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Succeeding in your GE Program: A helpful guide for motivated freshmen Wayne Smith, Ph.D. Department of Management CSU Northridge (updated:

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Presentation on theme: "Succeeding in your GE Program: A helpful guide for motivated freshmen Wayne Smith, Ph.D. Department of Management CSU Northridge (updated:"— Presentation transcript:

1 Succeeding in your GE Program: A helpful guide for motivated freshmen Wayne Smith, Ph.D. Department of Management CSU Northridge (updated: Feb. 1, 2012)

2 Student Success: How might a student conceptualize GE Courses? * Paradigmatic Pre-Paradigmatic AppliedPure History Government Critical Thinking Natural Sciences Oral Communication * Adapted from Biglan, 1973 Comparative Cultural Studies Bio Non-Bio English Math Life-long Learning Social Sciences Arts and Humanities

3 Student Success: How does a student think about GE Courses in general? Paradigmatic –Knowledge accretion; high consensus on data, methods, and “truth” –So…you are constantly evaluating how each topic builds upon a prior topic Pre-Paradigmatic –Knowledge interpretation; low consensus on data, methods, and “truth” –So…you are constantly re-evaluating yourself and your relationships Pure –Emphasizes theory over practice; community of scholars is important –So…you focus on the intrinsic (academic) value and theoretical depth Applied –Emphasizes practice over theory; comm. of professionals is important –So…you focus on the extrinsic (professional) value of the topic and theoretical breadth Bio –Involves the deep, rich study of life or organic material (microscopic) Non-Bio –Involves macro issues, especially the broader society or universe (telescopic)

4 Student Success: How does a student think about specific GE Courses? Paradigmatic/Pure –E.g., Math, History –What are the appropriate questions and how best do I evaluate the answers? Pre-Paradigmatic/Pure –E.g., English Literature, Music/Art Appreciation –How does a person change, why is it important, and what do others perceive? Paradigmatic/Applied –E.g., Physical/Natural Sciences, U.S. Government –What do we know about our world, and how do we relate to our society? Pre-Paradigmatic/Applied –E.g., Public Speaking, Health/Wellness –What is the most practical, pragmatic, theory-in-use application of my skills Bio –Add this dimension and adjust all the above descriptions as applicable

5 Student Success: How does a student approach and craft success in GE Courses? CSUN GE Requirements –http://www.csun.edu/catalog/generaleducation.html –If printed, this document is 24 pages –The first half of the first page is the “why” of GE; the rest is a list of categories/courses –The fact that CSUN has designed GE so that you select courses is extraordinary… –Always try to select GE courses that “double-count” in your major (see your advisor!) –In general, you most often select GE courses that are consonant with your interests… Vocabulary that isn’t on the GE web page…but arguably could be: –Serendipity, Discovery, Discernment, Enlighten, Wisdom –Authority, Democracy, Empathy, Leadership, Ethos –Synergy, Relationships, Uncertainty, Wellness, Happiness –Systems, Holism, Beauty, Justice, Truth Students need to 1), look up in a college-level dictionary the meaning of each of these words, 2), use each in sentence, and 3), most important…approach each GE course with an application of each word. The ideal goal is for you become an “intentional learner” –and you will improve, incrementally and demonstrably, in each GE (and other!) class

6 Student Success: What is interdisciplinary thinking in GE Courses? I’ll proffer that the most (all?) important questions of life require a conjunction of two or more quadrants (i.e., “inter-disciplinary”). Identify what we need from each quadrant to help evaluate each of the following four statements… “Eureka! An astronomer using a telescope in Chile has discovered yet another planet outside of our solar system.” “To love another person is to touch the face of God.” –“Les Misérables”, by Victor Hugo ( ) “Geez, sweetheart, I absolutely adore this new house and this residential community, but can we make the monthly payments?” “The incumbent President Barack Obama is focusing on the swing states that have stable and important demographic characteristics.” And, by extension of the above examples, one might argue that critical reasoning is indeed properly placed at the conjunction of all 4 quadrants.

7 Student Success: GE is also about wisdom and efficacy An example…”What is Logic?” (Allen, 2006) Academic perspective –“[Logic is about]…flaws in reasoning; examining evidence; comparing two lines of an argument” Professional perspective –“[Logic is about]…performance in ill-structured situations; finding the problem to solve; working around missing information; [knowing] what is a ‘good enough’ solution and therefore when to stop [analyzing]” GE not only helps with the definitions and context, but also with knowing what reasoning to use and when (contingency). And, of course, Basic Skills—Analytic Reading and Expository Writing, Critical Thinking, Mathematics, and Oral Communication—will be threaded through everything you do both during and after college.

8 Student Success: What do other students think? Comments regarding the value of GE courses from my Freshmen students in the past two years… “Astronomy is another form of history, but from a cosmic view.” “I am taking philosophy next semester because I have always been a critical thinker.” “College is like a painting; its meaning changes to the people viewing it.” “When majoring in any field, we are majoring in a subject that will help the world—that goes for all majors from accountants to social workers.”

9 Student Success: What does another California institution think? As of January, 2012, Stanford is proposing 55 new recommendations for their undergraduate experience. –It’s designed mostly around interdisciplinary critical thinking. –“[The faculty’s] single motivating principle… is our determination to breach the silos of students’ lives…” (emphasis added) “[There are]…four broad elements that [the faculty] believe represent the goals of a Stanford education.” –Owning Knowledge, Honing Skills and Capacities, Cultivating Personal and Social Responsibility, and Adaptive Learning “[This] new [breadth] model promotes the acquisition and development of seven essential capacities, which [the faculty] term ‘Ways of Thinking, Ways of Doing’.” –Aesthetic and interpretive inquiry (2 courses), Social inquiry (2 courses), Scientific analysis (2 courses), Formal and quantitative reasoning (2 courses), Engaging difference (1 course), and Moral and ethical reasoning (1 course)

10 References Allen, M. (2006), Assessing General Education Programs, Anker Publishing Biglan, A. (1973) “The characteristics of subject matter in different academic areas”, Journal of Applied Psychology, 57(3), pp CSUN GE Requirements –http://www.csun.edu/catalog/generaleducation.html The Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford University –http://news.stanford.edu/news/2012/january/SUES_Report.pdf Additionally, a few of the ideas in this presentation have benefited from informal communications with Prof. Sharon Klein (CSUN, English/Lingusitics/WRAD)


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