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Eight things NIU wants students to learn

January 23, 2014

Photo of a mortar board and tassel on a stack of booksEditor’s note: This is the first of a four-part series on student learning outcomes, the focus of NIU’s general education requirements, in advance of the Jan. 29 General Education and Integrative Learning Symposium on campus.

by Michael Kolb

In the modern world, it becomes more critical for NIU’s graduates to be prepared to work in a dynamic, global environment.

This requires the ability to gather and make sense of various forms of information, solve complex issues and transform existing ones, and a mastery of language, technology, and collaboration. Simply, our graduates must leave with a firm grasp of critical thinking, creativity and communication to be successful in the modern work environment.

To encourage NIU students to become lifelong learners and empowered, informed and responsible citizens, the university has set forth eight student learning outcomes (SLOs) as the focus of general education requirements.

  • Integrate knowledge of global interconnections and interdependencies;
  • Exhibit intercultural competencies with people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives;
  • Analyze issues that interconnect human life and the natural world;
  • Demonstrate critical, creative, and independent thought;
  • Communicate clearly and effectively;
  • Collaborate with others to achieve specific goals;
  • Use and combine appropriate quantitative and qualitative reasoning skills to address questions and solve problems; and
  • Synthesize knowledge and skills relevant to one’s major or particular fields of study and apply them creatively to develop innovative outcomes.

NIU Today is discussing these eight SLOs through a series of small articles in the days leading up to the Jan. 29 symposium on general education, which all are encouraged to attend. Participants will learn more about how critical curricular reform is in enhancing NIU’s mission of student career success.

Alexis Lamb

Alexis Lamb

The first of the SLOs – the integration of knowledge of global interconnections and interdependencies – is critical in measuring how NIU instills its students with global self-perspective and knowledge through cultural self-awareness.

Key in being an effective member of the global community is knowing one’s place in the world, how we fit in the global community and how we affect others. How students identify themselves as part of a larger international community, as well as how they develop an understanding of the interdependencies of the large, complex world are indicators of success.

Music student Alexis Lamb, has been acquiring a global knowledge through her studies of the berimbau, a Brazilian single-string percussion instrument. Under the instruction of Greg Beyer, associate professor in the School of Music, Lamb composes and performs music and might present at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention in November.

Also key in the success of our students, and the second SLO, is our students’ ability to exhibit intercultural competencies with people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Having a diverse campus community is a great asset in achieving this goal.

Shareny Mota

Shareny Mota

Through interactions with people from varied walks of life, students develop appreciation for and an understanding of the rich complexity of the human experience. Achieving this goal, NIU students will demonstrate knowledge of, respect for and ability to communicate with people of diverse background and perspectives.

Shareny Mota, through her experience as a peer instructor, mentor and tutor, has gained substantial knowledge of diversity. As a peer mentor in the Huskie Service Scholars program within the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Leaning, Mota is paired with incoming first-generation or low-income students. They engage together in service work on campus and throughout the community.

Both of these SLOs help students gain a broader understanding of our world, and their place in it. They encourage an open perspective and an empathy for the wide spectrum of human experience.

 Michael Kolb is general education coordinator and professor of anthropology at NIU.