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Liberal Learning in Research Universities: Course Distribution in General Education Programs

McInally, David W. (2004) Liberal Learning in Research Universities: Course Distribution in General Education Programs. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This study examines general education course requirements at American research universities and discusses how those requirements relate to the definition of liberal learning. Ten characteristics of liberal education are identified based on a review of the literature on liberal learning, general education, and residential education.The sample includes all members of the American Association of Universities (AAU) located in the United States. Their catalogues were reviewed in order to determine the percentage of degree requirements required for the major and for courses in the natural sciences, arts and humanities, social sciences, writing and speaking, and specialized categories. The percentage of total general education requirements was also determined. The results were analyzed using statistical measures of central tendency. The institutions' mission statements were also reviewed in order to gauge their stated public commitment to liberal education.AAU members require students to complete a broad representation of courses across all of the academic areas noted above. Their total general education requirements are similar to total requirements for the major. They require the largest proportion of courses in the natural sciences, followed by the arts and humanities, social sciences, specialized courses, and writing and speaking. The majority of courses in the specialized category are related to cultural and diversity studies.The institutions' general education requirements strongly support the comprehensive liberal learning goal of educational breadth, and are similar to the requirements in place at liberal arts colleges, as demonstrated by other studies. Mission statements emphasize preparation for citizenship, appreciation for diversity, communication, and critical thinking. In practice, the curricular requirements emphasize quantitative reasoning, diversity, and intellectual and aesthetic growth. AAU members generally have a strong commitment to liberal education, but they favor some liberal learning components over others (e.g., quantitative reasoning versus foreign language skills), and their course requirements do not always reflect the values in their mission statements.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
McInally, David
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairNelson, Glenngmnelson@pitt.eduGMNELSON
Committee MemberLewis, Consuellalewisc@pitt.eduLEWISC
Committee MemberWeidman, Johnweidman@pitt.eduWEIDMAN
Committee MemberThomas, Williamwbt@pitt.eduWBT
Date: 20 October 2004
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 15 September 2004
Approval Date: 20 October 2004
Submission Date: 5 September 2004
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Administrative and Policy Studies
Degree: EdD - Doctor of Education
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: general education; liberal arts
Other ID:, etd-09052004-143001
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 20:01
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:50


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