Common Core | Essential Characteristics
As outlined in the General Education Report (March 2003), the Common Core courses should provide disciplinary content and an interdisciplinary component that encourages students to view the major disciplines as related, and should include some instruction in the fundamental literacies. The possible disciplinary content of the Human Behavior and Social Institutions core course includes, but is not limited to, Anthropology, Economics, Geography, Political Science, Psychology, and Sociology. The characteristics that provide a framework or common structure across versions of Human Behavior and Social Institutions offered in any one of these disciplines is outlined below.
Student Learning Outcomes
After taking a General Education Human Behavior and Social Institutions Common Core Course, students will be able to...
- Demonstrate an understanding of how individuals and institutions influence each other
- Identify institutional and/or social power imbalances, such as injustice, inequality, disparities--and how these impact individuals, and/or institutions.
- Identify various approaches to understanding Human Behavior and Social Institutions
Courses in Human Behavior and Social Institutions will serve:
- to develop insight into human nature and the nature of social institutions. Human nature refers to those characteristics that are thought to be the essential essence of the individual. Debates about what constitutes human nature and even if such exists pervade all inquiry into social life. Social institutions refer to the myriad ways that individuals organize to live as a community. These institutions include the family, schools, community groups, governments, economic institutions, et al. The structure of these social institutions, their interplay with each other, and individual’s relationship to and with these social institutions are subjects of inquiry in this course.
- to develop insight into the major events and social processes that have shaped the world of the 21st century. Human behavior and social institutions do not exist in a vacuum nor do they change on their own. To understand human behavior and social institutions, one must contextualize their development over time. Wars, economic depressions, social upheavals, natural disasters, and political conflict all influence the course of human behavior and the development of social institutions.
- focus on the individual in relation to and as a product of that world. Individual identities are not only shaped by personal psychology but by the cultures and society in which they reside. This core course will examine how individuals structure their own identities but also how social institutions and norms help to construct their identities as well.
- to introduce students to the distinctive perspectives of the social sciences…emphasize the analytic frameworks and techniques social scientists use to explain the causes and patterns of individual and institutional behavior. Social scientists use a variety of frameworks and methodologies to analyze individual behavior and social institutions. Courses in this core will utilize several of these frameworks to illustrate how we do research in the social sciences. Whether it be the use of statistical modeling, ethnographic studies, elite studies, or behavioral studies, students should be introduced to a variety of ways that social scientists gather and analyze information. They should also be challenged to reflect on the scientific limitations of the methods, techniques, and models used in the course, and to consider the values and hidden biases that may influence the outcome of an intellectual or experimental project within the social and behavioral sciences.
Students in this course explore artistic disciplines and associated forms, materials, and practices as a means to engage in an inquiry into self. Through the creative process, students develop their making, looking, and listening skills, and they explore relationships to other individuals and cultures. Students analyze and review their learning and its implications for their personal, academic, and professional pursuits.
Student Learning Outcomes
After taking a General Education Art, Aesthetics, and Creativity Common Core Course, students will be able to...
- Practice making art within artistic disciplines;
- Engage with and critique works of art;
- Demonstrate knowledge of cultural contexts of artistic disciplines (e.g. aesthetics, ethics, movements);
- Demonstrate knowledge of artistic terminology, techniques, and/or materials;
- Reflect on the creative process and its implications for personal, communal, academic, and/or professional pursuits.
Specifically, students in an Art, Aesthetics, and Creativity course must ...
- Engage the process of creativity through practice, inquiry, and reflection. Creativity is more than a stroke of genius or natural tendency. Some creative geniuses are born; many more construct themselves. Creative people learn about media and forms, about history and trends, about the development of ideas. They recognize the importance of rehearsal and practice for developing their expressive skills. They risk trying something new, and they are open to learning from mistakes. Creative people are able to explain their creative products, and their creativity is a kind of dialog with others who may view or experience their work. Students in these courses will work as artists do, inquiring into, reflecting on and practicing an artistic discipline.
- Explore artistic disciplines and associated forms. These courses will explore creative practices and criticism in one or more of the traditional artistic disciplines (writing, theatre, visual arts, dance, and music), or in the newer digital manifestations of traditional artistic practices. Students will investigate and use a diverse body of individual and/or collaborative practices and approaches to composition, performance, production, looking and listening, review, and criticism, and they will consider the value of ethical behavior and practices. The majority of the students in the course are likely to have little or no prior training in the preprofessional or professional practices of the particular discipline; therefore, the courses must introduce the creative practices and teach the skills students need for more sophisticated exploration and practice of the discipline.
- Explore relationships to other individuals, traditions, and cultures. The arts both reflect and shape the cultures that create them. They influence our identities and daily lives. The arts are present in and at times are the focal point of celebrations and ceremonies that define relationships among family, friends and the wider community. As they encounter artistic and other traditions from different cultures, artists and audience members learn more about both the arts and the cultures that generate them. In these courses students will investigate similar and divergent practices representing at least two traditions or cultures. They will use the arts as an avenue for exploring their relationships to other individuals, traditions, and cultures. They will take care, however, to avoid tourist and missionary paradigms through critical and ethical reflection about issues such as cultural appropriation.
- Experience and consider the interdisciplinary possibilities of the arts. As students become immersed in the creative process, they realize that art is not "something made out of nothing" and does not "come from out of nowhere." They begin to understand that aesthetic sensibilities reflect a synthesis of knowledge of other disciplines, lived experiences, and the character of the maker. Accordingly, students will consider ways in which tenets of the humanities and sciences such as philosophy, communication and rhetoric, anthropology, political science, and physics intersect with art, aesthetics, and creativity.
- Reflect on and discuss insights regarding their experiences. Artists often use journals or other note-taking or recording practices to collect material for their work and to reflect on the creative process and its products. Artists introduce their work to others in by a variety of genres, most obviously through live performance but also through such things as an introductory essay for an exhibit catalog, a manifesto or other statement of aesthetic principles, a gallery talk, an interview, a panel discussion, or a website. Students in these courses will use some combination of reflective genres or media to record and discuss their creative process as well as their responses to the works by others that they study during the course.
Natural World courses are primarily about the methods and logic of science and aim to help students understand the importance of science in the development of knowledge in the world. These courses will serve to provide a context within which to evaluate the important scientific and technological issues we face in modern society, what constitutes a scientific approach to problems and the nature of proof, and the concept of change in the natural world.
For these reasons, students are required as part of their General Education to complete a course in the Natural World Common Core. Such a course should enable students to:
1. Demonstrate scientific literacy through an understanding of concepts, terminology, and fundamental theories, from at least one area of the natural sciences
2. Experience an experiment or observation or data analysis
3. Use information or data from primary literature to evaluate scientific arguments
4. Recognize a scientific approach to problem solving
- Course should have a theme. Choosing a few important and related topics means that topics can be covered more extensively, allowing time for the exploration of the historical and social context of the material. This course is not for the presentation of a broad survey that covers an entire discipline, because such a survey runs the risk of leaving students with the view that the discipline is a body of facts. Students who are likely to take only one course in a discipline need a chance to explore a few ideas in enough depth to really understand them thoroughly. In addition, the "less is more" approach will give students and faculty more flexibility to address connections between fundamental ideas and current events or local community issues.
- The course may make use of a lab, measurement, observation, or field component. The "lab" component may be flexible. The course does not have to adhere to a strict schedule of lecture and lab every week.
Some ways of structuring a 3-credit course with lab include:
- two 50-minute lectures and one 2-hour lab; one 75-minute lecture and one 3-hour lab;
- lecture and discussion sections scheduled back-to-back to allow for lecture/discussion some weeks and use of the entire time for lab in other weeks.
- Include some aspects of historical development and social context for material. Although history should not be the primary focus of the course, some coverage of the historical development of concepts is necessary to understand the scientific process and view science as a field that changes in response to new information. Including the societal context of theories also helps students see how science relates to their lives, culture, other disciplines, and the ethical responsibility everyone (scientists and non-scientists) shares in the application of knowledge.
- Require students to find, evaluate, and interpret scientific information. Because the coverage of material in these courses will be narrower and because information changes so rapidly, it is important that students develop skills to find and evaluate scientific information. Each course will have assignments or activities that require students to find, evaluate, and interpret scientific information.
- An understanding of what constitutes a scientific approach to problems and the nature of proof. Students need to understand that science is an approach for constructing understanding about the natural world; science is not simply a collection of facts. Some of the broad principles of a scientific approach include that conclusions are based on evidence, that evidence is testable and repeatable, and that ideally scientific knowledge is universal, not proprietary. Part of teaching a scientific approach should include helping students sharpen their ability to distinguish between strong and weak evidence.
- Emphasize connections between topics and application of principles to new situations or current events. Requiring students to make connections between topics (either within a discipline or across disciplines) and apply concepts to new situations and current events will help them organize their knowledge (and hopefullyretain this knowledge). Many of the details of content are quickly forgotten after a course is taken. However, one of the underlying goals for Common Core courses is to recognize commonalities (for example, critical analysis of information in all disciplines) and differences across disciplines (for example, methods used to acquire information and differences in the types of questions that are asked). An emphasis on applying information and making connections between concepts helps address this underlying goal.
- The concept of change in the natural world. Change is a fundamental part of understanding the natural world and part of scientific reasoning. Two important kinds of change that students should understand are physical and biological changes in the earth and solar system, and the fact that scientific knowledge changes in response to new information.
Literary and Intellectual Traditions courses focus primarily on texts. These courses make use of primary sources, such as texts, documents, artifacts, etc., either created during the period under study or by someone who participated in the events of the time, to demonstrate how disciplines in the humanities, such as English, Philosophy, History, Women’s and Gender Studies, and World Languages, contribute to the development, growth, and understanding of the human experience. Students in these courses learn to analyze or evaluate texts, events, or ideas in their cultural, intellectual or historical contexts. Students will develop an interpretation or argument about forms of human agency, understanding, or expression grounded in humanistic analysis. They will use literary and intellectual methods to analyze diverse narratives or viewpoints in order to explore the complexity of the fundamental issues related to the human experience across space and time.
For these reasons, students are required as part of their General Education to complete a course in Literary and Intellectual Traditions. Such a course should enable students to:
1. Construct an interpretation or argument based on texts from literary, historical, or philosophical traditions;
2. Analyze or evaluate texts in their cultural, intellectual, and/or historical contexts;
3. Apply general concepts, terms, and/or methods of analysis to the particular course topic
The humanities represent great traditions of inquiry into the human condition. The themes dealt with in literature, philosophy, history, and related disciplines often overlap. This characteristic of the humanities makes them especially amenable to interdisciplinary study. The various versions of this course will typically take advantage of this overlap in content, by focusing on a theme that can be addressed, augmented, and enriched using more than one disciplinary perspective.
The Literary and Intellectual Traditions course must have the following specific characteristics:
- The course must explore one of the following themes: ideas of self, ideas of truth, ideas of beauty, ideas of community, ideas of nature, or ideas of conflict.
- The course must develop an analysis of at least one primary text in 100-level courses; and two or more primary texts in 300-level courses.
- Instruction must include reflection on the benefit of developing interdisciplinary approaches to the course theme.
- The course must address ethical issues that emerge from the theme as well as from disciplinary approaches to the course topic.
- Students in 100-level courses must engage course material in a writing-intensive, discussion-focused manner. Students in 300-level courses must demonstrate an explicitunderstanding of the disciplinary approaches of the course in the work they produce. Courses at the 300-level must include a research component.