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

Required Elements for all UCORE Courses

Written Communication

Writing is an effective tool for learning and therefore should be diffused throughout the UCORE curriculum to reinforce and extend abilities fostered in composition courses. All UCORE courses require student writing of various kinds, both formal and informal, in order to provide adequate instruction in writing skills and to provide a wide range of student experiences in writing for multiple purposes and audiences. Writing in UCORE courses also prepares students for the University Writing Portfolio, a requirement for graduation, which consists of a portfolio of papers from previous course work as well as a timed writing exercise. Faculty should consider the writing portfolio when developing writing assignments in UCORE courses.

The UCORE committee is reluctant to stipulate a one-size-fits-all writing requirement, given the variety of disciplines and instructional models. At the same time, faculty and departments may wish for clear guidance on writing expectations as they prepare materials for submission. In evaluating whether courses meet UCORE writing expectations, the committee will examine:

  • the amount of formal and informal writing (minimum page or word-equivalents);
  • the extent to which written work is graded and figures in the final grade;
  • the extent to which writing—graded or ungraded—receives feedback to guide improved performance on the next effort; and
  • the extent to which rigor and expectations seem distinct and appropriate to lower division courses and to upper division courses.

The committee will exercise its collective professional judgment, bearing in mind the discipline, course level, course structure (e.g., multi-section) and intended course outcomes, to evaluate an appropriate balance among these elements. To aid the committee, be sure to include in the syllabus sufficient detail about writing assignments, including all writing assignment prompts.

Critical and Creative Thinking

Every UCORE course advances student learning toward the Critical Thinking Goal. That is, every UCORE course develops students’ capabilities to use reason, evidence, and context to increase knowledge, to reason ethically, and to innovate in imaginative ways, as fits the course focus, context, content and discipline(s).

Information Literacy

Every UCORE course advances student learning toward the Information Literacy Goal. That is, a UCORE course develops students’ capabilities to recognize when information is needed, and to locate, evaluate and use effectively the needed information. Thus, in every UCORE course, students must practice Information Literacy and get feedback on their efforts.

WSU library faculty can partner with departmental faculty to assist students in practicing and achieving the goal of information literacy; instructional librarians can also assist with design of assignments and activities.

Similar to the case with writing, the UCORE committee is reluctant to stipulate a one-size-fits all information literacy requirement, given the variety of disciplines and instructional models. In evaluating whether courses advance the WSU information literacy goal, the committee will consider where students practice information literacy and the extent to which rigor and expectations seem distinct and appropriate to lower division courses and upper division courses, so that students engage in more demanding information literacy tasks in upper division courses.

University accreditation requires that students receive instruction in library-use and information literacy skills. UCORE’s design ensures that students receive instruction in these skills, especially in ROOTS and Inquiry courses.

Assessment and Evidence of Student Progress toward Meeting WSU’s Seven Learning Goals

For each learning goal the course seeks to advance, the syllabus must indicate how student performance will be evaluated in the course via instruments such as writing, group activities, exams, and essays and reports, among others. Furthermore, it must be clear in the syllabus which class topics, activities, and graded work advance and/or evaluate progress toward meeting which learning goals. Students must be provided with repeated opportunities with feedback to develop targeted skills. As part of the course, faculty assess student learning on these outcomes. What evidence does student work provide that students have acquired the knowledge or skills that the course teaches?

Evidence collected to support evaluation of student learning may later contribute to assessment of UCORE’s effectiveness. For instance, to aid UCORE assessment, instructors may be asked for “artifacts” of some their students’ work, or for summary data of students’ mastery of learning. The primary purpose of instructor evaluation of student learning is to help students gauge their progress toward meeting specific WSU learning goals as well as specific course-level learning outcomes.

Formative assessment of student achievement, or those in-process evaluations of student learning during a course, can inform decision-making to ensure effective teaching and learning and contribute to often small, but meaningful continual course improvements. Such formative assessments are an important part of the overall UCORE assessment process.