2 Why General Education?

The following information is from First Year Seminar Readings, the OER for PSU’s First Year Seminar.

General education opens an appreciation of the various ways a person can consider and understand the human experience, and of the breadth of human knowledge. General education is meant to teach habits of mind. Specifically, the general education program at Plymouth State University focuses on the following four habits of mind: problem solving, purposeful communication, integrated perspective, and self-regulated learning.

These important and critical habits of mind create flexible thinking and flexible skills that will translate into real world experiences and application. As a student, you will be pushed out of your comfort zone and into new and different fields, encouraging a broader world view. Drawing from different fields, specializations, and areas of knowledge creates a comprehensive education that can be applied and utilized in meaningful and previously unexplored and “unexpectable” ways.

Many people “don’t know what you don’t know until you learn it”! Therefore, general education is teaching you about problem-solving, curiosity, life-long learning with a purpose, adaptability, and strong work ethic. These habits of mind will serve you well throughout your college career as well as long after you graduate.

More specifically, a structured general education program focuses on branching out and providing different skills and ways of thinking to students that they may not have had prior to their general education experience. Using a structured general education program helps to create an interdisciplinary and integrative structure that guides methods of inquiry, again pushing students out of their comfort zones and into new ways of thinking. Furthermore, using a structured general education program creates a shared experience among students that encourages interaction across disciplines that may not have been fostered otherwise.

Different majors, programs, disciplines, and clusters are all represented in the general education program at PSU in order to create habits of mind and develop those new methods of inquiry. All of these different programs contribute to the educated person (re: reading) and what employers are looking for in future employees and what graduates can expect of their college education.

Finally, beyond learning new ways of thinking and habits of mind students also develop and prepare to “understand and manage complexity, diversity, and change.” The general education program helps you to develop highly transferable skills that are marketable and flexible in a changing world. These skills and habits of mind are invaluable and you will carry them with you long after you leave PSU.

Employers are typically looking for college graduates who have met learning outcomes that are associated with the kinds of habits of mind gained from a strong general education program. The following list came from a survey of employers conducted by the American Association of Colleges and Universities. You can see that most employers would like colleges to put even more emphasis on general areas such as communication, problem solving, and collaboration skills.

Proportion Of Employers Who Say Colleges Should Place More Emphasis Than They Do Today On Selected Learning Outcomes

Percentage
The ability to effectively communicate orally and in writing 89
Critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills 81
The ability to apply knowledge and skills to real-world settings through internships or other
hands-on experiences
79
The ability to analyze and solve complex problems 75
The ability to connect choices and actions to ethical decisions 75
Teamwork skills and the ability to collaborate with others in diverse group settings 71
The ability to innovate and be creative 70
Concepts and new developments in science and technology 70
The ability to locate, organize, and evaluate information from multiple sources 68
The ability to understand the global context of situations and decisions 67
Global issues and developments and their implications for the future 65
The ability to work with numbers and understand statistics 63
The role of the United States in the world 57
Cultural diversity in America and other countries 57
Civic knowledge, civic participation, and community engagement 52
Proficiency in a foreign language 45
Democratic institutions and values 40

 

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Why General Education? by Cathie LeBlanc is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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