Millersville University, Faculty Senate
General Education Curriculum
II. Quality of the Program
The general education curriculum is designed around the twelve goals
previously stated. It is instructive to assess whether these goals are
suitable for a general education curriculum.
Jerry Gaff (New Life for the College Curriculum ©1991, Jossey-Bass
Publishers, San Francisco) identifies four issues that general education
curricula attempt to include. Each of these is presented below, along with
1. Content--This is a balance between the knowledge a student should have
learned, the skills that a graduate should have mastered, and the qualities
that a graduate should possess. In other words, this is the balance between
the content of courses and the process of learning.
In terms of its objectives, the general education curriculum at Millersville
is very strongly process oriented. Of the goals stated above, just three
(f. "knowledge", g. "breadth", and i. "diversity") attempt to expand a
student's knowledge base; six (b. "inquiry & communication", c.
"reasoning", d. "analysis", j. "citizenship", k. "wholeness", and l.
"decision") encourage skill development; and three attempt to imbue
students with certain qualities (a. "creativity", e. "curiosity", and h.
"truth & beauty"). However, many students comment that courses still are
content based, that students are lectured at rather than being included in
discussions. This ties in with active learning. It also is related to the
curriculum prescribing change but leaving much of it to the students in
2. Coherence--The general education curriculum should be more than just
all its parts together, but rather have an overall focus. This focus should
be planned, not simply left for students to discover.
Millersville--s general education curriculum has little coherence in this
sense. Although it clearly is structured, students are the sole ones who
determine how courses will fit together. Unfortunately, any plan of courses
many well be thwarted by course unavailability. It also is true that few
students are ready to see the interrelationships; they simply do not have the
knowledge base. But this is perhaps a stronger argument for somewhat more
planning in a student's course of general education study; the faculty
perhaps should guide students into seeing these interrelationships, either in
the class room or through advising.
3. Commonality--The conflict here is between inculcating common values
while simultaneously giving an appreciation of individual differences.
Millersville's general education curriculum does not address this issue
directly, although campus life does. Although the university is situated in
a socially and politically conservative county, with a rather homogeneous
population, great efforts have been made to expose students to many
viewpoints. Students are actively recruited from other areas of the state,
notably urban ones. In addition, foreign students are actively recruited,
with incentives that include tuition remission.
In a different sense, the distribution requirements in the liberal arts core
promotes diversity. The general education curriculum plus major requirements
ensure that a student will take courses in at least eight of the twenty-six
departments of the university. Commonality of learning is achieved with the
fundamental courses, the emphasis on writing, the requirement of laboratory
science and of a quantitative reasoning course, and the common physical
4. Comprehensiveness--The goal here is to break down the
discipline-specific barriers of departments both to show interrelationships
but more importantly to give the general education curriculum its own
strength, independent of the power of individual departments.
Millersville's general education program attempts to achieve this
comprehensiveness in two major ways. The first is the creation of
perspectives courses, multi-disciplinary or multi-cultural courses that a
student takes after completing half of the liberal arts core. Some of these
courses are team taught. A significant number are taught by individual
faculty who thereby demonstrate their own interdisciplinary expertise to
their students. Team taught courses have in general not been successful due
to a large number of factors, not the least of which have been cost
The second is the establishment of writing across the curriculum. Students
are exposed to both an entry-level and an advanced composition course, and
additionally complete four courses with a significant writing component. They
thus experience Francis Bacon's maxim that "writing maketh an exact man."
Here they see that all disciplines benefit from the rigor of putting thoughts
There are some anecdotal reports of writing intensive courses in which
practically no student writing occurs. There really is no mechanism in place
for the enforcement of curriculum standards other than the tradition
enforcement powers of department chairpersons and deans.
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