for a description of the Essential Learning Outcomes).