Critical thinking, problem-solving and informational literacy are at the heart of Middle Tennessee State University’s restructured general education program, which will be implemented at the beginning of the fall 2024 semester.
True Blue Core — the name for the newly revamped set of requirements — will be unveiled at 1 p.m. Monday, Feb. 26, at a launch party and program at the MT Center inside the Sam H. Ingram Building, 2269 Middle Tennessee Blvd., and attended by MTSU Provost Mark Byrnes, faculty and administrative leaders and the wider campus community.
“True Blue Core is the foundation for academic, professional and personal success as well as informed civic engagement and lifelong learning,” explained history professor Susan Myers-Shirk, director of MTSU General Education/True Blue Core.
Program changes have been five years in the making, Myers-Shirk said, with the goal of preparing students excel in a dynamic and diverse world.
“We started the process in 2018 and in the spring of 2021, we approved eight new student learning outcomes and the following spring, we approved a restructuring of the general education curriculum,” Myers-Shirk said. “It’s been a universitywide project.”
The True Blue Core Committee — comprised of faculty, students and staff — developed guidelines for coursework designed to provide students with relevant skills and knowledge they need to succeed in their majors, careers and beyond, she said.
The previous general education guidelines were the same across all state colleges and universities. Prior to 2017, MTSU was governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents and part of the State University and Community College System of Tennessee.
General education encompasses 41 hours of courses each MTSU student must have on their transcript, such as English, math and history.
“For 20 years, state institutions had to have identical courses and the same outcomes,” Myers-Shirk explained.
After 2017, the governance was transferred to an institutional board of trustees, giving MTSU autonomy to tailor guidelines to suit the student body.
“We are shifting the language from general education to core curriculum,” Myers-Shirk explained. “We took all our old general education courses and put them into the new curriculum. We then made some structural changes and ended up creating new categories that aligned with the categories in the previous curriculum.”
True Blue Core outcomes
The True Blue Core categories were then aligned with the new student learning outcomes. Those eight outcomes include:
- Written communication.
- Information literacy.
- Nonwritten communication.
- Quantitative literacy.
- Critical thinking.
- Inquiry and analysis.
- Intercultural understanding.
- Civic learning.
“We selected the new outcomes based on market research, and these are the skills employers say they want students to have when they graduate,” Myers-Shirk said.
With the changes, course offerings have been expanded to suit the needs and interests of students — especially ones related to major and minor areas of study. Dual enrollment and Advanced Placement credits continue to count toward fulfilling the requirements. The design is “very intentional.”
“We wanted courses for students so they could do more than ‘check the box,’ so to speak. So they can see clear connections between their core courses majors and careers,” Myers-Shirk said. “There are lots of new courses coming in.”
For instance, taking a foreign language can now help meet your nonwritten communication requirement. A new History of Aviation course is likely to appeal to aerospace majors. Personal finance might better suit some students’ interests than algebra. There are even new theatre classes on acting aimed at nonmajors.
“When professors revised courses for the new True Blue Core, they had to show they had included assignments that would meet the guidelines for student learning outcomes. Faculty are the drivers of these outcomes,” Myers-Shirk said. “It encouraged faculty engagement in this process and helped them think explicitly, ‘What are students really learning and what are they wanting them to learn?’”
Final adjustments and additions are still in the works, but the foundation is there, Myers-Shirk said.
Learn more at the Feb. 26 launch and visit https://mtsu.edu/truebluecore/.
— Nancy DeGennaro (Nancy.DeGennaro@mtsu.edu)