We propose to move from a cafeteria-style general education distribution system that emphasizes the “collection of courses,” to an integrated, purposeful, and reflective general education program that places emphasis on “making connections.” Implementing this vision for general education will require a significant paradigm shift in the way we design and deliver the Common Curriculum. This paradigm shift has at least five different features:
First, it implies a shift away from an emphasis on course content to a paradigm that also stresses student learning and the fulfillment of essential learning outcomes. While course content will still be important, this report assumes a shift from “what is taught” to a pedagogy that also includes emphasis on “what is learned” (Gaston 2015, p. 8).
Second, the report envisions moving from a general education program where learning goals are delivered in separate, individual courses to a program where courses are scaffolded in a developmentally appropriate sequence, assuring that students encounter, practice and refine key proficiencies and capabilities in multiple settings and in progressively challenging ways.
Third, it suggests rejecting the assumption that the general education program and the major are separate programs. The paradigm assumed in this report emphasizes the integration of the general education program and the major. Students should not perceive general education as something to “get out of the way,” but rather as a foundation of liberal learning that is reinforced by work in a specific discipline.
Fourth, this report assumes the need for a shift in the way faculty and departments perceive themselves in relation to other colleagues and disciplines. Instead of working in isolation from other departments and in possible competition with other colleagues, this report envisions faculty working collaboratively to create thematic course clusters that allow students to address significant problems from a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives.
Finally, this report assumes that a variety of campus and external audiences have a stake in a rigorous, integrative, and coherent program of general education at CSB/SJU. In particular, this report rejects the assumption that the curricular and co-curricular should be viewed as separate entities with unrelated missions and functions. While faculty retain the sole authority to revise the undergraduate curriculum, it must do so in conversation with other key campus stakeholders.
College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University, "Making Connections: Transforming General Education at the College of St. Benedict and St. John's University" (2015). Academic Affairs Publications. 6.