Gen Eds to require less credit, more thinking

By Rachel Aretakis

The new General Education program will replace the University Studies Program starting for incoming freshmen this fall, bringing multiple changes in courses and teaching methods.

The Gen Ed curriculum will consist of 30 credit hours, compared to the 40 hours required from the current University Studies Program.

The Gen Ed reforms began in 2008 when the University Senate and the provost recommended the new curriculum to improve student learning.

The curricular framework consists of four learning outcomes: Intellectual Inquiry, Composition and Communication, Quantitative Reasoning and Citizenship. Each learning outcome is explained in more detail on the General Education website at

Assistant Provost Nikki Knutson said the Gen Ed program consists of new courses as well as revamped classes that better fit the program.

In the past couple of semesters, some courses have been piloted to test the new program, she said.

One course that was piloted was Intro To World Politics taught by Clayton Thyne, assistant professor of political science. He reworked his class to fit the new learning outcomes of the General Education program.

“The revised course is geared towards getting the students to think critically about their subject,” Thyne said.

Previously the goal of the course was to prepare students for advanced courses, and now the main focus is learning how to think critically, he said.

“Students in the revised course left with skills they could apply to any future course and to the world outside of UK,” Thyne said.

He said this should make students more attractive to employers.

The new program focuses on active learning, and Thyne said in his class, students completed a research project where they “largely chartered their own course of study in the class.”

Thyne said that retooling his course was difficult because the new requirements are demanding.

“It required a philosophical change in what I thought even could be accomplished at a large, research-oriented university,” Thyne said.

Journalism Professor Buck Ryan also said reworking his course, Citizen Kentucky: Journalism and Democracy, was difficult.

“I viewed this as a creative challenge,” Ryan said. “The expectations for the learning outcomes for the class set a very high standard.”

Ryan said he had to figure out how to create assignments and measure whether students have learned the material.

Like Thyne, Ryan worked active learning into his class to better fit the requirements.

“The challenge for active learning inspired me to have the students become the historical figures and actually debate each other,” Ryan said.

He thinks his students responded positively to the course changes, especially the active learning aspect.

“The real measure (of success) for me is what students are able to do,” Ryan said.

Freshman journalism student Lindsey Austin took Ryan’s class last semester and enjoyed his “hands-on style of teaching.”

“The teaching style was different than that of any other class I’ve taken,” Austin said. “We didn’t have tests, and we only ever really wrote one paper, which we had multiple chances of correcting and rewriting. Yet I surprisingly learned a lot from the class.”

Austin said that his approach was beneficial and that she wishes more professors would follow his lead.

“Everyone learns more from everyday, personal experiences than (from) reading a book or falling asleep during a lecture,” Austin said.

Though both Ryan and Thyne received positive feedback about their courses, Thyne said his class has become more challenging.

“The Gen Ed reforms makes UK a hostile place for the slackers to find success,” Thyne said.

Thyne is excited about the new program, but said that it will only succeed if everyone is on board.

“Altering the status quo is difficult, and it’s going to take continued support and pressure to get all professors on board with altering what they’ve been doing for years,” Thyne said.

“The one thing I am not worried about is the students … their responses to the demands of my course were fantastic, and they will respond if we push them harder.”