Key steps in the evolution of general education at WSU
2018: UCORE Handbook Updated
The third edition of the UCORE Handbook, a guide to Washington State University’s general education curriculum known as the University Common Requirements, was revised in 2018 to reflect all that was learned about the complexities of a general education curriculum since program was introduced in Fall 2012.
New in the third edition:
- Consolidated overview of the curriculum
- New consolidated section on policies: this is drawn together from the current WSU Catalog, the previous Handbook, and UCORE Committee work, 2013-18
- New section on departmental and faculty responsibilities: this makes explicit the responsibilities involved in offering a UCORE course
- Expanded section on designing a UCORE course
- Learning outcomes grids for each UCORE category
- Updated guidance on submitting curricular changes for UCORE
View the Preface to the Third Edition
Dear WSU students, faculty and staff:
We are very pleased to publish this third edition of the UCORE Handbook, a guide to Washington State University’s general education curriculum known as the University Common Requirements or UCORE. Since the new program was introduced in Fall 2012, we have all learned a lot about the complexities of a general education curriculum: it is not only an expression of the university’s core values for undergraduate education, but is also tied to both community colleges in Washington and to requirements of accrediting bodies. While the courses are uniquely ours, their transferability (in both directions) matters greatly to our stakeholders.
We’ve learned how information systems and budgetary structures affect our curricular choices in a complex, statewide system. We’ve discovered some gaps in explanatory materials about general education, and some policy holes as well. We’ve learned that UCORE learning outcomes are not wholly identical with the Seven Learning Goals of Undergraduate Education; for example, majors have a stronger role to play in student achievement of depth of learning, while UCORE has a special role to play in breadth and integration of learning. We’ve also learned through assessment that some of the goals need rephrasing, or even revising. With those things in mind, the UCORE Committee has updated this Handbook to provide clearer guidance to faculty, advisors, and students about WSU’s UCORE program.
We are tremendously proud of the accomplishments of the last five years, which have seen the new, first-year course “Root of Contemporary Issues” course become an award-winning national model. Many of the Foundational and Inquiry courses have undergone restructuring to support student engagement and success, and those revisions have increased course completion rates. Similarly, capstone courses have become exciting sites for innovative assignment design for long-term retention of knowledge and skills, and for applicability to the world’s big, messy challenges.
There are now comprehensive websites for both UCORE and UCORE assessment. A new Transfer Clearinghouse initiative has aligned courses offered statewide with WSU’s new curriculum and provides transfer credit information about general education courses to prospective and current students. Faculty have assessed student learning in a variety of courses and contexts, and the latest comprehensive report gives a snapshot of student learning we can be proud of.
The Richard G. Law Excellence Award for Undergraduate Teaching recognizes outstanding teaching in UCORE courses. Five cohorts of faculty have now won this award: Theresa Jordan (History), Richard Zack (Entomology), Clif Stratton (History), Jeanette Clayton Martin (Mathematics), Ken Faunce (History) and Robert J. Cooper (Human Development). Their educational leadership has inspired thousands of students and we are pleased to recognize their pedagogical accomplishments in general education.
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education
Chair, UCORE Committee
2012: UCORE Launched
General education at WSU today: the UCORE program. Based on the AAC&U’s LEAP framework, WSU’s general education program as realized in UCORE helps students acquire broad knowledge of the wider world that complements their specific areas of study. Through this broad exposure to multiple disciplines, students develop intellectual and civic competencies, practical skills and the ability to apply knowledge and skills in real-world settings. WSU graduates are prepared to address diverse, complex issues, for the benefit of themselves, their communities, their employers, and for society at large.
2011: Faculty Senate approval
UCORE program approved for implementation. The UCORE program was formally approved by the Faculty Senate on April 14, 2011 as the implementation of the recommendations provided by the General Education Visioning Committee (GEVC). It assists students in meeting the GEVC’s vision of general education while also adhering to the set of design principles recommended by the GEVC, including that the redesigned general education curriculum be:
- Based on learning goals.
- Simple, yet flexible enough to work for all students (including transfer students), all majors, and on all campuses.
- Integrated with the major and vertically throughout the undergraduate experience.
- Provide for a coherent first year experience and culminate in a meaningful integrative and applied “capstone” experience.
- Amenable to assessment.
2008-2011: General Education (Re-)Visioning
Development of the UCORE program begins. Changes brought about by WSU’s institutional growth and developments in the evolving world of best practices in higher education led to a growing recognition by the WSU administration that it was time to redesign the general education program. In the fall semester of 2008, the WSU Provost charged a faculty General Education Visioning Committe (GEVC) with providing recommendations redesigning WSU’s general education program. The work of this committee culminated in a 2009 Re-Envisioning General Education report that ultimately led to the development of the UCORE program: “GEVC advocates a vision of general education that supports the goals of WSU’s 2008‐13 strategic plan to ‘provide a premier education and transformative experience that prepares students to excel in a global society’ by providing ‘high‐impact learning experiences that engage students’ and by fostering ‘core competencies in our learners.’ It is in line with a national consensus on General Education as embodied in the American Association of Colleges & Universities’ documents on liberal learning included in this report.
The GEVC vision for General Education at WSU can be summarized as follows:
WSU fosters educational outcomes that include knowledge of human cultures, of the arts, and of the natural and physical world. Students develop their intellectual and practical skills through integrated learning experiences that prepare them to be responsible local and global citizens and leaders. They reach this through a broad liberal education, specialization in a major, and community and field‐based experiences that explore the world’s major questions.
“The outcomes of a baccalaureate degree should be reached through coordinated and integrated pathways. Courses and experiences in the major and outside the major, elective and required, contribute to students’ achievement of outcomes. The ‘re‐envisioning’ will only be complete when outcomes become embodied in curricula, and pathways emerge through general education and major requirements.
“Three fundamental issues must be addressed if changes to general education requirements or courses are to have meaning and impact. These are:
- Budget reform as the sine qua non of general education reform.
- Awareness, buy‐in and ‘marketing’ of General Education to faculty and students. The committee recommendations for revision of program elements can be discussed as part of raising general awareness around the issue. They include:
- Make the General Education program simpler and more flexible
- Create coherent pathways through all four years and engage with the major
- Consider crediting co‐curricular learning
- Re‐examine first‐year and capstone experiences
- A shift to an outcomes‐driven paradigm.
“The committee’s research into the experience of other universities that have successfully overhauled their general education programs shows that it is a multi‐year process. To assure faculty buy‐in and resolve potential conflicting needs, the committee recommends that during the 2009‐2010 academic year, some form of the current committee (with possible additions/changes) focus on two areas in particular:
- Outreach to various constituencies to engage in dialogue regarding the report and its different elements. There needs to be frank and open conversations with Senate leadership; deans, associate deans, chairs and program directors, faculty; regional campuses; advisors; and students through ASWSU and other forums.
- Outcomes are central to the restructuring of the General Education program. Faculty must be engaged from the beginning in the process of re‐examining the learning goals and writing assessable outcomes for them. We need to engage faculty, the Teaching Academy, and experts from all campuses, AAC&U, and professional departments. This discussion will inevitably include consideration of potential changes to the program.
“The committee foresees a third year to continue dialogue with all of the constituent groups to finalize a new program, and a fourth year to begin implementation. Should consensus emerge more rapidly, this timeline could be accelerated. The committee stresses that a four‐year timeline is normal for an inclusive, faculty‐driven process.”
2006: New General Education Program and WSU’s Six Goals of the Baccalaureate. After intensive study of general education models in the 1980s, WSU arrived at a compromise model of general education that embodied strengths of different models current at the time.
- From the notion of a core curriculum, a type in which all students follow a common set of general education courses intended to provide a common intellectual experience (as one instance, the “Great Books” model at such places as Chicago or St. John’s), WSU developed the core World Civilizations courses that all students took upon entry.
- From the distribution model, intended to guarantee breadth of study outside the major, WSU developed the distributional areas.
- From the integrative model, which focuses on integration of subject areas and skills, WSU developed “Areas of Coherence” and the general education capstone (Tier III).
- Using a developmental model, the general education requirements included a transitional course as the academic backbone of the first year (World Civilizations, “A” requirement); they built writing into multiple levels of the curriculum; and the curriculum was originally structured in tiers intended to be of progressive intellectual sophistication.