New GERs allow for greater course flexibility

About 390 courses have already been registered to qualify for credit under the new Ways of Thinking/Ways of Doing general education requirements (GERs), which will take effect starting with the Class of 2017.

The Ways requirements will replace both the Disciplinary Breadth and Education for Citizenship GERs, in accordance with the suggestions of the Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford (SUES). The Faculty Senate approved the new requirements last May.

According to Christopher Edwards, chair of the breadth governance board (BGB) that created the new requirements, almost all departments and programs have responded to the requirement to register courses under the new program. Edwards suggested that departments or programs looking to register existing courses should do so by the end of this winter quarter.

“That will allow us to see where we need additional [course] offerings,” Edwards wrote in an emailed statement from Cape Town.

While the degree of crossover between Thinking Matters, the new freshman requirement, and the Ways requirement has yet to be finalized, Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Sharon Palmer ’90 expressed hope that many of the courses developed would fulfill both requirements.

Palmer emphasized that the Ways requirement would not change the Thinking Matters program or its course composition.

“Thinking Matters is an ongoing requirement, and [the Class of 2016] is the anomalous one — [they] have the old breadth system and the new Thinking Matters,” Palmer said. “The next class will have the new breadth system and the new Thinking Matters as well.”

According to Edwards and Palmer, departments will be able to collaborate on classes to fulfill the new requirements. Alternately, departments can also opt to offer courses for non-majors that apply that department’s specific insight to a category of the requirement.

“In the old system, for example, you might have had to take a math or statistics class, but now, a student might fulfill a formal reasoning class with mathematics or statistics, but can also take a logic class or a computer science class,” Palmer said.

However, Edwards stressed that the new Ways requirement is not intended to further the goal of facilitating interdisciplinary studies.

“This is not about being interdisciplinary — although that is often a good thing,” he wrote.

Classes eligible for the Ways requirements will fall under eight categories: Aesthetic and Interpretive Inquiry, Social Inquiry, Scientific Analysis, Formal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Engaging Difference, Moral and Ethical Reasoning and Creative Expression. Students will have to take a total of 11 eligible courses to fulfill the requirement.

About Nitish Kulkarni