What is General Education

What is General Education?General Education is often viewed by students as “those courses that I have to take before I can take the classes for my major.”  It’s too bad that the definition, in a student’s mind, doesn’t encompass the inherent value of those courses.  It’s also too bad that the student often doesn’t see the connections between “core” courses and “major” courses.  To some extent, General Education does mean those core courses, but being generally educated neither starts nor ends with core courses.

According to Sinclair’s regional accrediting agency, the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA), General Education consists of  “understanding and appreciating diverse cultures, mastering multiple modes of inquiry, effectively analyzing and communicating information, and recognizing the importance of creativity and values to the human spirit.” NCA’s statement on General Education also adds that these general education elements “allow people to live richer lives,” and also are a
“foundation for most careers and for the informed exercise of local, national, and
international citizenship.”  The Commission expects institutions of higher learning to address these important ends.  Finally, in helping to define general education, NCA states, “General education is intended to impart common knowledge and intellectual concepts to students and to develop in them the skills and attitudes that an organization’s faculty believes every educated person should possess.”  Through Sinclair’s courses and programs of study, a student acquires breadth of knowledge and gains competence to achieve independent intellectual inquiry.  Our courses must also stimulate understanding of personal, social, and civic values. 

What are the General Education Competency Areas?Sinclair has adopted the following General Education competency areas:
Computer Literacy:  the ability to apply concepts and terminology in the basic operation of computers.
Critical Thinking/Problem Solving:  the application of higher order analytical and creative cognitive processes.
Information Literacy:  the ability to effectively locate, evaluate, and use information.
Oral Communication:  the creation of common understanding through the use of verbal and nonverbal messages in a variety of contexts.
Values/Citizenship/Community:  an awareness of personal obligations and responsibilities in one’s community of influence.
Written Communication:  the creation of understanding through composition and synthesis of the written word.

How Does General Education Align to Curriculum and Assessment?At Sinclair, we have identified Levels of General Education Core Competencies:

  • Basic skills: introductory, foundational skills.   Core Courses in Every Program
  • Skills transfer: evidence of basic skills being transferred into specific majors
  • Skills synthesis and integration: integrated application and synthesis of skills and  knowledge in simulated workplace or transfer environments

Learning and application of general education competencies must occur throughout a student’s entire program of study, and must be assessed periodically.  Simply acquiring skills and knowledge without regularly using them creates entropy—those skills die off.  It is hard to imagine allowing a surgeon to perform a surgery if she or he has never actually performed the procedure.  Feelings of security could be heightened, however, if there was knowledge that the surgeon had recently performed the procedure, had performed it regularly, and always had a good result.  Likewise, in our curriculum, general education knowledge needs to be reinforced, skills need to be regularly used, and both knowledge and skills need to be regularly evaluated, assessed, and improved.

What are Measurable Outcomes in General Education? The General Education competencies have been translated to measurable outcomes.  These can be found online in the Sinclair Community College course catalog (pp.85-86).  

Rubrics have been developed to assist in the measurement (for both assessment and evaluation purposes) of these general education outcomes.