Four Modest Suggestions for General Education Reform

Tell Them Why I

Develop coherent and persuasive description of why we have a GE program and what it is supposed to achieve.  Address it to the students who will study in the program.

Tell Them Why II

Build into orientation each year an academic address in which a faculty member is charged with coming up with a creative and compelling explanation of, argument for, the GE program both in principle and in particular. A few years of this will provide us with some internal dialog on what it means and why it is there as well as providing a foundation for all subsequent advising around GE.

Collect data

Write a short bit of code which would count ALL gen-ed fulfilling courses to see how the distribution is. In other words, take as given that we have a set of areas and we have a set of courses that relate to them. Apart from meeting minimal requirements, what does the distribution of “general education” actually look like for a class of graduates? (coding note: need to filter by major so we do not bias results based on distribution of majors).

Use Design to Change Attitudes

Move away from the “check box” mentality by re-configuring Banner and MAPs so they don’t simply indicate that a requirement has been fulfilled, but rather track and document how and how many times each requirement has been fulfilled, providing both student and anyone who looks at the transcript a visualization of her general education. Include the rationales described above in the transcript/MAP.

Thus, instead of this…

They’d see this:

Author: Dan Ryan

I'm currently an Academic Program Director at I've been a professor at University of Toronto, University of Southern California, and Mills College teaching things like human centered design, computational thinking, modeling for policy sciences, and social theory. I'm driven by the desire to figure out how to teach twice as many twice as well twice as easily.

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