General Education set to undergo changes

It’s been two years since the General Education program first reviewed its curriculum, and the program plans to spend next year implementing reforms.

Temple plans to reform its General Education program after establishing a 27-person task force in June 2023 to review the program. | NOEL CHACKO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple has its eyes set on officially reforming its General Education program by next academic year. The anticipated changes come after the university established a 27-person task force to engage in a review of the program, including faculty from every college, students, advisors, deans and staff members.

The program is currently exploring how to strengthen the relationship between General Education courses and majors, allow General Education to become a pathway into a major, improve the role of General Education in the transfer experience and enhance its overall cohesiveness, wrote Dustin Kidd, director of General Education, in a message to The Temple News.

“We see General Education as a passport to explore ideas through a wide array of electives, but that is often not how it is experienced by the students,” Kidd wrote. “Do we have the right subject areas and the ideal program design?”

The General Education program conducted a self-study in Fall 2022 as part of the university’s strategic plan. They examined data regarding General Education at Temple during the past several years through various surveys, centering student feedback in its evaluation. 

The self-study was handed to external reviewers who are General Education experts from the University of Alabama-Birmingham and Virginia, Kidd wrote. The reviewers visited Temple in February 2023 and submitted their report on the program in March 2023.

“They met with a large number of students, faculty, staff, and administrators while they were here and produced a report with a set of recommendations,” Kidd wrote. “But their strongest recommendation was to gather more information before implementing any change.”

The review, which initially began in June 2023, will wrap up this year. The program will spend the next year developing proposals for a program revision.

“Even then, we will go through a process of sharing those proposals and getting more feedback,” Kidd wrote. “Finally, the reforms will need to go through levels of approval and implementation before being applied to a new cohort of students. Worthwhile change takes time!”

The program is gathering information to review in a variety of ways, including conducting student focus groups in a classroom takeover style, distributing student feedback forms and meeting with university professionals, staff and administrators.  

Kidd expects to hold more classroom takeovers and further foster direct engagement with the Temple community this semester. He will also be in the Howard Gittis Student Center on March 18 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., giving out free pretzels and inviting students to talk about General Education or complete a survey.

“We are also hosting additional focus groups with adjunct faculty and with advisors,” Kidd wrote. “I have personally given presentations and held Q&As with the faculty of almost all colleges [with two left] and I have presented twice to the faculty senate. I have also met with every dean and many administrators.” 

In addition to an internal analysis, the program is also looking externally at how other universities provide General Education by traveling to national conferences and participating in online workshops.

Daniel Berman, vice provost for undergraduate studies, hopes General Education can eventually become something incoming students look forward to taking at the university.

“Our ideal is that General Education can become something that draws students to Temple,” Berman wrote in an email to The Temple News. “It will be a strength of our curriculum and a reason to come here. It will engage, energize, and facilitate a lifetime of exploration, learning, and also success beyond Temple.”

Provost Gregory Mandel announced updates surrounding the university’s strategic plan, an effort launched during the Fall 2022 semester, in a Feb. 8 message to the Temple community. 

The announcement included General Education Reform in a list of highlights of initiatives that are well underway and concluded with an instruction for the Temple community to report feedback to a specialized email.

Shohreh Amini, faculty senate president, spoke on General Education Reform at the most recent Board of Trustees meeting on Jan. 30. 

“[Kidd] was talking to us about using some 1000-level courses for Gen Ed courses,” Amini said at the Board meeting. “One of the things that came up was the speed of which we’re having a reform for Gen Ed. They expect a few years, up to four, but then I think, for existing students, that would not serve a purpose because they’re going to be graduating.”

Berman believes the current timeline and speed in which General Education Reform is taking place is necessary.

“We have mapped out a multi-year plan for evaluation, proposals for change, and ultimately implementation,” Berman wrote. “Once we settle on a new structure, we will need to spend time implementing it properly before we can roll out a new General Education program to an incoming class. We are looking at the program as a whole.”

Cianie Lee, a junior psychology major, believes an improvement in the curriculum of all General Education courses is necessary for the university to make General Education perceived as less of a requirement and more enriching.

“I’m glad to hear of the news of Gen Ed reform because nobody knows why we, for example, read about Plato in Intellectual Heritage,” Lee said. “At least me and my class were lost because it feels like something to get through. All of the courses need to be less hard or just looked at because [Gen Ed courses are] required to graduate and God forbid a student can’t understand Plato by just being handed the books or by a math teacher just lecturing math.”

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.