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   from the issue of February 2, 2006

Committees lay foundation for general education reform


The foundation for the reform of UNL's Comprehensive Education Program (more commonly know as ES/IS) has been established.

After a fall semester of gathering information and input from across campus, the two committees guiding the general education reform process have established four institutional objectives that outline the basics of what undergraduate general education should be.

"This is the first such list to come out of a faculty committee in this university's history," said John Janovy, chair of the two committees. "These institutional objectives are the context for every general education thing we do from now on. They are the base on which we will place more specific learning outcomes."

The institutional objectives are directed at providing a complete education of lasting value that empowers students to become life-long learners who can thrive in an ever-changing world. Dave Wilson, associate vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, said the objectives contain four key words - skills, knowledge, responsibilities and integrate.

The specific institutional objectives are:

• Develop intellectual and practical skills, including proficiency in written, oral and visual communication, inquiry techniques, critical and creative thinking, quantitative applications, information assessment, teamwork and problem solving;

• Build knowledge of diverse peoples and cultures and of the natural and physical world through the study of math, science, technology, history, humanities, arts, social science and human diversity;

• Exercise individual and social responsibilities through the study of ethical principles and reasoning, application of civic knowledge, interaction with diverse cultures and engagement with global issues;

• Integrate these abilities and capacities, adapting them to new settings, questions and responsibilities.

Janovy said the objectives are to be accomplished through progressively more challenging coursework and programs across UNL's colleges and majors, using a variety of teaching methods and experiences.

The committees forged the institutional objectives from information gathered through meetings with UNL colleges, faculty groups and student organizations. Feedback from an open forum and an online discussion also helped formulate the objectives.

"We have a lot of places in the university that are already teaching to some of these objectives," Janovy said. "They are simply good teaching. And, we are becoming aware of this activity by just talking with people across the university."

General education reform was selected a priority by Harvey Perlman, chancellor, during the annual State of the University address on Sept. 9. The plan outlined in the speech was organized by a committee of UNL faculty members.

The movement is necessary as UNL's Comprehensive Education Program is 10 years old and has been outpaced by national trends in general education. Also, the current Comprehensive Education Program has grown to include more than 2,300 courses, with faculty and students - especially transfer students - seeing it as an obstacle to timely degree completion.

The two committees guiding the reform are the General Education Advisory Committee and the General Education Planning Team.

The general education committees will formulate two proposals yet this academic year. Janovy said those proposals would include a list of learning outcomes for a university-wide general education program, and the structural features of such a program. In the 2006-2007 academic year the committees will release two additional proposals; the specific courses and experiences that would constitute the initial program and an assessment and governance plan.

As all proposals will be linked, Janovy said outcomes, delivery mechanisms and assessment will be included in all upcoming discussions.

"Our serious goal is to make this whole process faculty driven," Janovy said. "We want to make it flexible enough so that our educators can participate in their own creative ways. And, we are going to write the outcomes in a way that I think anybody in the university can work with."

Janovy said members of both committees encourage feedback on general education reform from faculty and students. Lists of committee members are available online at



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