University of Massachusetts Amherst

UMass Amherst: General Education

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Biological and Physical World

The Biological and Physical World aspect of the General Education curriculum seeks to insure that students develop an awareness of the world around them; an important component of such a curriculum is exposure to the world of nature. There are two designations in this curriculum area: BS (Biological Science) and PS (Physical Science). Faculty may create a Gen Ed course in either of these designations.

Since the sciences are based on facts from which theories are constructed and tested, students should, ideally, be provided the opportunity to do experiments, make observations, record facts, and evaluate and interpret data.

The Biological Sciences (BS designation) are those that deal with living organisms and their functions and activities; the Physical Sciences (PS designation) are those that deal with inanimate materials and processes. In borderline cases, such as a Gen Ed course in biochemistry and molecular biology, assignment will be made after consultation between the General Education Council and the faculty member. Each Gen Ed course will be assigned to one designation or the other; no course may be assigned to both BS and PS.

Courses with these designations should accomplish the following, when appropriate:

  • Include some historical material showing the evolution of the sciences and how its fundamental theories were formulated
  • Illustrate the scientific method, giving some indication of the most fundamental facts and observations and how these are used to build general principles
  • Address the relevance of the science and its impact on society

This information derives from Faculty Senate Special Report 85-024A and 85-024B and Form K.

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