General Education Program

Strengthening intellectual, creative and professional lives

The following information about General Education courses at Cal Poly can be found on this page.

Cal Poly University Learning Objectives

GE Mission Statement

GE Subject Areas

GE Program Learning Outcomes

GE Program Goals

GE Writing Intensive Courses

Upper-Division General Education Courses

GE Interdisciplinary and Linked Courses

GE Double Counting

USCP Requirement

Inclusivity and Diversity in General Education

Service Learning

Staffing GE Courses 

About the University Learning Objectives

At Cal Poly, we believe that General Education is central and vital to each student's university experience. The GE Program strives to integrate the University Learning Objectives into the GE Curriculum for students. http://www.catalog.calpoly.edu/universitylearningobjectives/

All Students who complete an undergraduate education at Cal Poly should be able to:

  • Think critically and creatively
  • Communicate effectively
  • Demonstrate expertise in a scholarly discipline and understand that discipline in relation to the larger world of the arts, sciences, and technology
  • Work productively as individuals and in groups
  • Use their knowledge and skills to make a positive contribution to society
  • Make reasoned decisions based on an understanding of ethics, a respect for diversity, and an awareness of issues related to sustainability
  • Engage in lifelong learning

GE Mission Statement

The General Education Program is one of the primary sites for realizing Cal Poly's vision of a comprehensive polytechnic education. The program promotes an understanding and appreciation of the foundational disciplines that ground all intellectual inquiry. It enriches the specialized knowledge acquired in a major program with an understanding of its scientific, humanistic, artistic, and technological contexts. The program imparts knowledge and transferable skills, fosters critical thinking and ethical decision making, supports integrative learning, and prepares students for civic engagement and leadership.

GE Subject Areas

GE Program Learning Outcomes

GE PLO #1 ~ Construct and critique arguments from a logical perspective.

GE PLO #2 ~ Use appropriate rhetorical strategies to connect with diverse audiences through oral, written, and visual modes of communication. 

GE PLO #3  ~ Address real world problems by demonstrating broad disciplinary knowledge, skills, and values in arts, humanities, sciences, and technology. 

GE PLO #4 ~ Understand the value of a general education in relation to a major course of study. 

GE PLO #5 ~ Collaborate with people of different backgrounds, values, and experience. 

GE PLO # 6 ~ Evaluate global and local issues and their impact on society.

GE PLO # 7 ~ Use intention and reflection to develop and improve one’s own learning.

Please see here for the GE Program Learning Outcomes Mapped onto to ULOs (PDF)

GE Program Goals

Cal Poly's GE Program seeks to promote connections between the various areas so students and faculty will perceive GE courses as interrelated rather than as isolated fragments. By placing basic knowledge in a larger context, each course in the program should provide a vision of how its subject matter is an important component of GE 2001. Students should understand the value of a discipline being studied as well as its relationship to other disciplines. Students are encouraged to complete foundational courses as early as possible. Lower-division coursework in Areas A-D has been designed to give students the knowledge and skills to move to more complex materials. The three-course Communications sequence, for example, provides instruction and practice in the kinds of skills in writing, speaking, and critical thinking that students will need in later courses. (Consequently, students are expected to complete this sequence during their freshman year, and by no later than the end of their sophomore year.) By the end of the sophomore year, students should also complete lower-division courses in Science and Math, Arts and Humanities, and Society and the Individual.

GE Writing Intensive Courses

All General Education courses must have a writing component. In achieving this objective, writing in most courses should be viewed primarily as a tool of learning (rather than a goal in itself as in a composition course), and faculty should determine the appropriate ways to integrate writing into coursework. While the writing component may take different forms according to the subject matter and the purpose of a course, at least 10% of the grade in all GE courses must be based on appropriate written work.

Writing Intensive courses are located in Areas A1, A3, C1, C2, C4, and D5

These courses include a minimum of 3000 words of writing and base 50% or more of a student's grade on written work. Faculty teaching Writing Intensive courses will provide feedback to students about their writing to help them grasp the effectiveness of their writing in various disciplinary contexts. A significant selection of writing-intensive upper-division courses will be made available. The GE Program is committed to providing the resources to support both the required writing component and Writing Intensive coursework. The kind and amount of writing will be a  factor in determining class sizes, and the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology (CTLT) will provide support and training for faculty.

Upper-Division General Education Courses

Prerequisites:

Per CSU Executive Order (EO) 1100, students should attain junior-standing, or 90-credit units, before enrolling in upper-division (300-level) GE classes. On Cal Poly’s campus, upper-division classes are found in C4, D5, and Area F/B7, and B6.  Because the EO 1100 FAQ offers some flexibility, departments offering a GE course may be granted an exception by the GEGB to the junior standing prerequisite for majors in their department.

In addition, EO 1100 requires students to fulfill the “Golden Four” courses: “At a minimum, students shall be required to have satisfactorily completed the Golden Four courses (written communication, oral communication, critical thinking and mathematics/quantitative reasoning) before enrolling in upper-division GE courses.”

On Cal Poly’s campus, the Golden Four courses are designated as follows:

GE Area A1: Expository Writing (4 units)

GE Area A2: Oral Communication (4 units)

GE Area A3: Reasoning, Argumentation, and Writing (4 units)

GE Area B1: Mathematics/Statistics (4 units)

Students admitted fall 2016 or later must complete courses across the above areas with a C- or better before enrolling in upper-division (300-level) GE courses.  Junior transfer students have already completed these courses and will not be affected by this change.

Upper-Division Content:

Upper-division courses generally prioritize depth over breadth.  In other words, students may study a more narrow subject area in upper-division classes by looking at that subject from multiple, and perhaps competing, cultural, historical, and/or disciplinary vantage points. For instance, course may study specific historical periods, authors, film directors, geographical locations, etc.  Upper-division courses build on lower-division courses from the same GE Area.

GE Interdisciplinary and Linked Courses

All lower-division coursework is considered foundational and is meant to ground students in various disciplines. Consequently, interdisciplinary courses will not ordinarily be offered at the lower-division level. The opportunity for interdisciplinary study will occur primarily at the upper-division level, with lower-division exceptions developing from specific programmatic needs. However, faculty are strongly encouraged to create linked courses. (Linked courses occur when students concurrently enroll in courses from two areas of the GE curriculum-e.g. a course in composition linked to a course in social science.) Academic disciplines are encouraged to cooperate in designing coursework which, when linked, enhances the study of more than one foundational area. Linkages can be thematic or can contribute to a core curriculum. Linked courses are especially encouraged as a way to provide subject matter for courses in writing and speaking, and for courses which connect the arts and humanities with the social sciences, and the liberal arts/sciences with polytechnic and professional curricula.

Linked courses provide options for students. Because many students fulfill part of their GE requirements at community colleges or other four-year institutions, however, all students cannot be required to take linked courses. In addition, conflicts in students' course scheduling often prevent them from enrolling in courses taking more than one term to complete. Courses offered for GE must normally allow students to complete a four-unit requirement in a single quarter. The value of a coherent, integrated program is clear, however, and packages of linked courses should, where possible, be developed as alternative tracks to fulfilling GE requirements.

GE Double Counting

While many lower-division GE courses are necessarily specified as support courses (especially in the sciences), students should be able to choose upper-division courses in Arts and Humanities, Society and the Individual, and Technology. The upper-division electives in these areas are seen as opportunities for students to explore an interest in depth beyond their majors. Per the revised EO 1100, “major courses and campus-wide required courses that are approved for GE credit shall also fulfill (double count for) the GE requirement.”  Beginning in Fall 2019, students will be allowed to double-count GE and major courses. Please note that all Cal Poly students are required to take 72 quarter units of General Education.  See unit distribution requirements here.

U.S. Cultural Pluralism

USCP is a university requirement, and faculty are encouraged to develop GE courses which also meet the USCP requirements. 

Inclusivity and Diversity in General Education

Cal Poly seeks to provide its students with an education rich in diverse experiences and perspectives. Such an education is intended to provide students with knowledge and perspectives fostering empathy, adaptability, and cultural awareness in a changing, complex world. General Education courses seek to enhance students' understanding of and appreciation for difference and diversity. The General Education Program affirms the university's commitment to diversity and inclusion as a value central to the education of Cal Poly students.

All GE courses are expected to address issues of inclusivity and diversity within the context of the material presented in the course. Effective general education courses create an awareness of individuals, social and cultural movements, and political contexts that currently and/or historically make a significant impact on our society (locally, nationally, and/or internationally). Students completing Cal Poly's GE Program should have a clear sense of the intellectual roots that create and contribute to American society, as well as to the ways that various cultures affect how we see ourselves as agents of change in the world. GE courses should address both major and lesser-known contributions to science, mathematics, philosophy, literature, the arts, history, economics, and other areas of human endeavor.

We encourage faculty and students alike to familiarize themselves with Cal Poly’s Diversity and Inclusivity Outcomes and the initiatives lead by Cal Poly’s Office of University Diversity and Inclusion.

Service Learning

A service-learning component is encouraged in courses where it may be appropriate.  Please see more information about service learning at Cal Poly here.

Staffing GE Courses

Faculty teaching General Education courses should meet the following minimum qualifications or their equivalent: An understanding and appreciation of the educational objectives of Cal Poly's GE Program; For teaching lower-division courses, a master's degree in a related field (or, for teaching associates, appropriate training and supervision by an expert in the field); For teaching upper-division courses, a doctorate or an appropriate terminal degree in a related field is not required but is strongly expected; A professional commitment to the subject, as demonstrated by teaching experience, scholarly contributions, or continuing professional education.

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