by Michael Kolb
The PLUS Task Force is pleased to present a draft report of Progressing Learning in Undergraduate Studies for public comment.
This report describes an enhanced program of baccalaureate studies at Northern Illinois University – one of advancement and distinction that will help set NIU apart as a 21st century institution of higher education.
Beginning with the provost’s charter in January 2013, the PLUS Task Force has spent 21 months exploring pedagogical aims, instructional quality and curricular practices that integrate major studies, general education and high-impact practices.
The task force has steadfastly reached out to students, faculty, administrators, alumni and community college partners to discover our best institutional practices and develop a shared purpose for the future. We have worked hard to set ourselves above the specific interests of individual faculty, departments and disciplines.
We have had the opportunity to observe and collaborate with a number of ongoing NIU initiatives in baccalaureate teaching and learning. We believe that NIU is making great progress in revitalizing the undergraduate experience. We have undertaken our work in a spirit of partnership with these parallel enterprises, and we hope that this proposal brings all of this good work into proper focus.
We have also worked toward transforming the menu-driven sprawl of our general education breadth requirements into a flexible and sustainable program that accommodates both native and transfer students, and infusing meaning into a curriculum that students describe as “disconnected” and “pointless.”
While still acknowledging NIU’s commitment to the Illinois Articulation Initiative, our philosophy has instead focused on creating structured “pathways” of interdisciplinary course bundles that are centered upon timely intellectual issues, pathways that culminate in an earned general education PLUS minor and segue into the major areas of study. We believe that the purpose of general education is not to attract students into a discipline, but rather infuse disciplines into the lives of students.
The sum of this work is an integrated baccalaureate program that offers a blend of academic, critical-thinking and technical skills so that students are flexible and nimble enough to be able to thrive in a 21st century economy where many future jobs have not even been created yet. It is critical that NIU graduates depart as lifelong learners – prepared as citizens for both the challenges and the marvels of the future.
The report makes two sets of recommendations, one about infusing specific high impact practices into the baccalaureate program, and a second regarding general education reform. The full report and its executive summary are available online.
Three open forums also have been scheduled for public comment.
- Thursday, Oct. 2, 3 to 4:30 p.m., Altgeld 315
- Friday, Oct. 3, 2 to 3:30 p.m., Illinois Room of Holmes Student Center
- Monday, Oct. 6, 9 to 10:30 a.m., HSC Illinois Room
Michael Kolb is general education coordinator and a Presidential Teaching Professor of anthropology at NIU.