Beginning in the fall, all freshmen will be required to take Temple’s new general education courses in replacement of traditional core classes. Ongoing students will also have the opportunity to take gen-ed courses to fulfill the core requirements.
Terry Halbert, professor in the Fox School of Business and director of the new gen-ed program, led Temple into the transition after being asked to do so by Vice Provost Peter Jones in November 2005.
“The undergraduate time is a time to really be experimental and to explore who you are and what you’re interested in and what you really care about,” Halbert said. “That is what we hope in gen-ed you will be able to do. You are just getting a deeper understanding of what, in the end, you’ll want to do with your life.”
With the help of students, faculty and advisers on the General Education Executive Committee, Temple has designed a program which requires 11 courses in nine different areas: analytical reading and writing, mosaic humanities, quantitative literacy, arts, human behavior, race and diversity, science and technology, U.S. society and world society.
Different from the core, three themes are designed to cross the whole gen-ed program. These themes are globalization, sustainability and community based learning, Halbert said.
Community-based learning is still in the process of being integrated. Out of the 101 gen-ed courses being offered in the fall, 40 percent will have some form of a Philadelphia experience intertwined.
Halbert described this type of learning as the whole gen-ed premise.
Sophomore public health major Andrea Bernheim said she is interested in courses with community-based learning.
“It’s definitely better than the regular core courses where you just sit inside a classroom and listen to a teacher lecture for two hours,” Bernheim said.
“The reflection of experience back onto what you’re learning is a really valuable way of learning,” Halbert said. “That’s what we know, that people don’t learn by just having things said to them or by being passive. They really have to be experiencing in some way, or active in some way with learning.”
Freshman kinesiology major Elizabeth Diamond said she is excited about the new courses that take students out of the classroom.
“I think that we should take advantage of the fact that we’re in the city, because it’s a great city. I’m all for that idea,” Diamond said.
Courses like Sustainable Environments, which takes students to water works and green rooms, Education in the Global City, which takes students into schools and community centers to learn about the experiences of immigrants, and Philadelphia Arts and Culture, which takes students on a different art excursion every week, are trying to take advantage of all of what Philadelphia has to offer students.
Freshman business major Audrey Barroso said she is going to avoid taking the gen-ed courses.
Barroso said she enjoys a more structured, traditional classroom. After taking a pilot gen-ed course, she found that the structure did not feel the same as the core classes.
“They don’t look very focused,” Barroso said. “They have unusual topics against the traditional [classes].”
About 60 gen-ed courses have already been piloted. The courses were designed by faculty members who wrote proposals for their course which included the gen-ed requirements.
Halbert said they are currently designing new ways to assess the courses to make sure they provide adequate quality control of the classes. “There’s a lot of disparity sometimes between the grade and really if the student learned anything,” Halbert said. “It’s going to take years [to assess], but when we are making mistakes, we are going to correct them.”
Dr. Julie Phillips, an administrator who works with gen-ed development, said the new Mosaic courses will also be taught thematically instead of the traditional chronological approach seen in the intellectual heritage courses.
Ongoing students can take Mosaic I or II to fulfill their second IH requirement, Phillips said.
The gen-ed program as a whole requires one fewer international course and one fewer math course than the core.
“Even though there’s one fewer course that deals with global issues globalization is a theme that we have across the entire gen-ed program,” Halbert said.
Halbert says there are two things that have changed since the core was designed: technology and the understanding of how people learn.
“There’s this tidal wave of information coming at you and none of us can really have it all, we can’t hold it all in one head,” Halbert said. “So instead of trying to focus on content, what people know, the actual facts, we are focusing on how people learn and how they use information, how they discriminate between pieces of information.”
Sarah Fry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org