Boise State awarded for reforming general education

Boise State awarded for reforming general education

Credit: Zach Stotland/ KTVB

Boise State awarded for reforming general education

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by Stephanie Zepelin

Bio | Email | Follow: @ktvbstephanie

KTVB.COM

Posted on September 18, 2012 at 9:48 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 5 at 4:20 PM

BOISE -- The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation is awarding Boise State University's Foundational Studies Program with a $50,000 prize. Boise State is one of six ID21 Award winners. The awards come after the 2011-2012 ED Sessions speaker series, and each award-winner exemplifies topics from the series.

KTVB got a chance to check out a class called, "Story." Freshmen in the class learn how stories are a part of their life, outside of just books. As part of the class, the students will take classic books and turn them into e-books. "Story" is a new class that is part of the Foundational Studies Program at Boise State.

"It provides them with the opportunity to learn in a way that I don't think they had the opportunity to before, because they are able to talk with those upper division faculty members earlier, and they're able to gain from the knowledge quicker than they were before," said Senior Jesse Rosenthal.

Rosenthal was on the task force that helped designed the new program. All freshmen are in a large lecture and then small discussion.   

I think that it provides a commonality among curriculum and among the peers that is really useful because students are then able to talk about the subject together," said Rosenthal.

The underclassmen he talked to about the new courses said they enjoy the subject matter and the discussion groups.

The Foundational Studies program is structured around six signature learning outcomes: written communication, oral communication, critical inquiry, innovation and teamwork, and ethics and diversity. Faculty and staff who designed the program looked at the educational outcomes, and then worked backwards to get the curriculum.

"Rote memorization it's not enough anymore. We really need to build on ideas. We're using technology in new and innovative ways, we're putting students in classrooms that are redesigned to encourage them to work together," said Foundational Studies Director, Vicki Stieha.

Stieha said facts are important, but the redesign is focused around exploring ideas. The program is designed to take the signature learning outcomes and carry those skills through a student's four years. The skills and ideas are woven through the curriculum, so they are can be sharpened and focused each year. Skills, like written communication, are taught at a more basic level for freshman. They are honed for specific majors when students are upperclassmen.

"Our graduates are going to have had four years of preparing for 21st century life and work in this very intentional way, and building skills, and knowledge, and habits of mind that our faculty and staff really believe are essential," said Stieha. "We want them to encounter the kinds of puzzles that they'll encounter when they're in their work situations."

They hope if you are an engineering student taking a literature course, you will connect with the big themes and the ways of thinking and apply that in other areas.

"We make those connections for the students and then they begin to be able to make the connections themselves," said Professor Sharon McGuire.

McGuire helped design the new curriculum with other professors. She said most professors excited about it.

"If you ask the faculty, they say, 'Finally! This is some of the things that I've been excited about teaching. This is my passion to make these connections,'" said McGuire.

Stieha said they money they are receiving will go toward assessing the success of the program.

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