General Education

The Program in General Education

General Education profoundly influences undergraduates by providing the breadth of knowledge necessary for meaningful work, life-long learning, socially responsible citizenship, and intellectual development. The General Education program places specialized disciplines into a wider world, enabling students to integrate knowledge and to make connections among fields of inquiry.

The General Education program at SDSU comprises over one third of an undergraduate’s course of study and prepares students to succeed in an increasingly complex and rapidly changing world. Our students will live and work in the context of globalization, scientific and technological innovation, cross-cultural encounters, environmental challenges, and unforeseen shifts in economic and political power. Through this program, students will acquire knowledge of human cultures and the physical and natural world that will enable them to engage significant questions, both contemporary and enduring.

To put their breadth of knowledge to work, students gain intellectual and practical skills such as inquiry and analysis, creative and critical thinking, written and oral communication, scientific and quantitative literacy, and technological-information proficiencies. Students practice these skills in progressively challenging venues, mastering learning outcomes from a series of courses drawn from the following four sections:

  1. Communication and Critical Thinking;
  2. Foundations of Learning;
  3. American Institutions;
  4. Explorations of Human Experience;

In order to acquire the skills required for advanced course work within and across disciplines, students should complete the four sections sequentially.

Communication and Critical Thinking

Communication and Critical Thinking are essential skills that underlie all university education. Focusing particularly on argument, courses in this area of General Education help students understand the general function of writing, speaking, and thinking within the context of the university at large, rather than within specific disciplines. In addition to featuring the basic rules and conventions governing composition and presentation, Communication and Critical Thinking courses establish intellectual frameworks and analytical tools that help students explore, construct, critique, and integrate sophisticated texts.

Goals in Communication and Critical Thinking

  1. Craft well-reasoned arguments for specific audiences
  2. Analyze a variety of texts commonly encountered in the academic setting
  3. Situate discourse within social, generic, cultural, and historic contexts
  4. Assess the relative strengths of arguments and supporting evidence

Foundations of Learning

Foundations courses follow and build upon Communication and Critical Thinking courses and are offered through three areas of study by individual departments and interdisciplinary areas in the Natural Sciences and Quantitative Reasoning, Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Humanities and Fine Arts.

Foundations courses introduce students to the basic concepts, theories and approaches offered by disciplinary and interdisciplinary areas of study. They provide the foundation to understand and approach problems in the academy, and in local and global real-world environments. Consistent with class size and learning goals, they cultivate skills in reading, writing, communication, computation, information-gathering, and use of technology. Where appropriate, courses intended as preparation for a major may also be designated as Foundations courses. Only lower division courses will be designated as Foundations courses.

American Institutions

The California Code of Regulations requires that all undergraduate students demonstrate an understanding of American history, the United States Constitution, and California state and local government. Three units of the six units of coursework which meet the American Institutions graduation requirement may be used in General Education.

Explorations of Human Experience

Explorations courses are upper division courses which allow concentrated or thematic study. In Explorations there are three areas of study – Natural Sciences and Quantitative Reasoning, Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Humanities and Fine Arts. Among these areas are courses designated as cultural diversity courses. “Explorations” courses take the goals and skills of “Foundations” courses to a more advanced level. This may find expression in one or more of the following pedagogical elements: greater interdisciplinarity, more complex and in-depth theory, deeper investigation of local problems, and wider awareness of global challenges. More extensive reading, written analysis involving complex comparisons of well-developed arguments, considerable bibliography, and use of technology are appropriate in many explorations courses. Courses narrowly centered within one aspect of a discipline are more suited to major study than general education, which encourages students to relate their learning across the range of their educational experience.

Areas of Study in Foundations and Explorations

A. Natural Sciences and Quantitative Reasoning

Natural Sciences

Natural Sciences use the scientific process to study nature and represent an approach to the study of the universe and its natural laws and phenomena. Students achieve basic scientific literacy and thereby understand the scientific process including the value of observation, hypothesis testing, and experiments in the advance of science. Thus students require a general understanding of fundamental concepts and knowledge accumulated by the natural sciences. From that understanding, students develop an ability to reason about and follow new developments in the natural sciences, and to think in a scientifically informed manner about social and political issues that involve science and technology.

Goals for GE courses in the Natural Sciences

  1. Explain basic concepts and theories of the natural sciences
  2. Use logic and scientific methods to analyze the natural world and solve problems
  3. Argue from multiple perspectives about issues in natural science that have personal and global relevance
  4. Use technology in laboratory and field situations to connect concepts and theories with real-world phenomena

Quantitative Reasoning

Quantitative reasoning refers to a range of academic capacities that includes learning from data, communicating quantitatively, analyzing evidence and assertions, and employing quantitative intuition. While quantitative reasoning is essential to sciences, other disciplines require the ability to use and comprehend quantitative language. To do this, students require the ability to analyze and interpret data in both scientific and social contexts. By possessing this set of mathematical and problem solving skills, students will be able to engage effectively in quantitative situations arising in life and work.

Goals for GE Courses in Quantitative Reasoning

  1. Apply appropriate computational skills and use basic mathematical concepts to analyze problems in natural and social sciences
  2. Use methods of quantitative reasoning to solve and communicate answers to real-world problems
B. Social and Behavioral Sciences

The Social and Behavioral Sciences focus on human behavior, cognition, and organization from anthropological, economic, geographic, linguistic, political, psychological and sociological perspectives. Students gain an understanding of society and culture, as well as individual and social interaction processes. Disciplines within the Social and Behavioral Sciences employ the scientific method and utilize both quantitative and qualitative techniques to analyze the diversity and complexity of human experience. Through interdisciplinary learning, students explore the relationships between human societies and the physical environment.

Goals for GE Courses in the Social and Behavioral Sciences

  1. Explore and recognize basic terms, concepts, and domains of the social and behavioral sciences
  2. Comprehend diverse theories and methods of the social and behavioral sciences
  3. Identify human behavioral patterns across space and time and discuss their interrelatedness and distinctiveness
  4. Enhance your understanding of the social world through the application of conceptual frameworks from the social and behavioral sciences to first-hand engagement with contemporary issues
C. Humanities and Fine Arts

The Humanities and Fine Arts encompass works of the imagination, such as art, literature, film, drama, dance, music, and related scholarship. Students better understand human problems, responsibilities, and possibilities in changing historical contexts and diverse cultures, and in relation to the natural environment. Students acquire new languages and familiarize themselves with related cultures. They gain the ability to recognize and assess various aesthetic principles, belief systems, and constructions of identity. Students acquire capacities for reflection, critique, communication, cultural understanding, creativity, and problem solving in an increasingly globalized world.

Goals for GE courses in the Humanities and Fine Arts

  1. Analyze written, visual, or performed texts in the humanities and fine arts with sensitivity to their diverse cultural contexts and historical moments
  2. Develop a familiarity with various aesthetic and other value systems and the ways they are communicated across time and cultures
  3. Argue from multiple perspectives about issues in the humanities that have personal and global relevance
  4. Demonstrate the ability to approach complex problems and ask complex questions drawing upon knowledge of the humanities