There are six curriculum areas in the General Education experience:
- Basic Math and Analytic Reasoning
- Biological and Physical World
- Social World
- Integrative Experience
Each curriculum area has courses with different letter designations. Students work with their advisors to identify several courses with different designations in each area in order to foster an integrative experience. For information on how to satisfy the requirements in the various curriculum areas, visit Fulfilling the Requirements.
Basic Math and Analytic Reasoning
Mathematics and a few other fields (statistics, computer science, logic, linguistics, etc.) have developed methods of analytic or formal reasoning that involve manipulating numbers or other symbols. Formal reasoning is a type of critical thinking, so this requirement complements the critical thinking skills taught in other Gen Ed courses. There are two course designations in this area: R1 (Tier 1 Basic Mathematics) and R2 (Tier 2 Analytic Reasoning).
Biological and Physical World
Courses in the Biological and Physical World component are offered in all of the traditional sciences, the applied sciences, and a few other fields. These courses expose students to the method that science uses to develop knowledge about the world: formulating a hypothesis and then checking and improving it using data collected by experimentation or observation. This method is a type of critical thinking, and so these courses also hone those skills. There are two course designations in this area:
- BS (Biological Science)
- PS (Physical Science)
- SI (Science Interdisciplinary (see Interdisciplinary Option below)
Students are not required to take courses with an interdisciplinary designation, but may substitute them for other requirements, as listed in the curriculum areas above. Interdisciplinary courses are often experimental, issue-focused, and speak to the basic integrations of (many) fields of human study. Courses of this sort, which focus on topics and which often involve teams of interested faculty, may well be highpoints in the undergraduate experience. There are two course designations in this option: I (Interdisciplinary) and SI (Science Interdisciplinary). Both I and SI courses may be paired with Social and Cultural Diversity (DU/DG).
- I (Interdisciplinary) Interdisciplinary courses integrate two or more of the curriculum areas of the General Education program. In content and pedagogy they cross the boundaries of the General Education disciplinary designations; they do not fall entirely outside the defined disciplines. A course which is interdisciplinary across the areas of physical science and social science, for example, will integrate the fundamental theories and methods of both disciplines to investigate the issues raised in the course. A course may involve the disciplines of historical studies, literature and behavioral science to explore a particular theme. Courses such as these would not be appropriately designated in any single curriculum area, but they encompass the principals and theories of General Education.
- SI (Science Interdisciplinary) Science Interdisciplinary (SI) General Education courses engage frameworks and content that include one or more of the Social World disciplines and, at the same time, one or more of the disciplines of the Biological and Physical World. Science Interdisciplinary courses should provide an understanding of the scientific perspective and mode of inquiry.
An SI course may be used to satisfy one course within the Social World curriculum area. SI courses may not be used to satisfy either the Biological or Physical Sciences requirement.
The Social World component of Gen Ed includes courses in social sciences, history, literature, and the arts. These courses are taught in many different departments at UMass, so they take many different approaches. Despite the differences, they share the goal of helping you to arrive at a better understanding of yourself and other people. All of these courses involve writing and critical thinking. There are four core designations in this area:
A fifth and sixth option are courses designated I (Interdisciplinary) and SI (Science Interdisciplinary), see Interdisciplinary Option above.
Social and Cultural Diversity
The purpose of the Diversity requirement is to broaden students' exposure to ways of thinking about how to understand diverse perspectives and more effectively interact with people from different cultures and backgrounds. There are two types of diversity courses. Courses that primarily, but not exclusively, focus on diversity within the US are designated DU. Courses that focus primarily, but not exclusively, on diversity outside of a US framework are designated DG. All diversity courses are offered jointly with another Social World designation listed above and will appear on SPIRE as: ALDU, ATDU, HSDU, SBDU, IDU, SIDU, ALDG, ATDG, HSDG, SBDG, IDG, or SIDG.
The importance of writing well cannot be overstated; it is an essential skill in the modern world for one’s college experience, personal life, and professional career. The Gen Ed writing requirement seeks to enable students to write with greater clarity and logic, and with a confidence based on improved knowledge about the elements of prose style. There is only one course designation in this area: CW. Contact the Writing Program with any questions regarding both first-year and junior-year writing requirements.
The upper-division integrative experience (IE) provides a structured context for students to reflect on their own learning and explore the connections between the broad exposure provided by General Education and the more focused exposure of their major. The IE addresses the goals by fulfilling each of the following three criteria:
- Providing a structured, credited context for students to reflect on and to integrate their learning and experience from the broad exposure in their General Education courses and the focus in their major.
- Providing students with the opportunity to practice General Education learning objectives such as oral communication, collaboration, critical thinking and interdisciplinary perspective-taking, at a more advanced level.
- Offering students a shared learning experience for applying their prior learning to new situations, challenging questions, and real-world problems.