Millersville University, Faculty Senate

General Education Curriculum

Program Review

May 1996

D. Curricular Currency

Outline of Curricular Components

Throughout the United States, general education curricula in higher education are being revised. In part, this revision is a reaction to the revisions of the 1960s in which the relevance of courses was challenged. Those 1960s curricula often were simply smorgasbords of courses. The new curricula are more proscriptive. The Millersville University curriculum that existed prior to 1986 was similar to many of these smorgasbord models. (Its detailed requirements are presented in section III.) The current university president recently commented that the only graduation requirement at Millersville before he arrived was that each graduate be able to swim. This is only a slight exaggeration. The revision of the general education curriculum became the major goal of the university during the mid-1980s. A committee of the faculty was formed and charged with devising the best curriculum they could envision, without regard to cost or difficulties of implementation. There then followed a three-year period of enacting the curriculum and implementing its provisions. There are those who believe that the compromises required for passage weakened the curriculum; others contend that the curriculum was strengthened in the fires of campus politics as all groups on campus contributed to the final curriculum. Implementation also yielded changes; many of the original curricular requirements proved difficult to put into practice. Other aspects--such as English composition at the freshman level and two Perspectives courses for all students--have required time to implement. There are some major changes. Millersville students are required to complete composition and speech courses during their first year. They are required to take an advanced writing course as well as four other courses that have a significant writing component ("W"), implementing, in part, the concept of writing across the curriculum. A larger proportion of their courses must be at the 200-level or above, a reaction to the perception that many graduates had been satisfying their general education requirement s with 100-level courses almost entirely. Although distribution of courses among three divisions of the school remain, students now must ensure that four of their courses have a significant communications component ("C") or a significant quantitative reasoning component ("Q"). Further, one course must deal with learning methods of quantitative analytical reasoning ("QARC"), not simply apply methods to course material. Finally, two courses in each studentŐs general education curriculum ("P") must integrate knowledge from more than one discipline.

It is somewhat difficult to ascertain whether this extensive revision is in accord with general education curricula at other institutions throughout the nation. Fortunately, a number of studies investigating the revised curricula have been published, the most extensive being that by Jerry G. Gaff. [The members of the committee became leery of relying too heavily on Dr. Gaff's conclusions. They undertook a review of the general education literature. Brief summaries of the works they consulted are presented in Appendix E. The review indicated that the committee was justified in its initial faith. Dr. Gaff does indeed represent mainstream thought.] In his book New Life for the College Curriculum Jerry G. Gaff (©1991, Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco) surveyed 226 colleges and universities which either had completed significant general education curriculum changes or were contemplating such changes. Each survey was completed by an administrative official at the polled institution and hence represented an institutional "self-study." There were thirteen features that were emphasized by the survey, features that are characteristic of the current curricular reform movement. Each of them follow, with a comment on how General Education at Millersville University incorporates that feature.

Demand for and Reputation of Program
...|Program Mission |Centrality to and Support of University Mission |National and Local Enrollment Trends |Responsiveness to Change |Effectiveness to Serving Minorities and Other Special Populations
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