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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Gen eds need re-evaluation, faculty says”

    Administrators and faculty are examining general-education courses to assess their difficulty, pertinence and applicability to minors and majors.

    The Faculty Senate’s Committee of 11 will explore and create at least two models that will address problems with Gen ed courses this semester, said Michael Cusanovich, the chair of the committee.

    While it is too early in the semester to outline the specifics of these models, Cusanovich said the new models will attempt to make gen ed courses more applicable to a student’s life.

    “”Although the committee endorses the concept of Gen ed courses, there are considerable concerns about the unevenness and the quality,”” Cusanovich said.

    One problem with Gen eds is the difficulty of the courses, which is not even across the board, Cusanovich said.

    Another issue the committee will address is the problems students encounter in fulfilling major requirements while simultaneously taking Gen ed courses that may not apply toward their areas of study, Cusanovich said.

    “”We are looking at a way to try and recommend restructuring to put in rigor, make them more of a learning process for students,”” Cusanovich said.

    While there are obvious pros and cons to Gen ed courses, Provost George Davis said he expects the problems to be assessed and corrected before the North Central Association comes to the UA for the university’s 10-year review in 2009.

    Cusanovich said the new model will also attempt to incorporate classes specific to majors and minors within Gen ed requirements, thereby making the courses more fitting to a student’s major.

    However, this approach may eliminate the role of Gen eds in helping students discover their academic passions, said Elizabeth Oglesby, an assistant professor of Latin American studies.

    “”The value of Gen eds is that they expose students to courses and areas of study that they may have never otherwise considered,”” she said.

    Oglesby, who co-teaches more than 300 students, said that while Gen ed courses have many benefits, they need improvement.

    For example, some courses that are labeled as “”writing-intensive”” are not actually able to focus on writing because class sizes tend to be larger. As a result, writing-intensive assignments are often unchallenging and unrealistic, Oglesby said.

    “”The university is doing students a disservice by expecting Gen eds to substitute for a smaller, more beneficial writing course,”” Oglesby said.

    The root of the Gen ed problem may come from budgeting, as smaller courses are less favorable because they are more expensive.

    “”It would be a good idea for the Committee of 11 to look at the purpose of Gen ed courses and examine whether or not they fulfill goals,”” Oglesby said.

    Davis said the Committee of 11 will do that, in addition to researching the difficulty that professors may have while instructing classes of more than 200 students.

    While Oglesby said she loves the energy that comes from instructing a large class, she sometimes finds it difficult to teach because she must aim material at the average student.

    Jennifer Roth Gordon, an assistant professor of anthropology who instructs about 250 students per semester, said she enjoys teaching Gen ed courses for the opportunity to reach and interact with students of many different backgrounds.

    Morgan Brunner, a retailing and consumer sciences sophomore, said Gen eds that do not apply to majors are often unchallenging and not applicable.

    “”Gen eds are great because they make you well-rounded,”” Brunner said,. “”but sometimes the courses available are a waste of time.””

    Creating Gen eds that are pertinent to real life or to specific majors would be helpful, Brunner said.

    Rachelle Binkley, a veterinary science freshman, said she had difficulty registering for Gen ed courses, and as a result, she enrolled in courses that are “”easy and kind of boring.””

    However, Krystina Lee, a veterinary science junior, said Gen ed courses are often rigorous.

    “”I think Gen eds take up too much focus away from major classes,”” Lee said. “”I have had my (grade point average) lowered because of Gen ed courses, which is really frustrating.””

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