New undergraduate, exit requirements to be implemented in the fall semester

Beginning in the fall 2009-10 semester, incoming freshmen and outgoing seniors will be held to new education requirements.

In an effort to improve undergraduate education, the USF General Education Improvement Committee (GEIC) began developing the Foundations of Knowledge and Learning Core Curriculum (FKL) in 2003 to include more inquiry-based learning and critical thinking in USF curriculum, said Janet Moore, associate dean of Undergraduate Studies.

“We are really concerned that each student that leaves here with their baccalaureate degree has the tools to have lifelong learning, to be a productive citizen and to continue in their field of expertise and still have a common knowledge … that will help them succeed,” she said.

Under the FKL, incoming freshmen will still be required to take 12 general education courses totaling 36 credit hours, said Glen Besterfield, associate dean of Undergraduate Studies and Student Academic Success. However, the categories by which the courses are classified has changed.

Instead of two historical perspective courses, students will be required to take two humanities courses, which combine history and philosophy, Moore said.

Replacing the African, Latin American, Middle Eastern or Asian Perspectives requirement will be a human and cultural diversity and global context course, such as cultural anthropology, archaeology or world regional geography.

The two courses required for natural science credits have been divided into two categories, one life science course such as biology and a physical science course such as chemistry.

Students will also need to take two English composition courses, one fine arts course, two mathematics and quantitative reasoning courses and two social and behavioral science courses.

Aside from the standard curriculum, professors will have to integrate four “dimensions,” or areas of emphasis, into their courses, Moore said.

Each course is required to include a critical thinking and an inquiry dimension, she said. Professors will pick the other two emphasized areas, which could include oral language skills, scientific processes or any of 10 other specified dimensions.

While there is no longer a historical perspective requirement among the six core areas of undergraduate education, students will need to take two courses with a historical dimension, such as English composition.

Moore said professors are also being encouraged to integrate group interaction into their curriculum.

“So much of the general education (course) was very large lectures, where students didn’t really have contact with the faculty. We don’t allow that anymore,” said Robert Sullins, dean of Undergraduate Studies. “Some of them are still large lectures, but they’re supplemented with graduate assistants to do study groups.”

Previously, students were required to take three exit requirement courses to graduate, Moore said. However, under the FKL, students will only be required to take two “gateway” classes – a writing intensive course and a capstone course.

“Instead of thinking that it’s an exit from your bachelor’s degree, we wanted it to be a gateway toward your future career and your life-long learning,” she said.

Sullins said efforts have been made to combine exit requirements and major coursework, so as to prevent students from having to take courses unrelated to their major.

“In a sense, what you’ll have is more freedom in your curriculum,” he said. “Because you’ll take two courses you have to take anyway and they will satisfy those two requirements. Then you get more electives.”

Students who enrolled prior to the fall 2009-10 semester but are still taking general education requirements can choose to stay with the 2008-09 undergraduate catalog or switch to the new one.

“The courses that current freshmen and sophomores might still need for their general education will still be offered,” Besterfield said. “Any of the identical courses have been approved for both general education (catalogs).”

Sullins said the effort to revise and improve USF’s general curriculum stemmed from the University’s Quality Enhancement Plan, which was developed for reaffirmation of accreditation.

Moore said all of the regional campuses – except St. Petersburg’s – will be implementing the new undergraduate and exit requirements.