According to New Mexico’s Higher Education Department (NMHED), the initiative to revise the state’s general education core was prompted by a letter from the provosts of all seven of the state’s four-year universities urging for change, as the existing core, they wrote, “reflects an approach to general education that has been abandoned by many forward thinking institutions of higher education.”
A general education summit was held on January 13, 2016, and a steering committee of 37 administrators and faculty members from 19 state campuses was formed. Summit speakers included Debra Humphreys and Paul L. Gaston, III, both of whom have been involved in leading Lumina Foundation initiatives to improve general education.
At the summit, over a hundred participants wrote responses to questions meant to aid the steering committee in developing the new model for general education. The steering committee met four times, and participant responses were classified, counted, and analyzed. Through this process, five areas of essential skills were identified: Communication, Critical Thinking, Personal and Social Responsibility, Quantitative Skills, and Information Literacy. The outdated core is also organized into five areas: Communication, Mathematics, Laboratory Science, Social/Behavioral Sciences, and Humanities and Fine Arts. While the older model classifies outcomes by discipline areas, the new draft classifies according to closely-related skill sets.
In the area of Communication Skills, the current draft includes writing, critical reading, and second language competency. In the area of Information Literacy, listed abilities include research, evaluating sources, critical reading, and visual literacy. The steering committee will work to clarify and finalize the lists of essential skills; after that, they will develop specific learning outcomes.
Required writing courses throughout the state will be modified to meet the newly drafted outcomes, once approved. Likewise, general education literature courses (none are required of all, but some are available as options in the core) will be modified to meet the new outcomes.
Until language is drafted for the specific outcomes, it is unknown which, if any, of the existing outcomes currently standard for writing and literature courses might be lost, and which new outcomes might be created.
Details of activity summarized in this report can be reviewed on the accompanying link, where progress on the new general education core can also be tracked.