FAQ

What are the requirements of our current general education program?

The current general education program at MTSU consists of 41 lower division hours organized around disciplinary categories. General education classes are meant to provide students with breadth and depth of knowledge and prepare them for their majors and life after college. The current general education program design was mandated by policy of the Tennessee Board of Regents in 2004 before MTSU became independent. 

Our current general education mission statement

"At the core of Middle Tennessee State University's educational mission is the General Education curriculum. This curriculum is designed to provide students with a diverse and interdisciplinary knowledge base that complements and supports their college major. With an emphasis on critical thinking, problem solving, and effective communication, General Education provides a foundation for academic and professional success as well as informed civic engagement. The General Education experience equips students with the tools necessary to become lifelong learners capable of adapting their knowledge and skills to a dynamic and diverse world.”

To learn more about the current general education program, click here

What does the Tennessee state law say about general education?

MTSU general education requirements are constrained by Tennessee state law (to protect the universal transfer path).

Our general education is required to consist of 41 lower division hours as per Tennessee Code Title 49. Education § 49-7-202: "(2)(A) A transfer pathway shall consist of sixty (60) hours of instruction that a student can transfer and apply toward the requirements for a bachelor's degree at a public institution that offers the transfer pathway.  The sixty (60) hours of instruction in a transfer pathway shall consist of forty-one (41) hours of general education courses instruction and nineteen (19) hours of pre-major courses instruction, or elective courses instruction that count toward a major, as prescribed by the commission, which shall consider the views of chief academic officers and faculty senates of the respective campuses.  Courses in a transfer pathway shall transfer and apply toward the requirements for graduation with a bachelor's degree at all public universities.” "The forty-one-hour lower division general education core common to all state colleges and universities shall be fully transferable as a block to, and satisfy the general education core of, any public community college or university." https://codes.findlaw.com/tn/title-49-education/tn-code-sect-49-7-202.html

What are the SACSCOC requirements for general education accreditation?

As per SACSCOC Principles of Accreditation, 2018, for successful accreditation the institution must meet the following standards:  Section 9:3; "The institution requires the successful completion of a general education component at the undergraduate level that: (a) is based on a coherent rationale. 2 (b) is a substantial component of each undergraduate degree program. For degree completion in associate programs, the component constitutes a minimum of 15 semester hours or the equivalent; for baccalaureate programs, a minimum of 30 semester hours or the equivalent. (c) ensures breadth of knowledge. These credit hours include at least one course from each of the following areas: humanities/ fine arts, social/behavioral sciences, and natural science/ mathematics. These courses do not narrowly focus on those skills, techniques, and procedures specific to a particular occupation or profession.”

See also SACSCOC Principles of Accreditation, 2018; Section 8:1 & 2b; “1. The institution identifies, evaluates, and publishes goals and outcomes for student achievement appropriate to the institution’s mission, the nature of the students it serves, and the kinds of programs offered. The institution uses multiple measures to document student success. (Student achievement) [CR] 2. The institution identifies expected outcomes, assesses the extent to which it achieves these outcomes, and provides evidence of seeking improvement based on analysis of the results in the areas below: (b) Student learning outcomes for collegiate-level general education competencies of its undergraduate degree programs. (Student outcomes: general education)” http://www.sacscoc.org/pdf/2018PrinciplesOfAcreditation.pdf

What is general education redesign?

General education redesign is a national movement led primarily by the American Association of Colleges, and Universities (AAC&U) and by the Association for General and Liberal Studies (AGLS). AAC&U was founded in 1915 and its primary mission is to advance liberal education in both public and private colleges and universities. They offer extensive resources aimed at strengthening and redesigning general education. The Association for General & Liberal Studies was founded in 1960 and is a faculty-run organization aimed at promoting general and liberal studies. They likewise offer resources for redesign.

Both AAC&U and AGLS promote general education.

Why are we redesigning general education? What’s wrong with the gen ed we already have?

The decision to launch a general education redesign emerged in part as a response to the change in MTSU’s status from a member of the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) to a locally governed institution (LGI).  The 2004 redesign of general education was imposed on all TBR institutions and allowed little flexibility in creating a curriculum that was distinctive to MTSU. Additionally, the general education curriculum has only nominally changed since the 1950s despite major changes in the student population, the needs of current faculty and students, and the realities of our world. Finally, it is our duty as a public-serving institution to periodically review our general education program to ensure it is achieving its intended goals and outcomes and to determine whether those goals and outcomes continue to be worthy of pursuit.

The impetus for the current redesign initially came from the Provost’s Office based on the premise that MTSU’s change in status gave us the freedom and the opportunity to imagine a redesigned curriculum that is faculty-designed, responsive to student needs, and potentially more congruent with MTSU’s identity.

Over the last year, we have conducted faculty learning communities, surveys, and focus groups on the current general education program, whether that program aligns with the campus’ values and mission, and what faculty, staff, and students would want out of a redesigned program. In addition to institutional research, we’ve also consulted with peer and aspirational institutions about their general education curriculum, their redesigns, and their integration of nationally-recognized best practices, such as high-impact practices.

What we’ve discovered is that some faculty, students, staff, and administrators want to explore changes to the current program to allow for more flexibility, interdisciplinary collaboration, and clear connections among the courses in the curriculum. Faculty want more opportunities to participate in general education and students want classes that connect coherently and relate to their interests and majors.

That said, changes are not guaranteed and could occur on a spectrum from minor reorganization to introducing new curriculum structures and components. This process will continue to be faculty-driven and informed by student needs and feedback. There will be ample opportunity for feedback through town halls, departmental presentations, anonymous website submission, and the faculty and student advisory councils.

Actually, I think gen ed is pointless. Can’t we just eliminate it? 

Actually, no. As noted above, our general education requirements are constrained by Tennessee state law (intended to protect the universal transfer path) and by the SACSCOC Principles of the Accreditation;

Our general education is required to consist of 41 lower division hours as per Tennessee Code Title 49. Education § 49-7-202: "(2)(A) A transfer pathway shall consist of sixty (60) hours of instruction that a student can transfer and apply toward the requirements for a bachelor's degree at a public institution that offers the transfer pathway.  The sixty (60) hours of instruction in a transfer pathway shall consist of forty-one (41) hours of general education courses instruction and nineteen (19) hours of pre-major courses instruction, or elective courses instruction that count toward a major, as prescribed by the commission, which shall consider the views of chief academic officers and faculty senates of the respective campuses.  Courses in a transfer pathway shall transfer and apply toward the requirements for graduation with a bachelor's degree at all public universities.” "The forty-one-hour lower division general education core common to all state colleges and universities shall be fully transferable as a block to, and satisfy the general education core of, any public community college or university." https://codes.findlaw.com/tn/title-49-education/tn-code-sect-49-7-202.html

As per SACSCOC Principles of Accreditation, 2018, for successful accreditation the institution must meet the following standards: Section 9:3; "The institution requires the successful completion of a general education component at the undergraduate level that: (a) is based on a coherent rationale.  (b) is a substantial component of each undergraduate degree program. For degree completion in associate programs, the component constitutes a minimum of 15 semester hours or the equivalent; for baccalaureate programs, a minimum of 30 semester hours or the equivalent. (c) ensures breadth of knowledge. These credit hours include at least one course from each of the following areas: humanities/ fine arts, social/behavioral sciences, and natural science/ mathematics. These courses do not narrowly focus on those skills, techniques, and procedures specific to a particular occupation or profession.”

See also SACSCOC Principles of Accreditation, 2018, Section 8:1 & 2b; “1. The institution identifies, evaluates, and publishes goals and outcomes for student achievement appropriate to the institution’s mission, the nature of the students it serves, and the kinds of programs offered. The institution uses multiple measures to document student success. (Student achievement) [CR] 2. The institution identifies expected outcomes, assesses the extent to which it achieves these outcomes, and provides evidence of seeking improvement based on analysis of the results in the areas below:   (b) Student learning outcomes for collegiate-level general education competencies of its undergraduate degree programs. (Student outcomes: general education)”  http://www.sacscoc.org/pdf/2018PrinciplesOfAcreditation.pdf

Well, if we are so constrained by state law why bother to redesign?

There’s quite a bit we can do with those 41 lower division hours and still be legal. The current general education program is based on a menu-driven, disciplinary model. Students (and sometimes faculty) don’t always see how those pieces connect. One possible solution is a redesigned program that is more integrated and provides pathways through general education to the major and beyond. The possibilities are quite extensive.

What are the Design Team, Faculty Advisory Council and the Student Advisory Council, and how were they put together?

In an effort to guarantee transparency and consistent opportunities for feedback, the General Education Director, Dr. Susan Myers-Shirk, and the Redesign Communications Director, Dr. Katherine Brackett, created a design team, and faculty and student advisory councils.

The design team is made up of Dr. Myers-Shirk and faculty members from various colleges across campus who have been directly involved in the information-gathering phase of general education redesign at MTSU (Read more here). The design team has no decision-making power, and its job is not to decide if general education changes or not. Instead, the design team's goal is to help facilitate a process by which one or more models for general education design are developed and refined over time so that they can be offered up for consideration by the university community. Design team members 1. gather information about and synthesize perspectives of different stakeholders, 2. learn about the landscape of general education and general education redesign in the state of Tennessee and across the nation, 3. learn about the best practices (and pitfalls) in general education from a combination of recognized experts, research, and peer institutions, 4. continually solicit feedback and answer questions from faculty, staff, and students about various aspects of general education redesign, and 5. reporting to and interacting with the University General Education Committee, which has the final authority to make recommendations to the Provost for curriculum changes.

The faculty and student advisory councils will serve as ad-hoc committees to the general education committee and their explicit purpose is to provide council to Myers-Shirk, the design team, and the general education committee throughout the redesign process. Neither council has formal voting powers, as curricular changes are only approved or rejected by the university’s general education committee. However, they will provide essential assistance in shaping and refining the new curriculum.

Faculty Advisory Council (FAC) members come from across the university and represent every college and academic unit, including the library and student affairs. Most of the Faculty Advisory Council members participated in Faculty Learning Communities on General Education Redesign in AY 2018-2019. The Faculty Learning Community (FLC) was administered through the LT&ITC and facilitated by Dr. Susan Myers-Shirk, the MTSU Director of General Education. It was advertised along with the other FLCs this year (2018-2019) and was open to all university faculty. In Spring 2019, members of the FLC conducted focus groups across campus. Additional members are faculty and administrators who previously expressed interest in participating in the redesign. To see a list of FAC participants, click here

Student Advisory Council (SAC) members also represent their peers in most university colleges. In Spring 2019, an application to participate was posted on Pipeline and emailed directly to students. Drs. Myers-Shirk and Brackett reviewed the applications to select a council of students who represented as many colleges and backgrounds as possible. Current SGA president, Delanie McDonald, appointed two of the SAC members as student representatives on the university general education committee. For more on the SAC and to see a list of participants, click here

How can I be involved in general education redesign and make sure my voice is heard?

Provide feedback either by emailing us directly at GenEd@mtsu.edu, calling us directdly at 615-898-5624, or anonymously here.

Additionally, we invite you to attend one (or more) of our town hall meetings in Fall 2019. The dates, times, and a description of their purpose can be found here

If you'd like to request a presentation for your department, division, college, or organization, please fill out the request form here

I heard it’s going to take forever. What’s the timeline? 

In Summer 2019, redesign facilitators wrote a strategic plan for the process. While the proposed schedule may need to be adjusted, you can see a tentative timeline here.

Where did the proposed qualities and components come from, and have any decisions been made about them? 

Qualities and Components

The design team used best practices established by national organizations and research, MTSU data from the student survey and faculty, staff, and administrator focus groups, the strategic plan and the strategic planning workshop data, as well as conversations with peer and neighboring institutions to arrive at the proposed qualities and components. No final decisions have been made about any of the proposed changes to the curriculum, and the qualities and components are no exception. We welcome any and all feedback on them through any of the available feedback channels: email (GenEd@mtsu.edu), phone (615-898-5624), anonymous (click here), town hall (for information click here), or in department or college presentations (request one here).

How are the values identified by the focus groups guiding this process?

 campus values inform the qualities
The 13 faculty, staff, and administrator focus groups held in Spring 2019 illuminated a set of common values that the campus holds for our students. The values include: critical thinking; communication; literacy (in various forms); cultural and global awareness; research, writing, and argumentation; technology; values and ethics; and knowledge.
 
When the design team attended the AAC&U Institute on General Education and Assessment in Summer 2019, they used those values to brainstorm potential qualities that every MTSU student should have upon completion of their general education. These values are reflected in the qualities. There is also overlap between the qualities and the values they represent. In other words, values can and should be represented by more than one quality.
 
These eight values will continue to guide the redesign process.
Critical Thinking: This appeared in the Top Five lists for nearly every focus group, though the context varied. Some groups linked critical thinking with logic, reading, writing and argumentation, in creative expression, and in scientific thought.
Communication: This appeared in the Top Five list of every single focus group in various capacities. Groups stressed oral, written, interpersonal, civic, one-on-one, and professional communication as being essential for college learning. Groups often discussed writing and/or speaking skills and experiences in association with communication.
Literacy: More so than other Top Five items, literacy was used by participants in a wide-ranging way to describe inter- and cross-disciplinary skills and learning
experiences. For instance, groups referenced source literacy, information literacy, technological literacy, media literacy, quantitative literacy, and general reading
and comprehension skills.
Cultural & Global Awareness: Many focus groups referenced a desire for students to have cross-cultural experiences, to build awareness of cultural
difference and similarity, to expand their awareness of cultures and viewpoints unlike their own, and to better comprehend diversity and differing values and value
systems.
Research, Writing, & Formulating an Argument: Participants frequently mentioned that students should gain skills and experience with various types of
research (primary, secondary, scientific, quantitative, etc.), be able to write effectively, and formulate an argument based on their research.
Technology: Participants wanted students to attain technology literacy as well as basic skills with computers, applications, and software.
Values & Ethics: Faculty, staff, and administrators often agreed that general education was
a learning experience in terms of values, ethics, and citizenship, as well as a place for students to examine their own cultural values and those of people different
from them.
Knowledge: Many focus groups expressed a desire for students to be exposed to traditional disciplinary knowledge in the sciences, social sciences, and liberal arts.

Other questions?

Feel free to contact us directly at GenEd@mtsu.edu or fill out our anonymous feedback form here

Or, reach out to Dr. Susan Myers-Shirk, the General Education Director: Susan.Myers-Shirk@mtsu.edu or call 615-898-5624. 

Director of General Education
Dr. Susan Myers-Shirk, Professor of History

Director of Communications & Research Associate
Dr. Katherine Brackett, Research Assistant Professor of History

Graduate Assistant
Meredith Funderburk

Contact Information
GenEd@mtsu.edu
615-898-5624

 

Institutional Memberships:

Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U)

Association for General & Liberal Studies (AGLS)