Essential Studies Syllabus Language

Communicating the purpose and educational value of Essential Studies courses occurs in multiple ways. All ES instructors should include a section of their syllabus devoted to explaining the role their course plays within the program - the ES learning goals it addresses, its Breadth of Knowledge and/or Special Emphasis designations, and whether it is an ES Capstone. In fact, in her Honor thesis research, in which she interviewed UND students about Essential Studies, Lisa Schock found that instructor's specific ES reminders and explanations - about how the coursework was directly connected to the ES learning goal or Special Emphasis area - were key components for students and their learning (2011).

Instructors are welcome to use their own syllabus language to describe the role their course plays in the ES Program. However, if it is helpful, below please find text that can be pasted into the Essential Studies section of a course syllabus. Simply choose the text corresponding to the different ES Program attributes possessed by the course.

Oral Communication:

This course addresses the Essential Studies learning goal of Oral Communication. This means it is about presenting information (formally or informally) in various settings and to various audience sizesto achieve some purpose, such as to increase the listeners’ knowledge, to foster their understanding of a topic, or to promote a change in their attitudes, values, beliefs, or behaviors. You can expect to work on these skills in this course.

Written Communication:

This course addresses the Essential Studies learning goal of Written Communication. This means it is about developing and expressing ideas in writing or with a mix of words, data, and images. You can expect to work in different genres and styles of writing as you develop your written communication skills in this course.

Critical Inquiry & Analysis:

This course addresses the Essential Studies learning goal of Critical Inquiry & Analysis. This means it will focus on collecting and analyzing information to reach conclusions based on evidence.

More specifically, inquiry should be thought of as a systematic process of exploring issues, objects, or works through the collection and analysis of evidence that results in informed conclusions or judgments. Analysis is the process of breaking complex topics or issues into parts to gain a better understanding. You should expect to focus on these intellectual skills as part of this course.

Information Literacy:

This course addresses the Essential Studies learning goal of Information Literacy. This means it is about being able to find necessary information, understanding where that information comes from, and evaluating and using that information appropriately.

More specifically, information literacy is the set of integrated abilities encompassing the reflective discovery of information, the understanding of how information is produced and valued, and the use of information in creating new knowledge and participating ethically in communities of learning. You should expect to focus on these intellectual skills as part of this course.

Intercultural Knowledge & Skills:

This course addresses the Essential Studies learning goal of Intercultural Knowledge and Skills. This means it is about acquiring the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to interact successfully with others from different backgrounds and being able to apply that understanding to contemporary issues.

More specifically, intercultural knowledge and skills foster the capacity to meaningfully engage with the perspectives of people whose cultures and identities are different from your own. To meaningfully engage with others' perspectives, you must be aware of how those perspectives are shaped by larger social structures, by issues of contemporary importance, and by issues that arise in global society. You should expect to focus on these intellectual skills as part of this course.

Quantitative Reasoning:

This course addresses the Essential Studies learning goal of Quantitative Reasoning. This means it will focus on how you can become competent and comfortable when working with numbers and graphic displays of information based on numbers.

More specifically, quantitative reasoning is competency and comfort in working with numerical data, using it to reason and solve quantitative problems from a wide array of authentic contexts and everyday life situations, and to create and clearly communicate sophisticated arguments supported by quantitative evidence, such as by using words, tables, graphs, mathematical equations, etc., as appropriate. You should expect to focus on these intellectual skills as part of this course.

Communication:

This is an Essential Studies Communication course, and as such is meant to introduce, and give you the opportunity to practice, the skills necessary to speak and write effectively in civic, academic, and professional settings. Because effective communication is learned through continued practice, Essential Studies Communication courses place a strong emphasis on process; your instructor will give regular feedback on your speaking and/or writing and you will be required to produce multiple oral presentations and/or written texts. These assignments will certainly require you to work with particular content or information, but they’ll also demand that you are aware of rhetorical strategies and style of delivery.

ES Communication courses are designed to encourage the development of the following skills:

  • Awareness of purpose and the construction of argument.
  • Awareness of audience.
  • The ability to analyze, synthesize, and incorporate outside sources and the ideas of others; using the conventions associated with citing sources and communicating clearly in various disciplines.

Social Sciences:

This is an Essential Studies Social Sciences course, and as such involves the study of the behavior and cultures of humans – individually or in groups. This course will involve empirical analysis in order to evaluate and make predictions or draw conclusions about human behavior; the interpretations you arrive at in this course will come via induction, deduction, or a combination of both.

  • ES courses in the social sciences introduce students to human behavior.
  • ES courses also introduce students to some of the methodologies through which conclusions in the various disciplines are reached: probabilistic explanatory models, case studies, censuses, historical document analysis, oral histories, ethnographies, surveys, participant observations, analysis of material evidence (artifacts), experiments or quasi-experiments.

Fine Arts:

This is an Essential Studies Fine Arts course, and as such involves a focus on artistic creation.

  • ES courses in the fine arts take as their primary goal instruction in techniques used for imaginative creation including, though not necessarily limited to, visual or aural productions, the performance arts, and linguistic expressions.
  • ES courses in the fine arts also include instruction in ways of interpreting or evaluating creative productions.

Humanities:

This is an Essential Studies Humanities course, and as such involves the investigation and interpretation of human behavior and affairs, culture, thought, language, literature, text, and symbols.

  • ES courses in the humanities take as their primary goal the analysis of language, history, culture, text, society, formal structures, and artistic work.
  • ES courses in the humanities may help students develop facility with language.

Math, Science, and Technology:

This is an Essential Studies Math, Science, & Technology course. It therefore fits into one of the following subareas:

Mathematics: Mathematics is a body of knowledge based on patterns, abstraction and logical reasoning, often involving quantity, structure, space, or change. Mathematics uses formal reasoning to investigate relationships between abstract patterns.

  • Many courses in mathematics involve numerical skills and quantitative reasoning.
  • ES courses in mathematics should give students some experience in abstract reasoning as well as the use of such reasoning to reach conclusions about the world.

Natural Sciences: Pure science is concerned with the production of knowledge about the natural world. As such, it is often based on natural observation, experimentation and analysis.

  • Courses in the natural sciences make use of inductive and deductive reasoning, in conjunction with the scientific method, to investigate how the natural physical, chemical, and biological world operates.
  • ES courses in the natural sciences should give students experience in asking questions about the natural world and the chance to use observation and experimentation to formulate answers to those questions.

Engineering and Technology: Engineering and technology are concerned with the construction or production of tangible items. They often involve application of mathematics or science to produce useful products, and they make use of mathematics and the natural sciences to design, create and alter the human environment and our interactions with that environment.

  • Courses in engineering teach students how engineering/technology projects are initiated and carried out.
  • ES courses ask students to think carefully about societal and cultural consequences of the use of engineering and technology.

Advanced Communication:

This course is an Essential Studies Special Emphasis course in Advanced Communication, which means it places a strong emphasis on practice and process in communication. You will receive regular feedback on your speaking and/or writing, and you will be required to produce multiple spoken presentations and/or written texts. In addition to assignments which require you to work with content, they will also demand that you are aware of rhetorical strategies and styles of delivery.

As an Advanced Communication course, at least 1/3 of your assignments will emphasize writing and/or speaking skills, and you should expect these assignments to build on skills developed in earlier courses – such as awareness of audience and purpose, argumentation and rhetorical effectiveness, or the communication conventions associated with particular civic, academic, and professional contexts.

You should also expect to receive feedback on the quality of your communication in writing and/or oral presentation assignments, and have the time necessary to use that feedback to improve your writing and/or oral communication skills.

The Diversity of Human Experience:

This course is an Essential Studies Special Emphasis course about The Diversity of Human Experience, which means it places a strong emphasis on helping you understand human diversity and considering the multiplicity of differing worldviews. Doing so may occur by studying the values, perspectives, traditions, and beliefs of a particular group or groups.

As a Diversity of Human Experience course, at least 1/3 of this course’s focus and graded assignments will help you recognize the existence of cultural differences and the complexity of social identities, understand that our worldviews are constructed through our identities and cultures, and give you defined opportunities to reflect on your own identity, culture, and worldview.

Analyzing Worldview:

This course is an Essential Studies Special Emphasis course about Analyzing Worldview, which means it has a primary focus of helping you develop a set of transferrable academic skills you can use to productively interact with people of diverse backgrounds. You will be asked to recognize social and cultural difference while understanding how our worldviews are shaped by our identities and cultures. You will be encouraged to think about the real-world consequences of people’s different worldviews.

As an Analyzing Worldview course, at least 1/2 of this course’s focus and graded assignments will help you analyze how worldviews are shaped, how privilege and oppression are part of larger social institutions and systems, how ideologies are the fundamental means through which systems of privilege and oppression are organized, and help you practice the reflective thinking necessary to understand yourself as existing within ideological systems which involve oppression and privilege.

Quantitative Reasoning:

This course is an Essential Studies Special Emphasis course in Quantitative Reasoning, which means it must emphasize improving your confidence with mathematics, your ability to interpret data, your ability to make decisions using data, your ability to use mathematics in academic and practical contexts, and your number sense.

Assignments in this course should help you become comfortable with quantitative ideas and at ease in applying quantitative methods. They should help you reason with numbers, data, and graphs, including being able to make inferences based on this type of information. This includes being able to use these quantitative skills to make decisions and solve problems in everyday life, thereby making mathematics and mathematical proficiency a powerful tool for living, as engrained in your intellectual toolkit as reading and speaking.

ES Quantitative Reasoning courses should also help you by requiring you to use mathematical and quantitative tools in context – and not just as part of abstract problem solving. This may include civic, professional, or personal situations that you may be likely to encounter. Assignments should help you build accurate intuition about the meaning of numbers, confidence in estimation, and common sense about employing numbers to measure things.

This course is an Essential Studies Capstone course, and as such represents an opportunity to consolidate, synthesize, and make use of the wide variety of intellectual skills you’ve acquired as part of your undergraduate curriculum. This course’s Essential Studies learning goals will be an intentional and thoughtful focus of the course, meaningfully integrated into the work that you do. You can expect to produce work in those goal areas that is at an advanced level, and which represents a culmination of your undergraduate educational experience.