Adapting our Gen Ed to the proposed Q major

Frank put up a slide at yesterday’s faculty meeting comparing the credit hours in the current curriculum to an implementation of the 12/3 plus the Q major as has been described in recent discussions. I had a chance to look over the numbers, and I found a couple of what seem like minor calculation glitches (or maybe just different assumptions) along with a larger quantitative problem. I shared this with Clerk’s Committee today, but I thought the rest of you might be interested. Here’s the diagram with some edited numbers:

The edits are as follows:

  • The critical perspectives are sometimes taken as double-counts, and sometimes as separate courses, so they should be included as 0-12 credits. They weren’t included in the totals before.
  • The center column in each contains 5 breadth, 3 writing, and a language, and a 1-credit FYE, for a total of 37 credits. Technically, English 101 isn’t a required course, although in practice most folks take it. So, we can set a lower bound of 33 credits. Obviously some students pass out of these requirements with test scores or AP, but for a regular student without special credit, it’s at least 33 credits. The current Gen Ed also has FYS and IDS 400 within that list, which adds 8 more, and there is also the possibility that a student would need to take the 2-credit Quantitative Lit class, although not every student does. That puts the range for the current Gen Ed at 41-47, and for the Q-major plan (which borrows the FYS and IDS for the Q-major part) at 33-39, rather than the ranges shown. Some students take a 4-credit class for Quant Lit, which would add an extra two credits to the total, and may be what the original list included.
  • Currently, we have a required minor. In practice, we have created some minors that include some or all of the courses required for the larger majors. The Integrated Science minor is specifically designed for this purpose, and can include the cognate sciences that are required for B.S. degrees in biology and geology. The Accounting minor and ENVS minors overlap in part with other majors, as well, and there are likely other examples. So, some students do a lot of double-counting and don’t need any additional courses to get a minor, and some take a full set of four (or more) that are all unique to the minor and not double-counted. So, rather than a flat 16 credits, the range here should be more like 0-16.

Looked at in this light, we have a pretty big disconnect in credits (and the accompanying number of courses) if we implement a full 8-course Q major. The current curriculum requires 41-75 credits, or roughly 10-19 courses. The eight-course Q major model requires 65-83 credits, or roughly 16-21 courses, or 2-6 more.

Of course, one of the Breadth requirements can often count towards a major (although not all do, and not all students take them this way). So, that might reduce the higher end of the range by one for some students.

This increase is absolutely not workable at the high end, for students with more courses required for majors (e.g. 82 credits for a B.F.A, 60 credits for a B.S. in Geology, 56 credits for a B.S. in Business administration). 83 credits of Gen Ed is more than 2/3 of 120, the new target for graduation, and even for students who take an eight-course major, they’re barely squeaking by.

So, we’ll need to address this. One way is the way we have been doing, by allowing the Q major to double count with regular majors in the way that minors do now. However, to keep the course totals the same, we’d have to expect that students would double count four Q-major courses (which would likely be 4 of the 6 courses outside FYE and IDS) for either Gen Ed or their majors. That is very hard to reconcile with the Q-major being unique or structured, if it’s a hodgepodge of things that count for something else.

Another way would be to chop a bunch out of the non-Q major part of the Gen Ed. The easiest candidate for this is probably the five Breadth requirements, if we could somehow ensure that each Q major would include at least the components that SACS requires in Gen Ed (humanities/fine arts, social/behavioral sciences, and natural science/mathematics), or perhaps all five of our existing Breadth requirements.

If we were to cut the Breadth requirements from Gen Ed and house them in the Q major, we would be back at a more manageable 45-63 courses, which is comparable to the size of the current Gen Ed.

There are probably other ways to address this as well, such as a full Gen Ed revision (which we’d almost have to do anyway if we pursue the Q major). But we can’t not deal with it and just add things.


  1. I’m very much looking forward to the Q and to engaging in work that will be much more creative and productive than what I’ve been forced to do for the least fifteen years in the old curriculum, schedule, etc. I hope we don’t even begin to discuss moving all 5 breadth requirements into the place where students are supposed to be pursuing their passions, not checking off boxes. I would like a chance to reflect on my major curriculum and see what updates we may want to make there, before we address the gen ed.

  2. Hi,

    When we talked (very briefly) about the possibility of housing the breadth requirements in the Q Major, the assumption was that it would be *our* responsibility to make sure that the structure of the Q Major hit all the breadth requirements, not the student’s. We were not thinking in terms of “checking boxes”, but to ensure that a Q Major included perspectives and skills from all the divisions. The example that popped into my head (and I’m not saying it’s a good example) was that if the passion the student were pursuing in the major were the real-world problem of “poverty”, there could be a business class on why the poverty problem is so intractable, a humanities class on how poverty affects the human condition, good and bad. A social sciences class on the psychology of poverty, or the social structures around how race and poverty intersect. A science class about the mapping of poverty, or how poverty connects (or doesn’t connect) with the distribution/exploitation of natural resources (this could be team taught with economics?). And finally an arts class that looks at how poverty has been both vilified and sanctified in visual arts. Like I said, not the best idea, probably, but my point was that we could structure the Q Major in such a way that they hit all the breadth requirements as they explored their passion in an inter-, cross-, multi-disciplinary path. And that would definitely not be “checking off boxes”.

    • Don, this is just the kind of thinking that is quite intriguing as we move ahead with the conversations about implementation that Rob mentions below. Using the Q Major to meet students where their interests lie and then working with them to address the common learning outcomes identified as central for every Guilford student itself is a creative and innovative space that Mylene and others have already identified as one of the attractive elements of this new structure.

  3. I had been wondering about the gen ed credits when reading Frank’s memo, and the faculty meeting numbers just added more questions. One statement in Frank’s memo was “Outside of the Q Major, the remaining general education requirements would be reduced to 32 credits, including a redesigned FYS whose pedagogy privileges the students’ skills in working in collaborative teams and on presentation skills (as part of the QEP).” But I didn’t hear anything about cutting gen ed at the faculty meeting. Dave’s point that we can’t just add things is certainly correct. And even if we did cut the left column to 32 credits, it won’t just be current high-credit majors that have issues. For example, double-majoring becomes much less feasible, and that will hit some programs harder than others. Double-counting can help, but with the risk, as Wendy noted, of having a box-checking curriculum. And to Don’s comment, if the faculty are specifying something as rigid as “All Q majors must incorporate all breadth requirements,” are we moving away from the concept that a Q major is primarily student-designed, representing their passion?

    I like the potential of the Q major; I am intrigued by 12/3. But implementing either or both of those will mean making choices about what we will no longer do. Any work on implementation plans should address that question very early in the process. It will only get harder the more we delay it.