Chapter II: Educational Goals and Curricular Principles

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This chapter provides the foundation on which the remaining chapters rest. Attentive to the Mission Statement and the Charge given the Council, we present educational goals (in Section A) and principles underlying curricular development (in Section B) which are designed to aid in the realization of the educational goals. With each of the goals in Section A, we indicate (in parentheses) related principles. Several of the goals are related to co-curricular, as well as curricular, structures; goals of this type are referred to in Chapter VII, which speaks to co-curricular structures.

Similarly, each of the principles in Section B includes a supporting rationale and references to recommendations in the report which are germane to the principle. Section C discusses the connections between this chapter and the rest of the report: it also proposes changes in the governance system which will facilitate further considerations of the CRUE recommendations.

A. Goals of the Baccalaureate Degree at Michigan State University

As the only land-grant institution in the state, Michigan State University is committed to providing educational opportunities for students of varying interests, abilities, backgrounds and expectations, and to melding high quality professional and technical instruction with liberal education. Underlying all of the University's educational programs is the belief that an educated person is one who becomes an effective and productive citizen of the nation and the world. Such a person contributes to society intellectually, through analytical abilities and in the insightful use of knowledge; economically, through productive application of skills; socially, through an understanding and appreciation of the world and for individual and group beliefs, cultures, and traditions; ethically, through sensitivity and faithfulness to examined values; and politically, through the use of reason in affairs of state.

An undergraduate education at Michigan State University aims to:

  1. provide students with a sense of the interrelatedness of knowledge, especially the melding of liberal learning with the professional, technical and specialized knowledge of the major, (see Curricular Principles I, III, and IV);
  2. provide students opportunities for practical experience in identifying, defining, and addressing significant, vocationally relevant issues (see Curricular Principles VI,VII, and VIII);
  3. provide students with a variety of instructional modes that insure their active involvement in the learning process (see Curricular Principles VII, VIII, and Chapter VII);
  4. enable students to understand, analyze and synthesize, and compare social, cultural, economic, political, and environmental phenomena in the United States and in the world (see Curricular Principle I, especially Emphasis Areas (f) and(g));
  5. encourage the development of the skills of critical analysis and the use of such multiple modes of inquiry as scientific, artistic, literary, and information technologies (see Curricular Principle I, especially Emphasis Area (j) and Curricular Principle V);
  6. assist students in developing the ability to communicate knowledge and experience clearly and concisely in both written and oral communication (see Knowledge and Skill Area (a) of Curricular Principle I);
  7. develop students' aesthetic sensitivities through exposure in classes and co-curricular events in such areas as art, music and literature (see Knowledge and Skill Area (b) of Curricular Principle I and Chapter VII);
  8. foster students' sense of responsibility for a dynamic, democratic society that offers broad opportunities and that requires functioning in an interdependent world (see Emphasis Area (i) of Curricular Principle I and Curricular Principle VIII);
  9. graduate citizens who have the ability to anticipate problems, to perceive opportunities, and to propose constructive changes for a complex and uncertain future (see Curricular Principle I, especially Emphasis Areas (h) and (i), and Curricular Principle VIII);
  10. graduate individuals with knowledge, skills, and habits of mind that will enable them to contribute effectively and ethically in an increasingly interdependent world and with the imagination, motivation, feeling and spirit necessary for a life of l learning beyond the formal classroom (see Curricular Principle I, especially the Emphasis Areas, and Curricular Principles III, IV, V, VI, VII, and VIII);
  11. graduate individuals whose curricular and co-curricular university experiences have significantly contributed to their social and intellectual maturation (see Curricular Principle VIII and Chapter VII);
  12. graduate individuals whose years at the university have provided them with the knowledge, skills and perspectives which permit the pursuit of multiple careers over the course of a lifetime (see the Knowledge and Skill Areas of Curricular Principle I and Curricular Principles III, IV, VI, and VII).

Collectively, these goals form a comprehensive focus toward which undergraduate study should be directed, in the major, and in general/liberal education.

B. The Curricular Principles of Undergraduate Education

To realize the Educational Goals, CRUE proposes a group of Curricular Principles that will affect the undergraduate education of all Michigan State students.

I. Commonality: There is a set of knowledge and skill areas and of emphasis areas that will appear in all students' programs.

The Knowledge and Skill Areas shall consist of:

(a) Language, including writing, speaking, and foreign language;(b) The arts and humanities including history, literature, fine arts,philosophy, and religion;(c) The physical and biological sciences;(d) Mathematics and statistics;(e) The social, economic, and behavioral sciences.

The Emphasis Areas shall consist of:

(f) International and multicultural experience;(g) National diversity;(h) Historical consciousness;(I) Values and ethical judgments;(j) Modes of inquiry and critical analysis.

Rationales for each of the Knowledge, Skill and Emphasis Areas follow:

(a) Language: The study of language should be centrally placed in the students academic program. Language is the principal mode of self-expression, the basis of communication, and the primary means of access to culture. Writing, speaking, reading, and listening are intricately interrelated; their study helps students to think more critically and effectively. The student must be given many opportunities to express and to communicate, both orally and in writing.

The benefits of language study extend beyond one's native language. The study of a second language provides additional perspectives into the power and intricacies of language skills, while introducing the student to the relationships between language and broader social contexts. The importance of language study is reflected in several CRUE recommendations for the curriculum: the year-long, first-year writing sequence (Recommendation 26), the specified writing and speaking courses in the major (Recommendation 40), the new graduation requirement in foreign language (Recommendation 12), and in the principle of writing across the curriculum (Recommendation 29).

(b) The arts and humanities: Study in literature, history, religions, philosophy, and language assists students in assessing their own sense of self, the ethical consequences of their action, and their place in the world historically, culturally, and linguistically. The role of the humanities is to foster and elevate awareness of these fundamental aspects of our lives. Performance and the study of the fine arts extend these understandings to the appreciation of forms of human expression and heighten levels of aesthetic sensitivity, creativity, and insight.

Requirements for Arts and Humanities are part of the Core Program (Recommendation 30).

(c) The physical and biological sciences: Science permeates every facet of the human experience through its intellectual and technological products. Students should be aware of the ways scientific knowledge has affected knowledge about the human condition and the universe. All students should develop their ability to use the analytic modes of "forming concepts, testing hypotheses, discriminating between observation and inference, and constructing models," commonplace in scientific inquiry (Integrity in the College Curriculum, p.21).

Scientific and technological changes also present society with a protracted list of moral and ethical dilemmas, some of which are nuclear proliferation, ecological change and deterioration, and genetic engineering. Appropriate resolution of these problems requires a scientifically literate citizenry.

Requirements for the study of physical and biological sciences are part of the Core Program recommendations (Recommendation 30).

(d) Mathematics and statistics: As one of the fundamental subjects, mathematics opens possibilities for further study in a wide range of disciplines. The curriculum should provide opportunities for understanding the synthesis of data and the representational power and significance of numbers and other mathematical symbols. Numbers, graphs, data and mathematical symbols are used to represent findings, ideas, facts, theories, and opinions. They frequently represent (and sometimes misrepresent) the synthesis of complicated concepts. Undergraduate students should be conversant with these symbols and should understand relationships between the symbols and the ideas they represent.

The importance of study in mathematics and statistics is reflected in the following CRUE recommendations: increased mathematics graduation requirements and the development of quantitative skills appropriate to each major field of study (Recommendations 14, 42).

(e) The social, economic, and behavioral sciences: As individuals living within social, cultural, and geographic contexts, students should understand the factors which shape and constrain individual and collective human activity. These factors include individual behavior, cultural patterns, social organization, political processes, economic forces, and geographic characteristics. The social, economic, and behavioral sciences provide students with such knowledge. In addition, the rigorous qualitative and quantitative methodologies provide sophisticated measures of behavioral phenomena and help engender a healthy questioning of conclusions derived solely from intuitions based on personal experiences.

Requirements for the social, economic and behavioral sciences are part of the CRUE recommendations for the Core Program recommendations (Recommendation 30).

(f) International and multicultural experience: To facilitate students' awareness of issues crucial to the 1990s, CRUE recommends emphasizing global dimensions of study so that students begin to understand the range of peoples, beliefs, and economic, political and social systems beyond the boundaries of Western culture.

Resolution of such world problems as population growth, political and economic disenfranchisement, and limited natural resources will require the cooperation of an international community. The curriculum should provide students the opportunity to confront these difficult issues from an international perspective. Marcus' study (1984) found that students at Michigan State University share with their peers at other universities extensive unawareness of international issues. Responses to the CRUE questionnaire indicate that faculty perceive this as a significant void in undergraduate education at this University (see Table I of The CRUE Survey of Academic Personnel: A Synopsis of Results, 1988).

The study of a foreign language is recommended in part to meet the requirements of this emphasis area. Access to and knowledge of another culture are objectives of foreign language training (Recommendation 12). CRUE also recommends that all students take Core courses which support this Emphasis Area (Recommendation 32). Moreover, CRUE encourages programs in the major to utilize Michigan State University's extensive overseas studies programs(Recommendation 44).

(g) National diversity: The evolving political and social institutions which form the fabric of society are, in varying degrees, determined by the diverse religious, racial, and ethnic traditions found in this country. CRUE considers it essential that university graduates understand the ways in which our lives have been influenced by the diverse constituencies of the United States. The demographic shifts noted in Chapter I indicate there will be continuing changes in the composition of society. Accordingly, the changing roles of women and the growth of minority groups need to be recognized as forces that will shape policies of the future.

Consistent with Michigan State University's long standing commitment to encourage and honor the diversity of its student body, it is necessary that the curriculum attempts to reflect that diversity more accurately. Students who are given opportunities to study about their own cultures, histories, and contributions are likely to see their place in both the University and the world as significant, an ideological premise that may contribute productively to a student's retention and eventual academic and professional success.

To address these needs, CRUE proposes recommendations in Chapter III which encourage the continuation of a diverse student population, and also includes recommendations that some required Core courses contain significant multicultural, ethnic and gender-based materials (Recommendation 32).

(h) Historical consciousness: Each field of study--whether science, literature, mathematics, or philosophy--has its own history which, in turn, influences the larger cultural history and consciousness. Just as CRUE supports the importance of integrating language and writing skills across the curriculum, we believe that considerations of historical perspectives should be included in all disciplines. Part of understanding one's own place within a particular culture, and central to understanding the differences among cultures, is the appreciation of the historical developments which have shaped individual and societal perspectives. An awareness of history, then, is essential to complete learning, both as it affects individual subject matters and whole programs of education.

This emphasis area appears in CRUE's proposed evaluation of the major (Recommendation 37): it is also recommended in Chapter IV that some Core courses be developed in which this emphasis area is prominent (Recommendations 24, 31).

(i) Values and ethical judgments: Education involves more than the completion of curricular requirements. Rather, a complete education allows the student to synthesize academic knowledge and skills with values relevant to real life. The fully educated person is aware that decisions and judgments reflect individual values, and also affect the lives of other people. CRUE believes that a consideration of ethics should be part of and, in fact, central to the undergraduate experience so that students may experience formal education within a larger framework of personal integrity and social responsibility.

The senior synthesis courses proposed by CRUE (Recommendations 34, 45) provide one means for students to consider values. CRUE's proposed evaluation and review of the major (Recommendations 37, 38) also calls for attention to this area, as does the proposal that some Core courses be designed to emphasize an appreciation of ethics (Recommendations 24, 31).

(j) Modes of inquiry and critical analysis: Any meaningful undergraduate education must constantly try to improve and refine the student's ability to think critically and analytically. Details and facts may be forgotten; what should remain are the habits of mind and the confidence necessary to approach ideas and problems, new and old, in productive and imaginative ways. The primary task of a good education is to cultivate the life of the mind.

Logical thinking, critical analysis, and inquiry are not spontaneous but rather "grow out of wise instruction, experience, encouragement, correction, and constant use" (Rudolph, 1977). Students should be taught to value thought, to synthesize as well as to dissect ideas, and to see every university course and every intellectual encounter as an invitation to acquire and practice the habits of critical thinking.

The principles of this Emphasis Area should occur throughout the curriculum and should be implicit in all Core courses (Recommendations 15, 24, 31).

Curricular Principle I, with its attention to Knowledge, Skill and Emphasis Areas, establishes the subject matter framework for curricular design. Additional curricular principles follow:

II. Vertical Structure: Some university-wide course requirements, with content and approaches from the Knowledge, Skill and Emphasis Areas, should be designed for study during each year of the student's undergraduate program.

To help erase the traditional disunity between courses in majors and general education courses, CRUE proposes restructuring required undergraduate coursework to combine content and approaches from the Knowledge, Skill, and Emphasis Areas throughout the entire undergraduate program. Nationally, as well as at Michigan State University, institutions tend to design general education courses for the first two years of the student's program while major courses dominate the latter two years. This method of organization encourages students to view general education as separate from, and less significant than, their major fields of study. Creating a vertical structure for undergraduate coursework can help make sequential offerings genuinely meaningful by asking students to do specific kinds of work at certain times in their undergraduate careers, utilizing their academic progress in fact as well as in theory.

Vertical structure is a feature of every major program. To infuse this concept into the Core Program, CRUE proposes that some Core courses be designed for study during the freshman-sophomore years and that some be designed for study during the junior-senior years (cf. Chapter IV). Consistent with this principle of vertical structure, Recommendations 17 and 26 propose Core courses in specified years of the student's undergraduate program.

III. Coherence: Some university-wide required courses, with content and approaches from the Knowledge, Skill and Emphasis Areas, should be structured in coherent sets of courses that are significantly interrelated.

The undergraduate is not well served by requiring a potpourri of disconnected courses. Sequencing courses is one possible method of achieving a desirable arrangement, with certain courses prerequisite to others. Sequencing is standard practice in mathematics, foreign languages and the natural sciences; because much learning is predicated on prior learning, it may also be advantageously implemented across the curriculum.

The social sciences and arts and humanities have traditionally emphasized a lateral development. The CRUE interpretation of meaningful coherence accepts both the lateral and the sequential models provided that there are viable connections between the courses that comprise the models.

CRUE recommendations which address this principle are found in the evaluation and review of the major (Recommendations 37, 38) and in the guidelines for the development of Core courses presented in Chapter IV (Recommendation 17).

IV. Integration: Wherever appropriate and possible, it is desirable to include interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary work in the courses which embody the Knowledge, Skill and Emphasis Areas, in the Core curriculum as well as in the major. Such integration may take place within specific courses as well as within sets of courses. There should also be meaningful relationships between and among Core studies and the more specialized major.

The Council to Review Undergraduate Education strongly supports integration of major studies with general and liberal learning. General education in the proposed Core Program implies not only a set of common yearnings which can be assumed as a foundation for further learning (either in a sequential or a cumulative sense), but also that these Yearnings constitute an integrative and synthesizing framework within which further learning takes on contextual meaning.

The disciplines, then, become not just new bodies of information but new angles of vision. Rather than refining the distinction, CRUE stresses that both interdisciplinary and disciplinary or professional study are intended as essential and interrelated components of the undergraduate program at Michigan State University; that both must be assured through these recommendations; and that they should be integrated wherever possible with the student's major field of study.

Guidelines for the Core courses in Chapter IV emphasize the essential nature of the principle of integration (Recommendation 17). Other CRUE recommendations (Recommendations 40, 42, 43, 44) support fusing specific Knowledge, Skill and Emphasis Areas with the major field of study.

V. Synthesis: The curriculum should provide opportunity for frequent synthesis and reexamination of accumulated knowledge.

Acquired knowledge must constantly be reviewed, integrated and reassessed in the light of new information and the student's increased maturity. Freshman-level understandings cannot remain unchallenged through the remaining years of an undergraduate education. Synthesis, which provides an enriched perspective, is a habit of mind that should be maintained throughout life. CRUE believes that the opportunities for meaningful synthesis must be continually increased throughout the undergraduate curriculum.

There appear to be few opportunities in the current curriculum to employ this principle, and for this reason, CRUE proposes in Recommendations 34 and 45 that courses be designed in the major and in the Core Program which will expressly incorporate this principle.

VI. Depth: Every student should be provided with the opportunity to learn some subjects in depth, particularly in the field of major study.

CRUE supports the position on depth expressed in the Association of American Colleges' report Integrity in the College Curriculum, (1985, p. 24): "Depth requires sequential learning, building on blocks of knowledge that lead to more sophisticated understanding . . . [it] is achieved through a variety of experiences that broaden the student's knowledge of a discipline . . .[it] requires the kind of focused experience that takes time . . . a sound grasp of the fundamentals of a discipline or art . . . [and leads to] the joy of mastery, the thrill of moving forward in a formal body of knowledge and gaining some control over it. [From it students learn] that no matter how much they know, they cannot know enough, they cannot know everything. Depth is the enemy of arrogance."

The appropriate place for the development of depth is in the field of major study. CRUE speaks to this principle in several recommendations related to the major (Recommendations 36, 37, 38).

VII. Breadth: The curriculum should provide the student with the opportunity to study some subjects from broad and different perspectives.

Wherever possible, alternate and different views and approaches should be provided in the student's undergraduate program. While there is considerable overlap between this and several other curricular principles, CRUE believes the concept of breadth demands emphasis as one means of expanding the student's frame of reference. The ability to study a problem from different angles will likely produce more reasoned and thoughtful conclusions. Consideration of different perspectives should become a standard analytical tool for the student.

A prime illustration of the proposed implementation of this principle is the cognate recommendation in Chapter V (Recommendation 39).

VIII. Study and life: With the goal of stimulating further and continuous learning, the curriculum should emphasize the connections between academic learning and the world of work and personal life beyond undergraduate study.

CRUE views undergraduate education as only one part of lifelong education. The curriculum should address the relationship between the education students receive during college with the work, continuing education, and professional life they will pursue after college. It is, therefore, essential that graduates recognize the realities of problems they may confront in the workplace, in graduate and professional schools, and in life. The proposed review and evaluation of the major includes features relevant in this principle (Recommendations 37, 38) as do the recommendations concerning co-curricular matters (cf., Chapter VII).

C. Matters of Implementation

The remaining chapters of this report are devoted, in large measure, to a discussion of ways the curricular principles are to be distributed throughout the student's academic program. Specific suggestions for such implementation permeate the report. Especially significant are Chapters IV and V which discuss, respectively, the Core Program and the Major. The Core Program will consist of a set of required courses that all undergraduate students must take; many of the Curricular Principles are explicitly embodied in this program. In this document "the major" means the student's major field of study; many significant recommendations concerning the major appear in Chapter V. These recommendations are guided by the belief that many of the Knowledge and Skill Areas, Emphasis Areas, and other Curricular Principles are more meaningful to the student when integrated with the major field of study.

The implementation of the CRUE recommendations, including design of specific courses, lies beyond the Charge given this Council. CRUE encourages the broadest possible university support for its proposed curricular and co-curricular recommendations, and because many issues in this report will require additional study by the university community, CRUE proposes:


Functions of the proposed Council on Undergraduate Education will include curricular oversight of:

a. Major programs including cognatesb. Core Program including the review and approval of individual Core coursesc. Admissions policy, entrance requirements, and access to programsd. Graduation requirementse. Academic advisingf. General support servicesg. Teaching and learning support systemsh. Orientationi. Co-Curricular activitiesj. Academic policy - grading, credit and transcript evaluation for transfer students

The purpose of such a proposal is to create a council whose sole purview is the education of undergraduates. One possible advantage to this structure is that the proposed council and its various standing (sub)committees will permit a concentrated focus on the many issues that CRUE has identified as crucial to the continuing excellence of undergraduate education.

As part of its recommendation, CRUE suggests that the proposed standing committee/council be composed of faculty from all colleges with undergraduate majors, undergraduate students, and appropriate representation from the Office of the Provost. The new council should replace the present University Committee on General Education.

CRUE members are aware that this recommendation implies a re-evaluation of the governance system. The new council creates an obvious, and acute, jurisdictional overlap with existing standing committees--namely, the University Curriculum Committee, the University Committee on Academic Policy, and the University Graduate Council. The governance system should address, in a clear and unambiguous manner, where academic and curricular policy issues at the undergraduate level should be studied.