General Education Goals

General Education at Illinois Wesleyan University strives to provide a foundation for a liberal education of quality and breadth through a continuously evolving program which fosters intellectual independence, critical thinking, imagination, social awareness, and sensitivity to others. These qualities of mind and character are developed through a coordinated academic and co-curricular program of active learning, problem solving, collaborative inquiry, and community involvement. In this environment, students pursue a course of study which leads to knowledge of the natural universe and the diverse realms of human experience.

More specifically, General Education at Illinois Wesleyan is committed to the following goals:
  • To develop students' capacities for critical thinking, intellectual independence, and imagination by creating opportunities for active learning
  • To develop students' knowledge and understanding of the fundamental processes and relationships of nature and culture and their evolution over time
  • To enable students to use formal methods of reasoning in problem solving
  • To heighten students' understanding of the diversity of cultures in our own society and the world
  • To develop students' capacities for expressing and communicating ideas in writing and orally, in English and in another language, and for using writing as a means of discovery and understanding
  • To foster in students the ability to make and assess judgments of value in such areas as ethics, aesthetics, and public policy by encouraging them to frame questions of value, to explore alternative value systems, and to become informed, active citizens in public life
  • To develop in students kinesthetic awareness, personal fitness, and lifelong habits of healthy living
  • To bring the world to campus and students to the world through varied combinations of co-curricular programming, travel and service to the community

Students are given the opportunity to achieve the goals of General Education through a sequence of course Category offerings, Course Flags, and other requirements which are outlined as follows:

Course Categories and Requirements

Click on a link in the table below to scroll to that category.

Gateway Colloquium Analysis of Values
The Arts Contemporary Social Institutions
Cultural and Historical Change Formal Reasoning
Intellectual Traditions Literature
Second Language The Natural Sciences
Physical Education Encountering Global Diversity
Encountering U.S. Diversity Writing Intensive Courses

Gateway Colloquium
(1 course unit)

Category Description: Gateway Colloquia are small, discussion-oriented classes designed to develop students' proficiency in writing academic and public discourse. Although each colloquium investigates its own issue or question, all focus on writing as a major component of intellectual inquiry. Students are expected to participate in discussion and to analyze, integrate and evaluate competing ideas so as to formulate their own arguments about an issue. Topics will vary by section. Students must complete a Gateway Colloquium by the end of the freshman year. Students who fail Gateway will be enrolled in another section of the course at the earlier opportunity.

Category Goals: In keeping with the overall goals of the General Education program, in particular the goals of developing students' proficiency in writing and its use as a means of discovery and understanding, and of developing students' capacities in critical thinking, independence, and imagination through active learning, Gateway Colloquium seminars seek to:

  • introduce students to the process of intellectual inquiry and develop students' critical thinking skills
  • develop students' ability to evaluate competing ideas and experiences
  • develop students' skills in the conventions and structures of presenting knowledge in written academic and public discourse, and on strategies for effective revision
  • engage students in learning activities that prepare them for academic life in the university

 

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Analysis of Values
(1 course unit)

Category Description: Courses in this category critically examine one or more normative value issues arising in social, political, professional, religious, artistic, or other contexts. Normative value issues concern questions of what ought to be the case, and are thus distinguished from empirical and/or descriptive issues, which concern questions of what is, was, or will be the case. Courses in this category engage students in the rational examination of normative value issues and expose them to alternative theories and positions concerning such issues. Students are thereby challenged to think systematically about these issues and to refine and defend their views of them.

Category Goals: In keeping with the overall goals of the General Education program, in particular the goals of developing students' capacities for critical thinking, intellectual independence, communicating in writing and orally, and fostering their abilities to make and assess judgments of value, courses in the "Analysis of Values" category seek to:

  • develop students' ability to recognize and understand normative value issues
  • encourage students to understand and evaluate contrasting theories pertaining to normative value issues
  • develop students' ability to formulate, examine rationally, and defend their positions about normative value issues. Such examination requires students to consider theories, contrasting positions on the issue(s) in question, and pertinent descriptive and empirical information
  • encourage students to reflect on the implications of their values for their personal, professional and civic lives, and to learn to listen to, respect, and care about the views of other people in situations other than their own

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The Arts
(1 course unit)

Category Description: Courses in this category heighten awareness of an aesthetic dimension in human experience through study of music, theater arts, visual arts, film, and/or creative writing. These courses place the specific art(s) under consideration within the context of the time of original creation or performance, and also within other appropriate contexts.

Category Goals: In keeping with the overall goals of the General Education program, in particular the goals of offering opportunities for active learning and of developing students' imagination, their understanding of the fundamental processes and relationships of culture, and their ability to frame questions and make judgments of value, courses in the category of "The Arts" seek to:

  • develop students' awareness of the deep sources of art, both individual and communal, and of the relationship in art between disciplined technique and creative freedom
  • examine how art records, reflects, and shapes the temper of its time and place of origin
  • explore the significance of art in a larger context cross-culturally, historically, or in terms of broad aesthetic parameters shared by various art forms
  • encourage students to gain a sense of what artists actually do with their hands, voices, bodies, and minds, in the creation and practice of their art

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Contemporary Social Institutions
(1 course unit)

Category Description: Courses in this category explore the established practices, relationships, and organizations which influence the daily lives of individuals in society. Social institutions and/or structures examined include governments, religious organizations, education, the family, the media, and the legal, economic, health care, political, and social welfare systems.

Category Goals: In keeping with the overall goals of the General Education program, in particular the goals of understanding the fundamental relationships and processes of nature and culture and their evolution over time, of fostering students' abilities to make judgments of value in the area of public policy, of encouraging students to become informed active citizens in public life, and of bringing the world to the campus and students to the world, courses in the category of "Contemporary Social Institutions" seek to:

  • examine how one or more social institutions arises, operates, interacts with other institutions, and changes in different cultural and historical contexts
  • illuminate the ways and means through which societal and individual values are reflected in contemporary social institutions
  • enable students to understand how individuals' values, beliefs, and behaviors are influenced by contemporary social institutions
  • provide students with opportunities to observe and/or to interact directly with individuals involved in the ongoing operations of one or more contemporary social institutions

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Cultural and Historical Change
(1 course unit)

Category Description: Courses in this category investigate the formation, persistence, and change of human-constructed institutions, emphasizing significant transformations in human social existence, and allowing historical personalities to speak to us across time and space. Each class emphasizes the complex interactions of social and historical context, acknowledging that we cannot understand the present without the past.

Category Goals: In keeping with the overall goals of the General Education program, in particular, the goals of developing students' capacities for critical thinking, intellectual independence, of understanding the fundamental relationships and processes of nature and culture and their evolution over time, and of becoming informed citizens, courses in the category of "Cultural and Historical Change" seek to:

  • examine major episodes, processes, and contexts of change within societies and social institutions, with special attention to changes in belief, behavior, and social organization
  • understand the processes of choice and action through which the cultural systems, social institutions, and social relationships arise, persist, and change
  • examine the interactions of cultures and histories as revealed in the speech, documents, artifacts, and patterns of behavior of the women and men directly affected at the time of change
  • develop the student's understanding of her or his place in world history through reflection on the present in light of the past

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Formal Reasoning
(1 course unit)

Category Description: Courses in this category focus on approaches to knowledge which are rigorous and rule-governed. The courses enable students to develop an understanding of formal systems, including geometric, symbolic or numerical systems, and to use formal reasoning for inquiry and problem solving, including real-world problems.

Category Goals: In keeping with the overall goals of the General Education program, in particular the goals of enabling students to use formal methods of reasoning in problem solving, and of developing students' capacities for critical thinking, courses in the "Formal Reasoning" category seek to:

  • familiarize students with one or more formal systems
  • promote the understanding of formal systems and their use in identifying, analyzing and solving problems
  • provide a real-world context for the use of formal reasoning
  • convey an appreciation of formal systems

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Intellectual Traditions
(1 course unit)

Category Description: Courses in this category explore major ideas that have significantly shaped culture and the course of events. Courses may focus on an individual figure, a broader intellectual movement, or a crucial concept or topic. Emphasis is placed on critical interpretation, analysis, and evaluation of ideas articulated in primary printed texts and, where appropriate, in works of art, architecture, and music.

Category Goals: In keeping with the overall goals of the General Education program, in particular the goals of developing students' capacities for critical thinking, intellectual independence and social awareness, their knowledge and understanding of the fundamental processes and relationships of culture and their evolution over time, and their abilities to make and assess judgments of value, courses in the "Intellectual Traditions" category seek to:

  • develop students' abilities to evaluate critically ideas and beliefs articulated in the conversations of minds across the centuries in our own and other cultures
  • increase students' knowledge of the texts and traditions, either western or non-western, which are demonstrably important, i.e., that have shaped culture and made a difference in the course of events
  • enable students to see that understanding an idea requires understanding its development by examining the ways in which ideas, beliefs, and world views originate, evolve, persist, recur, and die out
  • develop students' abilities to read, primary texts and make, assess, and defend arguments about ideas articulated in those texts

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Literature
(1 course unit)

Category Description: Courses in this category focus on the critical reading and interpretation of literary texts.

Category Goals: In keeping with the overall goals of the General Education program, in particular the goals of developing students' capacities for critical thinking, intellectual independence, and imagination, their understanding of cultural relationships, their capacities for expressing and communicating ideas, and their abilities to make judgments and assess value, all in the context of active learning, courses in the "Literature" category seek to:

  • help students to recognize and understand the importance of the structure and style of a literary text
  • encourage students to engage their imaginative faculties when they read
  • enable students to connect the literature they read to the cultural and social context in which it was written or which it portrays
  • develop students' ability to interpret literary texts

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Second Language
(0-3 course units, as needed, to ensure proficiency at the third-semester level)

Category Description: Courses in this category develop a student's ability to communicate effectively in a second language by promoting cultural understanding, intercultural communication skills, and global citizenship. By making comparisons and connections to their immediate cultural practices and perspectives, students of a second language will deepen the knowledge and appreciation of their own native language. Modern language courses will emphasize basic conversational skills necessary for survival in a target language-culture environment.  Students of classical languages will be introduced to a variety of literary styles and will learn to translate texts from the original and analyze them critically.

Category Goals: In keeping with the overall goals of the General Education program, in particular the goals of developing the capacity for expressing and communicating ideas in language other than English, of fostering in students the ability to make and assess judgments of value, and of bringing the world to the campus and the campus to the world, courses in this category seek to:

  • develop in students of modern languages the four basic language skills of speaking, reading, listening, and writing in a language other than English

OR:

  • develop in students of classical languages the proficiency to read, understand and interpret classical languages.  Students use orally, listen to, and write the classical language as part of the language learning process.

  • develop an understanding of the nuances of the cultures they study.  Students are able to compare and contrast their own culture with that of the cultures they study and use this knowledge and their intercultural communication skills in a world of diverse cultures.

  • help students recognize and use elements of the second language to increase knowledge of their own language.  Students use their knowledge of the second language and intercultural communication skills in a multilingual world.

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The Natural Sciences
(2 course units)

Category Description: Courses in this category help students develop the capacity for scientific literacy in preparation for responsible citizenship. Through laboratory and other learning experiences, students explore the methods by which scientists discover and formulate laws or principles that describe the behavior of nature in both living and non-living realms. Students also examine how scientific thinking applies to their own lives, and address the issues that scientific and technological advances bring to society. Two courses in this category are required, one of which deals substantively with scientific methods and laboratory techniques, and the other substantively with societal and ethical issues resulting from scientific techniques or findings. In addition, one of these courses must concern primarily life science concepts, and the other primarily physical science concepts.

Category Goals: In keeping with the overall goals of the General Education program, in particular the goal of developing students' capacities for critical thinking, and of developing students' knowledge and understanding of the fundamental processes and relationships of nature and culture, and their evolution over time, all courses in the "Natural Sciences" category seek to:

  • acquaint students with important life and/or physical science concepts, as well as the connections among different areas of science
  • develop students' understanding of the roles that critical analysis, abstract thinking, creativity, and imagination play in the scientific enterprise
  • introduce students to the usefulness of applying scientific concepts to the understanding of everyday experiences
  • (in laboratory courses) develop students' understanding of how scientific problems are studied in a laboratory environment

OR:

  • (in scientific issues courses) improve understanding of scientific and technological issues which affect society and consider strengths and limitations of science in dealing with these issues

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Physical Education
(4 Y or 2 X course units)

Requirement Description: Courses in physical education foster interest and participation in activities that establish patterns for life-long maintenance of physical fitness and personal health.

Two courses (x) or four half courses (y) or an equivalent combination is required.  At least 1 x or 1 y must be a fitness course.  Fitness courses meeting the requirement are designated with an asterisk*.

Category Goals: Courses in Physical Education foster interest and participation in activities that establish patterns for life-long maintenance of Physical fitness and personal health. Courses given the designation of Physical Education Activity must week to:

  • help students identify long and short-term fitness goals
  • identify and practice principles of warm-up and stretching
  • identify and practice principles of aerobic training

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Encountering Global Diversity
(Flag designation attached to approved General Education, major, minor, or elective courses, except Gateway Colloquium and courses in the Modern and Classical Languages category - 1 required)

Flag Description: Courses given this designation introduce students to the ways in which diversity has shaped and continues to shape identity and experience in the U.S. Within the framework of individual courses, students are encouraged to develop an awareness of and sensitivity to human differences in ethnicity, race, class, gender, religion, ability and/or sexuality.  Furthermore, in the process of recognizing, analyzing, understanding, and perhaps even reconciling various ways of viewing and experiencing the world, students are encouraged to acknowledge the intersections of diversity in their own lives.

Flag Goals: In keeping with the overall goals of the General Education program, in particular the goals of heightening students' understanding of global diversity, of bringing the world to the campus and students to the world, of fostering students' ability to make and assess judgments of value, and of developing students' capacities for critical thinking, courses given this designation seek to:

  • develop students' ability to analyze and understand contemporary societies outside the U.S. in the context of individual courses
  • enable students to understand the social and cultural frames of reference of one or more societies and see the world from its/their perspective(s)

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Encountering U.S. Diversity
(Flag designation attached to approved General Education, major, minor, or elective courses, except Gateway Colloquium and courses in Second Language category - 1 required)

Flag Description: Courses given this designation introduce students to the ways in which diversity - as influenced by ethnic, racial, class, gender, religious, and/or sexual characteristics - ­ has shaped and continues to shape identity and experience in the U.S. Within the framework of individual courses, students are encouraged to develop an awareness of social differences and a sensitivity to others. Furthermore, in the process of recognizing, analyzing, understanding, and perhaps even reconciling various ways of viewing and experiencing the world, students are encouraged to acknowledge the intersections of diversity in their own lives.

Flag Goals: In keeping with the overall goals of the General Education program, in particular the goals of heightening students' understanding of social diversity in our own society, of fostering students' ability to make judgments of value, and of developing students' capacities for critical thinking, courses given this designation seek to:

  • develop students' ability to analyze and understand diversity in the context of individual courses
  • enable students to understand the ways in which issues of difference are tied to issues of privilege and advantage, and to specific histories of groups and individuals
  • encourage students to acknowledge and appreciate the diversity in their own lives

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Writing Intensive Courses
(Flag designation for any General Education, major, minor, or elective course, except Gateway Colloquium)

Flag Description: Courses given this designation offer students instruction and practice in writing, typically within a specific disciplinary context. Writing Intensive courses encourage students to use writing as a tool for discovery and learning and to become aware that writing is a process.  Writing Intensive courses teach disciplinary conventions of writing or teach students how to write for specific audiences and for specific purposes.  Writing Intensive courses also provide opportunities for students to enrich their writing with research and/or imagination. Enrollment caps should be consistent with the goal of providing opportunities for intensive work with student writing.

Students must take two “Writing Intensive” courses.  One of these courses must be taken in the major, and one of the courses must be completed by the end of the sophomore year.  Students who have more than one major must take a “Writing Intensive” course in each major.

Flag Goals: In keeping with the overall goals of the General Education program, in particular the goals of developing students' capacities for expressing and communicating ideas in writing, using writing as a means of discovery and understanding, and developing students' capacities for critical thinking, intellectual independence, and imagination, courses given this designation seek to develop students' abilities:

  • to write effectively, using evidence that supports the writer's purpose
  • to understand that writing is a process that includes revision
  • to analyze writing situations by considering the audience, the discipline, and the purpose
  • to use writing as a tool for invention and discovery
  • to find, evaluate, and ethically use information from sources, if appropriate to the course objectives

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