Clarion, Pa.- As new and returning CU students finish registering for their winter and spring courses, advisers encourage their students to fill empty general education requirement spaces with “flag” courses.
Many students question the importance, let alone need, to fill a ”first year values flag,” often scheduling a class just so that they can mark it off the list. Members of Clarion University’s General Education Council have noticed the lack of knowledge that some students exhibit toward fulfilling the general education flag courses. At a university where professors strive to have students meet the four General Education Learning Outcomes and become “virtuous citizens of a global society”, the council proposed an enhancement agenda that once approved will help to move students in the direction of fulfilling these goals. Co-chairman and communication professor Naomi Bell O’Neil proposed the council’s enhancement plan to Student Senate on Monday, Nov. 3.
The proposal has been shown and reviewed by both Faculty and Student Senate and is on its way to gain approval from the Committee on Courses and Programs of Study. “Our main objective is to enhance the general education requirements, the left side of a scheduling sheet, to be more appropriate for our 21st century graduates,” stated O’Neil. She explained the council had suggested that the general education flags be updated in correspondence to the approval of the four General Education Learning Outcomes.
“We looked at the analogy of calling the course requirements ‘flags,’” said O’Neil, “and we found that the term ‘flags’ just sounds negative, like flagging down a play. We want our students to feel accomplished when they complete the course, so we plan to re-name them Milestones.”
Milestones (flags) will serve as indicators that students have met the four General Education Learning Outcomes. There will be seven milestone categories, including the capstone experience.
“The milestones can be achieved in the same way as the value flags supported by general education courses, but they will be more specific in regard to learning and teaching criteria,” said O’Neil.
“Courses will be examined and assessed to see if they meet milestone criteria. If they do not, they can be omitted or change their curriculum to become more suitable.”
Milestone (flags) categories include quantitative or numeracy, competency and comfort in working with numerical data; communication (written and oral), development and expression of ideas in writing and foster understanding/promote change in listener’s values or behaviors; information literacy, ability to locate, evaluate and use information; human diversity, effective and appropriate interaction in a variety of cultural context; ethical reasoning, right and wrong human conduct; digital literacy, attitude and ability to use digital technology and communication tools and Integration, making simple connections among ideas and experiences and transferring them to situations on and off campus.
A second feature of the proposal is to require all freshmen, and sophomores in the future, to attend Inquiry Seminars. These seminars will “serve as a purpose to prepare freshman as college students and learn to think critically. The seminars will be question and answered centered, not lectures,” said O’Neil.
Hopefully, upon approval, the Inquiry Seminars will be phased in the Fall 2015 semester with incoming freshmen completing one seminar in the fall of spring semesters. O’Neil added, “for example, the seminars will be taught within a program a study, such as history, and the title of the course may be “What would history be like if President Lincoln had not been assassinated?” Students in that course will then discuss the impact or change the world may have experienced if Lincoln had not been killed.”
“Inquiry Seminars will not only help freshmen adjust to college level thinking, but will also serve as a recruitment tool. No other state school offers a tool such as this,” said O’Neil.
She also hopes that the seminars will be a selling point for freshmen and serve as a retention tool. She added, “It will help freshmen connect to the university, have fun and learn how to adjust.”
Lastly, the General Education Council proposes to have a required Capstone experience required with every program offered at Clarion University. A Capstone experience may be theses, internships, student teaching, clinical experience, performances etc. that provide students with the opportunity, integration and or closure to an academic career at the university.
O’Neil was very excited about this final component of the proposal. She said, “The Capstone experience would be one to celebrate, one that students should be excited to complete and think about. In addition to this experience, we would want to free the original General Education Electives to be considered Free Electives, which may be taken within a student’s major or any other offered course at Clarion University.”
“We will be refining this proposal within the next couple weeks,” O’Neil concluded, “but we hope to get it approved. We want to make acquiring the general education requirements more of an accomplishment rather than task, make completing a capstone experience an experience like none other, to have our student accomplish the four General Education Learning Outcomes.”