Brigham Young University (BYU) Diversity Elimination

BYU-Idaho general education changes

BYU-Idaho news release

Friday, Feb. 06, 2009

In Fall semester 2008, incoming freshman at Brigham Young University-Idaho were introduced to a new general education program known as Foundations. This program has been designed to replace the previous general education courses and provide a more focused and complete approach to learning.

The Foundations program stemmed from a charge to raise the quality of every experience a BYU-Idaho student will have. In his inaugural address on Oct. 11, 2005, President Kim B. Clark stated:

"As we pursue that mission in the years ahead, I believe there are three great imperatives before us, three great things the Lord would have us do. The first is that we must raise substantially the quality of every aspect of the experience our students have. As good as it is today (and believe me, it is very, very good), every dimension of the BYU-Idaho experience -- spiritual, intellectual, social -- must increase in its quality. We must do all of this to better prepare our students for a very challenging world. This will require inspired innovation and important changes in many aspects of our work."

"The Foundations initiative has been under development for more than two years," said Bruce C. Kusch, associate academic vice president for curriculum. "This is a dramatic change to our general education program; it has been completely redesigned."

There are a few key differences between the previous general education program and the new Foundations program. First, Foundations requires students to gain a more focused education. Past general education courses focused on students receiving a broad education in areas outside their chosen discipline. "The traditional general education program was not meeting the needs of students once they entered the workforce or entered graduate school," said Kent Barrus, director of career and academic advising.

The Foundations program differs from general education in how students are able to choose their required courses. In the previous general education program, students had a longer and more diverse list of classes to choose from. This created a significantly different experience for each student. Foundations has purposefully limited the number of classes that a student can choose from. Therefore, all students that complete Foundations will have similar experiences and will have received a more focused educational experience.

Second, the Foundations program uses the BYU-Idaho Learning Model and applies the principle of students teaching students. The principles of the Learning Model ask students to prepare, to teach one another and to ponder and prove. "Every Foundations course is designed to implement the BYU-Idaho Learning Model," Kusch said.

The third difference between the previous general education program and Foundations are the skills that students will gain from completing Foundations courses. "The important and underlying principle of the Foundations program is that it helps students learn how to learn. They will learn skills that will carry over to their lives after they leave BYU-Idaho," Barrus said. Foundations will assist students in gaining critical thinking skills that will benefit them in the workforce and will help them learn how to analyze situations and solve problems. The principles learned in Foundations will also benefit students in their present and future homes. "In the home, they will be able to resolve conflicts and analyze situations," Barrus said.

The last major difference between general education courses and Foundations deals with how the curriculum for Foundations was created. Foundations courses have been designed to be interdisciplinary, providing students with the ability to dive more deeply into the various subject matter areas. For example, the Pakistan Crossroads and Conflict Foundations course required faculty members from the history, geography and religion departments to formulate the curriculum for the class.

"This has required thousands and thousands of hours of preparation by the faculty," Kusch said, "all with the intent to give students a better foundation to build upon for their lives and their BYU-Idaho experience."

Jeff Andersen, a faculty member in the Department of Humanities and Philosophy, teaches the Foundations course Heroic Journey.

The curriculum in the Heroic Journey course has made an increased effort to implement the Learning Model. Classes prior to Foundations were generally lecture based. "Lecture has its place and is still used to lay a foundation upon which group learning is based, but more insights are gained through group discussions than through [the teacher's] own knowledge," Andersen said.

Kip Hartvigsen, Department of English faculty, believes that Foundations courses can benefit teachers as well as students. "Foundations brings teachers to class with freshness. They have to learn along with their students. The challenge of teaching Foundations courses renews a teacher's investment in the course he or she is teaching. Teachers are learning as they teach," Hartvigsen said.

The Foundations program is not without its challenges. "Foundations is a significant change from the previous general education program. It requires a complete paradigm shift. But this will be one of the things that will set our students apart," Barrus said.

The new Foundations requirements generally will not affect current juniors or seniors as most of them should have completed all of their general education courses. However, incoming freshmen will be required to take Foundations courses. Other students may choose to enroll in some Foundations courses, depending on the amount of previous general education work completed. For transfer students, if an associate degree has been earned, the Foundations requirement is complete except for the Foundations Capstone course and Eternal Truths, which are the religion courses. The curriculum for the Capstone course is currently being developed and will be offered in future semesters.