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Washington State University
UCORE: University Common Requirements Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement

Ways of Knowing: Inquiry Courses

In completing the series of Inquiry courses, students gain broad exposure to and comfort with critical and creative thought processes across a variety of disciplinary areas. By asking and attempting to answer the “big questions” in a variety of disciplines, students learn how to generate, evaluate, disseminate and apply knowledge within those disciplinary contexts and beyond. In short, students gain exposure to multiple ways of knowing the world.

The organization of these requirements into these four broad areas (comprising 16-17 credits*): natural sciences [BSCI / PSCI] (7-8 cr.*), social sciences [SSCI] (3 cr.), humanities [HUM] (3 cr.), and arts [ARTS] (3 cr.) — ensures that students experience a wide variety of methods of scholarly inquiry (e.g., rhetorical analysis, aesthetic analysis, ethnography, historical, scientific method and qualitative methods). Each type of Inquiry course has specific requirements (click area links above).

Within the overall UCORE requirement structure, Inquiry courses carry the following responsibilities for student learning:

  • Teach the methods of inquiry and communication (critical and creative thinking) within the disciplinary context.
  • Teach basic information literacy skills applicable to the discipline. As part of information literacy instruction, the course must not only require students to use library resources, but also provide instruction on the use of library resources and services. Instruction can be done by library personnel, or be provided in detailed notes that accompany assignment prompts. In whatever instruction method the course uses, the instructor should work with the library to develop or offer the instruction. This use and instruction must be documented because university accreditation requires evidence that students receive instruction in these skills.
  • Require students to practice written communication.

Thus, all Inquiry courses address WSU undergraduate learning goals of Communication, Critical and Creative Thinking, and Information Literacy.

The UCORE committee suggests** that courses that fulfill the Inquiry requirements:

  • Incorporate active learning experiences (strongly recommended).
  • Have students practice communication in oral and/or multi-modal forms, in addition to the written communication requirement for all UCORE courses.
  • Develop inquiry skills using the discipline’s “Big Questions,” “Grand Challenges,” or similar large, open-ended frameworks of real-world significance.
  • Have students reflect on or analyze competing perspectives, contextual frames, or ethical implications in the generation, evaluation, dissemination, or application of knowledge within the given Inquiry domain.

*Students in the College of Arts and Sciences complete 8 Natural Science credits for a total of 17 Inquiry credits. All other students are required to complete 7 Natural Science credits for a total of 16 Inquiry credits.

**These suggestions provide a sense of the possible breadth of approaches in Inquiry courses, but will not be criteria used for the approval process.