Policies & FAQs

Students who matriculate in Spring 2022 or after should consult the General Education Curriculum (Spring 2022) Academic Policies of the University of Arizona Catalog for information related to the new General Education curriculum.

Students who matriculate before Spring 2022 should consult the General Education Curriculum (Fall 2021) Academic Policies for information related to the General Education Tiers curriculum. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The following FAQs are related to the new General Education curriculum, which will serve students who matriculate in Spring 2022 or after. To facilitate easy navigation, please select from one of the categories below for an internal link to that particular topic:

Entry & Exit Courses

Introduction to the General Education Experiences (UNIV 101) is a 1-unit course introducing students to General Education & its conceptual foundations (interdisciplinary thinking, perspective-taking, reflection on learning).

General Education Portfolio (UNIV 301) is a 1-unit course designed to help students reflect upon and make meaning of the General Education experience through the refinement of their ePortfolio.

The course is designed to introduce students to the Refresh Curriculum. Specifically, UNIV 101 will help students understand, appreciate, and apply the perspectives of different disciplines. Because of this focus on interdisciplinary thinking and perspective-taking, UNIV 101 is designed intentionally to be broad in relation to the university so that it can be specific to the general education program.

However, we do want students to feel very connected to the course and to the institution through the course. To accomplish this, we are currently working on developing a reader that is authored completely at the university. Utilizing voices of faculty, staff, students, and administrators from across the university, the course will help students connect to the general education and to other students from across the institution.

First-year seminar courses are a high-impact practice identified by AAC&U. The impact of common first-year seminars is greatest when the course focuses on the types of meta-cognitive skills (such as regular, intentional reflection) that will be a focus for the course.

Creating a bookended structure around the general education program that includes two different high impact practices, according to current research, should have a positive impact on retention. The Office of General Education will be conducting intentional program evaluation, assessment and research to understand the potential impact this program design, including the entry/exit courses, may have on the student experience beyond correlational retention metrics.

All students classified as first-year students will be required to take these courses, including those with DE/AP/IB credit. While these students may have completed a significant amount of General Education coursework, we still want them to engage in reflective meaning-making for their General Education experience that remains as well as for how their transferable credit relates to their UA coursework. The entry course will also include many opportunities for students to reflect on their academic behaviors, personal management, and well-being to help them get connected to resources on campus that can support their development.

Transfer students are not required to take the Entry and Exit courses; however, these courses are available to transfer students who believe that the courses will be a good fit for them.

The Office of General Education is currently working on models for instruction and will work with the Provost’s Office to identify a sustainable approach to instruction.

UNIV 101 (the intro course) will be pre-scheduled into the students’ first semester but does not preclude them taking other GE courses.

One important distinction for the General Education Portfolio course (UNIV 301), and for the GE ePortfolio in general, is that this portfolio is designed to be a learning portfolio that is a hub of a students’ reflection over the course of the general education program. This is quite different from a showcase portfolio that many students develop for their professional trajectory (although elements of their GE portfolio could certainly make their way into a showcase portfolio). Because the focus of this is specifically on making relevant meaning of their general education experiences, this cannot be double dipped with a major capstone course.

However, there is no need for a student to wait until their final semester. Students can enroll for the course once they have completed (or in progress) their foundations writing, foundations math, and 5 of their 7 core GE courses (EP and BC). While they may not have all of their signature assignments completed, they will have the majority of them, and students are also encouraged to add any learning moments to their ePortfolios that are meaningful to them in addition to Signature Assignments.

Exploring Perspectives (12 units total)

Exploring Perspectives courses introduce students to ways of thinking, knowing, and doing in different disciplines. Students must take one course each that introduces them to the Artist (3 units), Humanist (3 units), Natural Scientist (3 units), and Social Scientist perspectives (3 units).

“Perspective” refers to an academic standpoint that instructors, scholars, and artists employ to address a question, topic, or challenge. 

Perspective-taking, acknowledged as central to engaging in interdisciplinary work, involves “viewing a particular issue, problem, object, behavior, or phenomenon from a standpoint other than your own” (Repko et al., 2017, p. 165). These are the cognitive and social skills individuals require to understand how other people think and feel and are essential in appreciating and taking on conflicting points of view.

In Exploring Perspectives courses, students will encounter and practice the varied approaches (ways of questioning / thinking / reasoning / doing) of the Artist, Humanist, Natural Scientist, and Social Scientist. The goal for each Exploring Perspectives course is that students will develop disciplinary perspective-taking.

The Artist addresses creative expressions and aesthetic values of people and communities, past and present. Artists observe, interpret, create, and practice in many media to create meaning, expression, and communication. Understanding an Artist's perspective requires examining what led to the expression, why a creation was made, how the art was formed, and whether it created meaning for others beyond the artist or their community. Artists often passionately believe they can shape the world around them, but the results can be ineffable. Uncovering the artist's perspective can help students value their own and others' tastes. Artist perspective courses may include exploring the current and historical creative work of individuals and communities; analyzing artistic techniques, styles, and/or materials in relation to creative expression; understanding ethical, social, and political impacts of artistic practices and works; and creating artistic works of one's own in order to meaningfully contribute to a shared creative future.

The Humanist critically and often historically examines the full spectrum of human cultures and products, including material objects and structures, languages, literatures, philosophies, religions, thought, and consciousness. The Humanist perspective may also include approaches more properly called post-, anti-, or trans-humanist. Courses that explore the perspective of the Humanist may include close-reading and evaluation of current and historical materials; analyzing concepts and strategies of meaning making of individuals and communities; and addressing ethical problems of being and doing, from multiple points of view, to meaningfully contribute to a shared human experience.

The Natural Scientist analyzes and critically questions natural phenomena through the scientific method, and collects empirical evidence through observation and experimentation to explore, interpret, and create understanding of the physical world and its complex interrelations. Courses that explore the perspective of the natural scientist may include exploring physical, chemical and biological processes; analyzing how these processes have been shaping the natural world; applying the scientific method to solve problems with the help of empirical and data-driven approaches; and the ethical and broader impacts of these approaches from multiple points of view, to meaningfully contribute to a shared future.

The Social Scientist analyzes how people behave and interact at the level of the individual, the family, social and ethnic groups, regions, and formal institutions. Social Scientists seek to explain and predict, as both cause and effect: language, social attitudes and norms, religion, culture, informal social structures, political and economic organization, the distribution of wealth and power, demographics and diversity, cooperation, conflict, and changes in the natural environment. Courses that explore the perspective of the Social Scientist may include exploring current and historical societies and their interactions; analyzing motivations, behaviors, and developments of institutions, communities, and individuals; addressing problems in the relationship to self and others; and ethical impacts of these studies from multiple points of view, to meaningfully contribute to a shared global community.

Building Connections (9 units total)

Building Connections courses bring together modes of thinking from two or more disciplines and/or perspectives in order to foster more comprehensive understanding of questions, ideas, challenges, and/or problems. Interdisciplinary engagement facilitates more effective communication, empathy, understanding, and willingness to work together to solve problems.

In Building Connections courses, students will explore the unique contributions of knowledge, skills, methodologies, values and perspectives from varied disciplines and social positions. In addition, they will practice higher-order learning activities such as conceptual thinking, problem solving, innovative design, critical analysis, evaluation of ideas, and creation of knowledge/products.

Building Connections courses are meant to expose students to interdisciplinary and multi-perspective approaches to thinking about big ideas, addressing challenges and/or solving problems. They may be taught by a single instructor who is being intentional about bringing in readings from multiple perspectives, complemented with guest lectures, media, etc. OR a team of faculty from different corners of campus may collaborate around a shared question or issue.

The perspectives highlighted in a Building Connections course are not restricted to the disciplinary categories of Exploring Perspectives (Artist, Humanist, Natural Scientist, Social Scientist). Other or more specific/specialized disciplines may be incorporated. In addition, there is space to think outside the disciplinary box as well, to include perspectives from pertinent social positions. For example, a course offered at the University of Arizona might highlight the perspective of a "Borderlands Resident."

Attributes

Attributes are associated with courses in the Exploring Perspectives and Building Connections areas of the Gen Ed Refresh curriculum. Attributes are added to a course description when the course includes an emphasis on one or more skills, methodologies, and/or contexts that frame the course content. There are four attributes: Diversity & Equity; Quantitative Reasoning; World Cultures & Societies; and Writing.

Diversity & Equity, Quantitative Reasoning, World Cultures & Societies, and Writing are all crucial parts of the core mission of the General Education Refresh.  We believe that sustained engagement with these attributes is the best way for students to make meaningful educational gains in these areas, as well as connections between these areas and other courses outside of general education. Attributes provide multiple opportunities beyond the Foundations courses to continue to engage with these skills, providing a scaffolded learning experience that we hope will result in growth in all of these fundamental areas.

All Exploring Perspectives and Building Connections courses must carry at least one Attribute and no more than two Attributes.

Signature Assignments & ePortfolios

A Signature Assignment is an assignment that demonstrates at least one key learning outcome from a Gen Ed Refresh course. These assignments emphasize students’ meaning-making and connect their learning to perspective-taking and interdisciplinary thinking. These assignments will also be included in the learning ePortfolio.

ePortfolios are a collection and exploration of student work. There are many purposes such as showcasing student work, reflecting on learning and experiences, and curating a professional identity. Our General Education uses a learning portfolio -- designated a high-impact practice by AAC&U -- to demonstrate and assess student learning. Students will collect work throughout their Gen Ed experience and reflect on their learning, form connections between courses and their majors, and develop digital literacy skills. 

Yes, every course in the Gen Ed Refresh must have at least one Signature Assignment.

Once a course is approved, as long as any instructor of that course follows the learning outcomes and meets the same expectations for the established core (BC/EP) and Attributes, the course materials, activities, and Signature Assignments may differ. Each instructor will be asked to submit their syllabus in the term they teach the course.

Instructors are free to shape this assignment and should note that it will become part of students’ GenEd ePortfolios to represent their engagement in the curriculum. Additionally, signature assignments should uphold the GE Refresh’s mission to emphasize diversity, equity, and inclusion in every course. For example thinking through accessibility, universal design, and representation of diverse voices in shaping these assignments. Instructors will have guidance throughout the Quick Start on implementing these changes.

Signature assignments allow students to demonstrate perspective taking and interdisciplinary thinking using the tools and framework of attributes. These assignments can use Writing, Quantitative Reasoning, Diversity and Equity, and World Cultures and Societies to examine perspectives and solve problems.

Examples of signature assignments include, but are not limited to, reflections (written, oral, artistic, multimedia), presentations (oral, visual, musical, artistic), compositions, research projects, service learning projects, social, economic, or environmental justice projects, and creative endeavors (artistic, design, technological, problem solving).

The use of a learning portfolio (differentiated from a showcase portfolio that one might use professionally) has been identified as a High Impact Practice by the American Association of Colleges and Universities, and its impact is even greater when combined with other high impact practices (such as a first-year seminar). The value added by the GE ePortfolio is to help students develop an understanding of the relevancy of their GE experience. The Refresh GE, through the development of habitual reflection in UNIV 101, the use of Signature Assignments in each core course, and the refinement of the ePortfolio in UNIV 301 provides an opportunity to help students move from a “requirement” mentality of GE to an understanding of the ways in which an interdisciplinary GE experience can increase their abilities to think critically and approach problems creatively. Students will have an opportunity to practice describing their academic journey to date in both written and verbal contexts, as well as practice giving and receiving feedback on their work. The ePortfolio provides a vehicle in which students can practice these essential skills for any career.