Undergraduate General Education
In fall 2016, APU launched a new General Education curriculum that incorporates widespread input from groups across campus, including department chairs, Faculty Senate, the full faculty, select staff offices, and the Student Government Association. Several working groups were formed to contribute to the GE proposal, including a GE Diversity Task Force, a Writing Committee, a GE School of Theology Committee, a GE Curriculum Design Committee, and an Academic/Student Life Collaboration Committee. The General Education curriculum centers on five new learning outcomes, based largely on the Essential Learning Outcomes of the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U).
A major step toward solidifying our program goals occurred when a team composed of people from a wide variety of offices and disciplines attended AAC&U’s Institute on General Education and Assessment in June 2014. The action plan that emerged from the week at the institute led the GEC to form the General Education Curriculum Committee, the members of which were integral in creating the GE proposal that went to the Faculty Senate.
Highlights of the new program include:
- The addition of new GE requirements for civic knowledge and engagement and intercultural competence.
- Integration of a series of three writing courses, one each during freshman, sophomore, and junior years, and an increased focus on writing across the curriculum.
- Emphasis on integrative and applied learning courses that allow majors to offer internships, practica, clinicals, capstones, etc.
- Development of a more comprehensive first-year experience that includes a 3-unit First-Year Seminar and use of peer-mentors and alpha leaders to support student success.
Statement of Philosophy
Why the need for General Education courses?
The Azusa Pacific University mission statement affirms that we are dedicated to academic excellence in the liberal arts to help students develop a Christian perspective of truth and life. The General Education program is essential in reaching that Christian perspective. How so? A general education aims to develop the whole person; by participating in a range of liberal arts courses, the student will:
- Cultivate the desire and ability to think, to learn, and to understand
- Better understand what it means to be a responsible citizen within a global community
- Better understand how all truth is interrelated
The various disciplines that are part of the GE curriculum are thus intended to broaden the students’ understanding of their place in God’s Kingdom and to equip them for advancing that Kingdom.
Why this General Education Program?
First, the General Education program at APU has been carefully cultivated to provide each student with a range of practical skills, including competence in communication, quantitative reasoning, and an awareness of our physical condition. The required courses will also expand the students’ knowledge of a wide variety of disciplines, and the courses are organized so students will see the interconnectedness of these various fields of study. Throughout the GE experience, because of a commitment to faith application and integration that permeates the program, students will be reminded that God is the author of all truth and beauty. Finally, the General Education curriculum will prepare students for and enrich the learning that will take place in their specific majors.
The Essential Outcomes
(with Rationale and Explanation)
Because of the complexities of the modern age, students graduating from Azusa Pacific University will most likely change jobs and possibly even careers several times during their lives. If, therefore, they focus their education on a specialized skill or profession only, they will have more difficulty adapting to the changing realities of society in general and the job market in particular. This is one reason why a liberal education, encompassed in APU’s General Education program, is so crucial to the success of our students. Rather than having students wanting to “get their GE requirements out of the way,” we desire that students embrace the life of the mind and become lifelong learners for the cause of Christ. Most importantly, the intellectual and practical skills that are part of the APU educational experience, including critical thinking, communication, knowledge of the world, personal and social responsibility, and biblical and theological equipping, will prepare our graduates to bring salt and light to a world in desperate need of hope and regeneration.
Building on the Essential Learning Outcomes of the AAC&U, the General Education program at Azusa Pacific University recognizes the following five outcomes as the heart of a liberal education:
- Knowledge of Human Cultures and the Physical and Natural World
Through study in:
- Sciences and Mathematics
- Social Sciences
- The Arts
Focused by engagement with important questions, both contemporary and enduring.
We believe that studying human accomplishments and exploring fundamental questions regarding the physical universe, human values, aesthetics, and literary expression will introduce students to different ways of analyzing and understanding the natural and cultural environment. Such study will stimulate reflective thinking, imagination, and creativity, increase civic and global responsibility, and cultivate moral and ethical action.
- Inquiry and analysis
- Critical and creative thinking
- Written and oral communication
- Quantitative literacy
- Information literacy
- Teamwork and problem solving
Practiced extensively, across the curriculum, in the context of progressively more challenging problems, projects, and standards for performance.
We believe that obtaining a particular set of skills—how to think, write, speak, solve problems, research, and work with others—will enable students to deepen their higher education experience by increasing their understanding of and success in the many disciplines and courses they will encounter. These types of critical, scientific, communication, and analytic skills will give them confidence and competency to succeed in the many spheres of experience they will encounter in their post-college lives.
- Civic knowledge and engagement–local and global
- Intercultural knowledge and competence
- Ethical reasoning and action
- Foundations and skills for lifelong learning
Anchored through active involvement with diverse communities and real-world challenges.
We believe that while education is intrinsically valuable, education should also produce responsible persons and citizens. Students should be self-aware and self-reflective in order to make wise personal decisions. They should be knowledgeable of individual and cultural differences, in order to engage respectfully with others as they seek ethical solutions to societal problems.
- Interpretation, analysis, and application of Scriptural principles
Incorporated in Bible, theology, and ministry courses and through faith integration practices across the curriculum.
We believe that the Christian worldview incorporates all truth and that the knowledge and practices embedded within the Christian story are transformational in a variety of ways, and that scholarly engagement with Christian perspectives enriches learning (particularly regarding the activity of God within the academic concepts under consideration), supports the development of faith-oriented critical thinking, encourages engagement in service, emphasizes the necessity of Christian virtue, and provides students with a conceptual framework that supports an overall integrative Christian education.
- Synthesis and advanced accomplishment across general and specialized studies
Demonstrated through the application of knowledge, skills, faith, and responsibilities to new settings and complex problems.
We believe that knowledge within all disciplines is interrelated and that discipline-specific knowledge achieves its greatest significance in larger context. Moreover, if knowledge is not integrated, it is much less likely to be transferrable outside the classroom. Therefore, students should be prompted to integrate their knowledge whenever possible. Integration of knowledge is a skill that requires explicit instruction. We believe that tasks that require application of knowledge are particularly beneficial in helping students integrate their knowledge.
Methodology of the GE Program
The General Education program of Azusa Pacific University also endorses and encourages the adoption/increased practice of all the High-Impact Educational Practices of the AAC&U and already incorporates some of these practices in the GE curriculum.
Practices Utilized at Azusa Pacific University
These courses emphasize writing at all levels of instruction and across the curriculum, including final-year projects. Students are encouraged to produce and revise various forms of writing for different audiences in different disciplines.
Collaborative Assignments and Projects
Collaborative learning combines two key goals: learning to work and solve problems in the company of others, and sharpening one’s own understanding by listening seriously to the insights of others, especially those with different backgrounds and life experiences. Approaches range from study groups within a course to team-based assignments and writing to cooperative projects and research.
Undergraduate research allows students the exciting opportunity to explore unforeseen possibilities in their particular fields of study and to present their scholarship in various academic venues, including local or national academic conferences. In addition, students benefit by working closely with professors on individual or collaborative research projects and increasing the chances of acceptance into graduate school.
Azusa Pacific University emphasizes courses and programs that help students explore cultures, life experiences, and worldviews different from their own. These studies—which may address U.S. diversity, world cultures, or both—often explore “difficult differences” such as racial, ethnic, and gender inequality, or continuing struggles around the globe for human rights, freedom, and power. Frequently, intercultural studies are augmented by “experiential learning” (see below) in the community and/or by study abroad.
Service-learning and Community-based Learning
In these programs, field-based experiential learning with community partners is an instructional strategy—and often a required part of the course. The idea is to give students direct experience with issues they are studying in the curriculum and with ongoing efforts to analyze and solve problems in the community. A key element in these programs is the opportunity students have to apply what they are learning in real-world settings and reflect in a classroom setting on their service experiences. These programs model the idea that giving something back to the community is an important college outcome, and that working with community partners is good preparation for citizenship, work, and life.
Internships are another increasingly common form of experiential learning. The idea is to provide students with direct experience in a work setting—usually related to their career interests—and to give them the benefit of supervision and coaching from professionals in the field. If the internship is taken for course credit, students complete a project or paper that is approved by a faculty member.
Capstone Courses and Projects
These culminating experiences require students nearing the end of their college years to create a project of some sort that integrates and applies what they’ve learned. Besides the Senior Seminar required of all students as part of the General Education program, some disciplines also require a performance, a portfolio of “best work,” or an exhibit of artwork.
Practices We Would Like to See Adopted or Expanded at Azusa Pacific University
First-year Seminars and Experiences
Many schools now build into the curriculum first-year seminars or other programs that bring small groups of students together with faculty or staff on a regular basis. The highest-quality first-year experiences place a strong emphasis on critical inquiry, frequent writing, information literacy, collaborative learning, and other skills that develop students’ intellectual and practical competencies. First-year seminars can also involve students with cutting-edge questions in scholarship and with faculty members’ own research.
Common Intellectual Experiences
The older idea of a “core” curriculum has evolved into a variety of modern forms, such as a set of required common courses or a vertically organized General Education program that includes advanced integrative studies and/or required participation in a learning community (see below). These programs often combine broad themes—e.g., technology and society, global interdependence–with a variety of curricular and co-curricular options for students.
The key goals for learning communities are to encourage integration of learning across courses and to involve students with “big questions” that matter beyond the classroom. Students take two or more linked courses as a group and work closely with one another and with their professors. Many learning communities explore a common topic and/or common readings through the lenses of different disciplines. Some deliberately link “liberal arts” and “professional courses”; others feature service-learning.
APU’s online catalog contains detailed information about the university’s General Education program and its requirements, including General Education information for transfer students.
Azusa Pacific University recognizes that diversity is an expression of God’s image and boundless creativity. In an effort to integrate diversity studies into the curriculum, pertinent issues are addressed within General Education courses, and specific courses focus on diverse perspectives. APU also offers an ethnic studies minor through the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Explore our courses that examine diversity-related topics (course descriptions can also be found in the online catalog).
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a General Education program?
This educational program provides courses in the liberal arts that develop skills, cultivate understanding, and provide experiences that lead to moral, intellectual, social, civic, and spiritual maturity.
What is a liberal education?
A liberal education cultivates the mind—open to new perspectives, appreciative of the past, able to effectively communicate with others—so students will make a significant contribution in our world.
What are the liberal arts?
In ancient Greece, the Trivium, meaning “the meeting of three ways,” brought together grammar, logic, and rhetoric studies from the literary and verbal arts. Another major component in Greece was the Quadrivium, meaning “the meeting of the four ways,” as found in mathematics and the wisdom arts. Greek students studied arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy.
How do various courses today align with the Greek liberal arts?
Today’s courses that follow the Trivium are language, literature, foreign language, communication, logic, history, ethics, and politics; these courses make up a major portion of the skills and integrative core of the General Education program. In alignment with the Quadrivium, today we study music and art, algebra, geography, psychology, and the natural sciences, including physics, astronomy, geology, biology, and chemistry.
Why are General Education courses in the liberal arts important for my education?
Jesus understood that knowing the truth was foundational to freedom (John 8:32). In a similar way, the liberal arts serve to free the mind by liberating us from prejudice, small-mindedness, and limited perspectives. The liberal arts support the aim of the Christian tradition, in preparing us to serve, lead, and live a meaningful life.
How do the liberal arts relate to professional studies?
In ancient times, the liberal arts were known as leisure arts because they were pursued for intellectual development, not due to necessity of war or for making a career. So although these studies do enhance one’s abilities for successful careers, they do not teach directly to one’s major professional development. They do, however, teach critical thinking and other skills that are valuable in all walks of life.
What skills are central to APU’s General Education program?
We seek to develop academic skills in rhetoric—that is, in writing and public speaking. Information competency and analytical and critical thinking are foundational to sound rhetorical skills. Math serves to develop quantitative reasoning, and foreign language skills enhance cultural and grammar skills. In addition, because we are so fearfully and wonderfully made, we promote knowledge and experience of physical and emotional health as part of the education of the whole person.
In addition to skills, APU’s General Education program includes an “Integrative Core.” What is an Integrative Core?
The Integrative Core brings together six core areas of study to cultivate understanding and provide experience that lead to moral, intellectual, social, civic, and spiritual maturity. These areas work together to provide a structure for developing a Christian perspective of truth and life.
What are the six emphases of the Integrative Core? What courses are to be selected for each area?
- Aesthetics and the Creative Arts: one approved class in art, music, or theater
- Heritage and Institutions: two classes—philosophy, and history or political science
- Identity and Relationships: one class in psychology or sociology
- Language and Literature: one class in world or American literature
- Nature: one class with lab in biology, chemistry, or physics
- God’s Word and the Christian Response: six classes in Bible, ministry, and doctrine
Why aren’t all classes in liberal arts subject areas counted toward General Education requirements?
Courses approved for General Education credit must meet the objectives for each area, providing depth and breadth in the subject area. Not all liberal arts courses fulfill these objectives.
How are classes approved for General Education credit?
Courses are proposed by an academic department and submitted to the General Education Council for approval.
What should incoming students do about their General Education courses?
First-year students should schedule 100-level Skills and God’s Word courses into their first two semesters as much as possible. These courses are foundational to an APU education. Transfer students should schedule General Education courses as early as possible, adding them to the courses required by the chosen major.
How do I know whether classes I’ve taken at another university will fulfill APU’s General Education requirements?
You can check online for transferable courses.
Note: Please refer to the General Education requirements at APU for more specific expectations from this program of education.