Defining Liberal Learning at The College of New Jersey
The College of New Jersey aims to educate students for citizenship in a modern democracy. Proceeding from the College’s mission and its “Guiding Principles for Academic Work,” liberal learning has three interdependent structural elements. The first sparks intellectual and scholarly growth characterized by students’ increasing ability to pose intellectually challenging questions, confront significant problems, and apply focused rigor in seeking promising resolutions. This element ensures that learners gain habits of mind necessary to study and understand human knowledge and how it applies to complex problems. The second element enables students to relate beliefs, values, and intellectual habits to their civic role in society. Such vision requires deep understandings of ways race, ethnicity, and gender have shaped local and global communities. The third element fosters familiarity with essential knowledge about broad sectors of human inquiry. Such familiarity enables students to be conversant in the broad range of intellectual discourse.
Elements of liberal learning include:
I. Intellectual and Scholarly Growth
All first year TCNJ students take a content-based seminar introducing them to serious scholarship and the life of the mind. The First Seminar course (FSP) enables them to demonstrate fundamental dispositions and abilities to engage in academic inquiry. Sections are based on themes selected by each professor and are designed to be intellectually stimulating, writing intensive, and inclusive of students across all programs. Professors serve as mentors, assisting students in thinking about college and life. FSP cannot count toward fulfillment of major requirements, although it may satisfy one of the Broad Sectors of Human Inquiry requirements (see below).
Students’ ability to demonstrate well-developed, confident identities as good writers is accomplished through completion of: WRI 102/Academic Writing; First Seminar; a second or third year writing intensive course in the major or liberal learning; and a capstone or other fourth year writing intensive course in the major. However, students may be exempted from WRI 102 by scoring 580 or better in the SAT Verbal and Math examinations, Advanced Placement courses, portfolio submission, or other assessment means.
Achieving speaking proficiency is measured by students’ ability to demonstrate well-developed, confident identities as good speakers, and is the responsibility of each major program.
A level of second language proficiency enabling students to access perspectives and information from communities other than their own is met by completing the third introductory second language course, or testing out of it. Although it is a goal for all students, only those in departments and programs in the School of Culture and Society and selected programs in the Schools of Art, Media, and Music; Business; and Science currently require it.
Information literacy is measured by students’ ability to determine the need for and gain access to information, as well as to develop the means of evaluating and using it with proficiency. It is accomplished through an on-line, non-credit course administered by the library staff (IDS 102). Students must meet this proficiency prior to graduation, but are encouraged to do so as early as possible.
II. Civic Responsibilities
Students should have an understanding of the nature of race and ethnicity, gender, and global communities, and the impact of each on our lives in the contemporary world. The fulfillment of these goals is achieved by completing major or liberal learning courses designated as meeting each requirement. Each goal may also be met through an approved program or equivalent sustained experience. Also, students should seek to sustain and advance the communities in which they live by engaging in an informed and academically based service experience. The fulfillment of the goal is achieved by completing a course in the major or liberal learning designated as meeting the requirement, or through an approved program or equivalent sustained experience.
No single course, program, or sustained experience may satisfy more than two of the four civic responsibility categories.
III. Broad Sectors of Human Inquiry – Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences, Natural Science and Quantitative Reasoning
This element of liberal learning develops students’ abilities to understand and advance their knowledge in three broad sectors of human inquiry: Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences, and Natural Sciences and Quantitative Reasoning.
There are three paths from which students can choose to complete this goal:
Option A: Designated Interdisciplinary Concentrations or Second and Dual Majors
Interdisciplinary Concentrations consist of a minimum six courses addressing a common theme, similar in that sense to major or minor programs. They are different, however, in that courses comprising particular concentrations must include a range of the three broad sectors of human inquiry, preferably all three as defined above, but necessarily two of the three. Students must take at least six courses, of which no more than four may be in the same broad sector. When an interdisciplinary concentration does not include two courses from each broad sector, additional courses, as necessary, from the appropriate sectors must be completed. Two additional qualifications apply: Every student must complete at least one course each in quantitative reasoning and natural science with laboratory, and when two additional courses are required from the same sector, students must select courses with different prefixes. Interdisciplinary majors may serve as interdisciplinary concentrations, provided they meet the standards.
Students can also satisfy their breadth requirement by successfully completing a second major or a dual major in elementary, early childhood, or special education, provided they also successfully complete at least two courses from each of the broad sectors. As above, every student must complete at least one course each in quantitative reasoning and natural science with laboratory, and when two additional courses beyond those included in the two majors (or in the two parts of a dual major) are required from the same sector, students must select courses with different prefixes. Similarly, if a student needs only one additional course from a sector, its prefix must be different from the other course.
Option B: Self-designed Interdisciplinary Concentrations or Second Majors
Addressing the same three broad sectors, students are invited to create their own concentrations or second majors. A student must secure the sponsorship of at least two faculty members who teach in disciplines included in the proposed concentration. The student must then submit a formal proposal and plan of studies. Proposals need to include provisions for advising, assessment, and scholarly resources, as well as coursework. All other provisions related to sector requirements as described in Option A, above, apply.
Option C: Breadth Distribution
Each of the three broad sectors of human inquiry is sub-divided into two domains as follows:
1. Arts and Humanities
a. Literary, Visual and Performing Arts
b. World Views and Ways of Knowing
2. Social Sciences and History
a. Behavioral, Social or Cultural Perspectives
b. Social Change in Historical Perspective
3. Natural Science and Quantitative Reasoning
a. Natural Science
b. Quantitative Reasoning
Students satisfy Option C by completing three courses in each broad sector, with at least one course from each domain; nine courses altogether.
All First Year Seminar sections are designated as meeting one of the six domains, and, therefore, fulfill one breadth requirement. Furthermore, in satisfying their Natural Science requirement students must take at least one laboratory course. When two Natural Science courses are taken, they may be in one or two disciplines (unless otherwise specified by major requirements).
Courses taken for major or minor requirements may be used to fulfill Option C requirements as appropriate. Also, courses taken to meet the Broad Sectors of Human Inquiry requirements, including First Year Seminar, regardless of option, may also fulfill Civic Responsibilities requirements, as indicated.