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Realizing General Education: Reconsidering Conceptions and Renewing Practice: AEHE Volume 42, Number 2

Realizing General Education: Reconsidering Conceptions and Renewing Practice: AEHE Volume 42, Number 2

Cynthia A. Wells

ISBN: 978-1-119-24465-3

Jan 2016, Jossey-Bass

112 pages

In Stock



General education is widely touted as an enduring distinctive of higher education, but what do we actually mean by general education? Differing perspectives not only make it challenging to consider its significance, but also open it up to a wide range of determinations regarding its effectiveness.

This volume aims to sharpen understanding of the complex picture of general education by:
  • describing how various conceptions of general education evolved historically,
  • identifying various functions expected of general education in the contemporary context, and
  • pointing out the educational practices that fulfill general education’s aims in the current context.
The conceptions of, and aspirations for, general education are consequential. This volume disentangles the divergent conceptions that hinder its renewal and considers the range of avenues for realizing its effectiveness.

This is the second issue of the 42nd volume of the Jossey-Bass series ASHE Higher Education Report. Each monograph is the definitive analysis of a tough higher education issue, based on thorough research of pertinent literature and institutional experiences. Topics are identified by a national survey. Noted practitioners and scholars are then commissioned to write the reports, with experts providing critical reviews of each manuscript before publication.

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Executive Summary vi

Foreword xi

Acknowledgments xiii

The Contextual Significance of General Education in Higher Education 1

General Education’s Interconnection With Higher Education’s Purpose 1

General Education and the Current Context 4

General Education: Many Meanings, Multiple Functions 6

Purpose and Organization of Monograph 9

History Matters: Tracing the Development of General Education 12

Foundations (1636–1783) 13

Additions and Tensions (1784–1869) 16

Industrialization and Mediation (1870–1939) 21

Rapid Growth and New Expectations (1940–1976) 24

Overgrowth and Struggle (1977–2005) 27

Historical Reflections and Insights 30

Contemporary Perspectives and Models 33

Inherited Functions 33

Models of General Education 39

Contemporary Insights 50

Effective General Education in the Current Context 51

Characteristics of Good Practice on the Whole 51

Innovations in General Education 55

Effective General Education Course Design 58

Effective Practices to Support and Sustain General Education 60

Institutional Assessment and General Education 63

Sustaining and Renewing General Education 67

Closing Reflections and Recommendations 68

General Education: A Term of Endurance 69

Recommendations 70

Notes 73

References 75

Name Index 86

Subject Index 89

About the Author 92