General Education at the University of Maine: Importance, function and revision process
Undergraduate education, with a foundation in the liberal arts and sciences that guides the intellectual and ethical development of undergraduate students, is central to the academic mission of the Land Grant and Sea Grant University of the State of Maine. The guiding principle of the formal general education program at UMaine is to broaden the education of all graduates, regardless of their academic program, and to promote critical and creative thinking and engagement with the demands and complexities of our world. To this end, the general education curriculum partners with the specific disciplinary curriculum of all undergraduate students. It broadens their undergraduate education to prepare them to be civically engaged, responsible citizens for a diverse 21st century global society.
Through general education, UMaine stresses improvement of written communication skills in students as well as quantitative and scientific literacy skills necessary for success in the modern world. They develop knowledge and insight into human values within various social contexts, past and present, and utilize and apply systems thinking to the relationship of humans to other living things and to the non-living world. Students gain awareness and appreciation into the creative process through the arts. Students gain exposure to ethics and ethical decision-making in an assortment of contexts. Through the capstone experience, students draw on the various facets of the general education curriculum in a manner that bears directly upon the academic major in an experience that typifies the work of professionals within the discipline, often involving outreach in the community.
We have an important mission at the University of Maine to improve the quality of life for people in Maine and around the world, promoting responsible stewardship of human, natural and financial resources. General education provides undergraduate students with the knowledge, skills and dispositions to make them capable of furthering this mission through integration of their experiences in learning, research and outreach.
Improvement of General Education for University of Maine Students
In accordance with our regional accreditation agency, NEASC (the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, http://www.neasc.org/), the University of Maine continues to improve its general education curriculum, as recommended in an Action Letter to President Kennedy, sent in November 2009. The letter requires that an assessment and data collection and dissemination process be developed, with interim reports due to NEASC in 2012 and 2014. The following section responds to and enlarges upon the action items in the NEASC letter.
I. Development of Student Learning Outcomes for General Education categories. At the University of Maine, as in all public institutions of higher education, it is important to demonstrate the desired outcomes for education, and to provide evidence through various types of assessment for the achievement of these outcomes. The University of Maine faculty is currently engaged in the creation of student learning outcomes for all general education categories, including the Capstone experience, and these outcomes will be posted by category as the Faculty Senate approves them.
2. Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes. As Student Learning Outcomes are approved for a particular category, the faculty member teaching the course for which general education credit is awarded will review assessment techniques appropriate to the learning outcomes in conjunction with course goals and pedagogy. General education Student Learning Outcomes and the related assessment activities will be clearly indicated on the course syllabus and communicated to students. Assistance in the assessment process is provided by the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Assessment, through workshops, panel presentations, and individual and group consultation.
3. Data collection and dissemination. A process for data collection of assessments for general education categories will be developed by the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Assessment, and clearly communicated to the faculty. Once collected, generalized assessment data will be publicly available for general education on an ongoing basis, and updated regularly. Data will be collected and maintained by the Office of Institutional Studies.
4. Closing the loop. After analysis of the Student Learning Outcomes, faculty will reflect upon, modify, and improve teaching general education, based upon the evidence gained through the assessment process. This subsequent improvement will be incremental, and result in increasing enhancement of the teaching and learning process.
In his UMaine 150 speech on May 4, 2010, President Robert Kennedy requested substantial progress toward the achievement of these goals by December 2010. The General Education Committee of the Faculty Senate has formed working groups for each category, faculty led and faculty driven. This effort is coordinated through the Faculty Senate General Education Committee, and all approvals go through the Faculty Senate discussion and approval process. As Student Learning Outcomes for each category are approved, faculty teaching the general education category will be notified of the approved Student Learning Outcomes, and will be requested to place these on the syllabus for the next semester, and to clearly indicate how achievement of the outcomes will be assessed. Faculty will also be notified as to the mechanics of data reporting.
Please watch this page for updates on general education progress. Tina Passman chairs the General Education Committee of Faculty Senate, and may be reached via email: Passman@maine.edu
The Faculty Senate General Education Committee webpage is:
The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Assessment webpage is:
The Office of Institutional Studies webpage is:
President Kennedy’s UMaine 150 speech may be retrieved at:
last revision: 12/10/10, Tina Passman for the Faculty Senate General Education Committee