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Who decides if and how 300-Level courses become part of the program's curriculum?

All JMU faculty share governance of the curriculum. Following the established C&I process, General Education Council must approve any proposal to change to the program (e.g. changing outcomes, adding a new course, deleting a course). A significant change, such as a change to the program’s structure, would go through the Committee on Academic Programs, too, to ensure awareness and broad agreement. But first, faculty will have to consider whether the benefits of integrative learning should be made available to all students or remain a solution for transfer students and other Cluster One non-compliers. This conversation is ongoing.

If this class is approved for all students, will you add credit hours to the program?

There are no plans to add hours to the program’s requirements, which total 40-41 credit hours. It has yet to be determined if a 3 credit, 300-level integrative course will be a new requirement for all students or if those 3 integrative hours would be re-allocated from an existing part of the program.

Given that no new hours will be added doesn’t that mean that a course/s will be removed?

Yes, but since faculty have not yet determined where these courses might best fit (which cluster or area) in the program, it is premature to speculate about related changes.

I heard that these courses are currently replacements for the Critical Thinking courses in Cluster One. Is that true?

True. The experiment began with the recognition that many JMU transfer students now enter the university with most of their first year, cluster one requirements already met. That is, they have a writing/composition course and a human communication course, but lack a critical thinking course. Additionally, every year there are a large number of upper level students (juniors and seniors) who have not completed their first year critical thinking requirement either. The experimental, integrative courses are designed to help students connect learning acquired across multiple domains and experiences, so they are counting as substitutes for first year critical thinking courses, which are not appropriate for cognitively advanced students. How these 300-level courses will “count” in the future and for which population of students remains a topic of conversation.

How will the current Critical Thinking learning outcomes be used in this class?

All General Education courses are required to build upon Cluster One learning outcomes. These courses build on all elements of Cluster One (writing, information literacy, human communication and critical thinking). These courses have their own learning outcomes:

  • Demonstrate advanced information literacy skills
  • Communicate using both written and performance formats
  • Engage with complex questions to achieve identified project goals
  • Apply multiple disciplinary perspectives to a contemporary problem.
How will those integrative outcomes be assessed?

The faculty currently teaching 300-Level courses have all agreed to use three JMU-created rubrics (Writing Rubric, Academic Presentation Rubric, and Integrative Thinking Rubric) to evaluate student work.

I am interested in creating a 300-Level Course-what do I do?

Download the course template (available at the bottom of this page). Reach out for assistance from a cluster coordinator or Associate Vice Provost, Meg Mulrooney.

I already teach in the GenEd program, so can I modify my course to a 300-Level Course?

Absolutely. We currently are offering several 300-Level courses that have been modified by faculty. Mary Gayne’s UNST390/HIST150, Gretchen Hazard’s SCOM318, and Sarah Brooks’s ARTH389 are examples, so check them out. Once the endorsement committee (comprised of faculty who have taught one of these courses) determines that the course meets the learning outcomes for these integrative courses, it will be endorsed or approved by the General Education Program.

Can I develop an entirely new course?

Absolutely.  New courses have run as experiments using an existing UNST designator, under an existing special topics designator in a department, and as an experimental course in a department. You might also consider the jmUDesign development workshop we run in the summer. Talk to a cluster coordinator for details. Once the endorsement committee (comprised of faculty who have taught one of these courses) determines that your syllabus meets the learning outcomes for these integrative courses, the course will be considered endorsed or approved by the General Education Program.

You will be asked to participate in the evaluation and assessment of these courses. Currently, students may only register for these courses if they have completed 45+ credit hours before the course begins.  As such, and in accordance with the course template and rubrics, faculty must ask students to demonstrate advanced written and oral communication skills, to build their information literacy competency, and to examine an issue from multiple perspectives.

What's the difference between integrative, interdisciplinary, and cross-disciplinary courses?
Interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary courses are *usually* integrative, as well. That is, in interdisciplinary undergraduate courses, students typically learn how different disciplines approach the same question/problem/topic, then they integrate and apply what they have learned. In integrative courses, students are also called upon to integrate intentionally what they have learned in other (prior) courses and contexts. Such courses end up being especially transformative because students immediately grasp their value to their own development. And over a decade’s worth of research shows the efficacy of integrative learning experiences for faculty and students alike.
What problem is this course addressing?

From a curricular perspective, we are investigating whether this particular type of course (identified in much of the literature as a high impact practice or HIP) would be beneficial for all JMU students.  We are hoping that these integrative courses improve student learning in the General Education program and help us to achieve the mission of the program.

From an enrollment perspective, it is helping transfer and first year non-compliers to meet the General Education requirement for a critical thinking course.  It also is keeping more advanced students out of classes designed for first-year students (e.g., a 20-year old transfer student in a 100-Level CT/C1 course).

How will the experimental courses be deemed successful?

Assessment results will be used to determine if students are reaching competency on the rubrics.  Additionally, course topics may provide evidence that the General Education program is enhancing the achievement of University-wide initiatives (i.e. sustainability, diversity, engagement, and ethical reasoning).  Additionally, students will reflect on their own learning in the course.