A General Education Program at San Francisco State University

Reference Number: F80-064
Senate Approval Date: Monday, September 01, 1980
Archival Information: 


***This policy was superceded by F04-064: General Education Program Policy Consolidation***

(includes amendments from #S88-64)


The types of courses and the goals or general learning outcomes to be expected are presented by the Council as guidelines. The more detailed objectives will be written by the various committees of the Council with appropriate consultation. It is assumed that these objectives will be sufficiently detailed to help faculty in designing new courses/programs and to help the committees in evaluating both new courses/programs and existing courses/programs as to their appropriateness for general education. It is also assumed that these objectives will permit considerable flexibility in the ways they may be achieved.


The entire campus community must become involved in creating and contributing to the general education program. It is not the intention that rigid objectives and rigid evaluation procedures curtail any creative endeavors and/or discourage faculty, particularly those from the traditional "non-general education" schools and programs -- for example, the Schools of Education, HPER, Business, and Ethnic Studies -- from participating in the program.


The criteria to be used in evaluating course/program proposals and associated faculty must be carefully designed, published, and reviewed according to procedures to be established by the General Education Council.



Establishment of General Education Committees.

The General Education Committees will establish detailed objectives and general learning outcomes prior to the development and review of courses/programs for general education. The General Education Council will develop criteria, standards and procedures for course evaluations. Consultations and liaison with experts from the Arts and Sciences Core and from the Schools of Education, HPER, Business and Ethnic Studies will take place.


Regular procedures of departments and school councils for course approval will be followed by review and approval by the appropriate general education committee of courses and program submitted for the general education program. All areas of the University are encouraged to submit courses and programs for general education purposes.


Implementation of general education program; continued review and approval of course and program proposals. All general education committee deliberations on approval of new general education courses must be completed no later than one month before department chairs are required to submit class schedules to the administration in a given semester.

At the end of each semester, standardized evaluation procedures for all general education courses and programs will be implemented.



In September 1978, the General Education Council submitted to the Chancellor's Task Force on General Education a copy of the Council's Draft Proposal on general education and evaluations of the Task Force's first proposal which had been sent to the various campuses within the System at the end of the Spring Semester, 1978. In October 1978, the Council submitted to all faculty and administrators, and to all students through their representatives, a Draft proposal for a general education program. During the months of November and December 1978, the Council met with President Romberg; directors and members of several administrative units; General Education Committees, or representatives, of all colleges; members of the Interdisciplinary Task Force; and members of the University Planning Group. The Council also held several open meetings for all faculty and students so that it could get responses to the Draft Proposal. In addition, the Council received from the college committees, from some administrative units, and from some faculty members written evaluations of the Draft Proposal and either recommendations for revision or substitute proposals.

During the Spring Semester, 1979, the Council met weekly to discuss all comments, evaluations, and proposals received in response to the Draft Proposal. As might be expected, there was considerable agreement and considerable disagreement with the Draft Proposal, between and among the college reports, and among viewpoints on general education. Our Recommendations for a General Education Program reflects an attempt to include all recommendations we received which, from our viewpoint, were academically sound; to retain and/or incorporate elements of common agreement; and to reconcile, insofar as possible, the disagreements and opposing viewpoints.

It must be emphasized that our fundamental concern was in designing a general education program which was academically supportable and which would include all segments of our campus community. We believe it is in the best interest of our students, our faculty, and the program to encourage all colleges, departments, and programs to participate actively in the general education of our students.



If specialized education prepares students for careers, general education introduces them to a lifetime of learning about themselves and about the world in which they live. Above all, general education should whet students' appetites for continued intellectual growth and help develop an appreciation for the tentative nature of human knowledge which must be constantly added to, subtracted from, and modified in the light of subsequent discovery.

If general education is to fulfill its intended purposes, students, faculty, and administrators cannot and must not regard this component of learning as x-number of units to be completed as quickly as possible in order to get on to that which "really matters." Rather, all sectors of the university community must regard the general education program as one which provides students with the attainment of abilities, understandings, and knowledge which cannot possibly be gained from the narrower perspective required of specialized education programs.

Our recommendations for the increase in units from 40 to 48 are based on the very strong belief that a general education must be an integral part of all baccalaureate degree programs and, as such, all students must be involved in pursuing the goals of general education throughout their undergraduate years in order to share perspectives with students in other majors. The recommended increase of 8 units is to provide a substantial upper division component which can be used to help students integrate the knowledge and skills they have gained through their general education experiences with those they have gained, or are pursuing, in their major programs. The recommended types of courses and the objectives, described in most general terms, are meant to provide students the opportunity not only to explore the various disciplines but also to develop an awareness of the interrelationships among these disciplines. A more in-depth investigation of the disciplines should be reserved for the major and minor programs.

In this document, the section which deals with Principles contains statements of "objectives of general education." These statements are not meant to be all-inclusive but, rather, to serve as guidelines for the development of the overall general education program. The section on Distribution of Units Within the General Education Component presents in tabular form the distribution of units in this component of all baccalaureate degree programs; recommendations concerning the required number of upper division units in general education; and recommendations for double counting of units for general education. Other sections contain a statement of intent concerning course/program objectives; evaluation procedures; competency assessment; and a summary of the types of courses to be included in the three Segments of the general education program. The section on Course Descriptions/Objectives contains detailed descriptions and objectives. Again, these statements are broad and general and are intended to serve as guidelines. There is a strong belief that the members of the General Education Council as well as the members of the General Education committees of any particular college do not possess sufficient expertise in all areas of general education to be able to write detailed objectives for all areas within the program. It is for this reason that we recommend the creation of committees of experts for the various Segments. The first task of each committee will be to develop and publish the detailed objectives for courses within its jurisdiction. The section dealing with Implementation contains recommendations for a Student Advisement Center; recommendations for the structure of the various committees; the responsibilities of these committees and of the General Education Council; and the administration of the general education program. Copies of all proposals and comments which the Council received from college GE committees, departments, programs, and individual faculty members in response to the draft proposals are on file in the Academic Senate Office.




PRINCIPLE 1: The first objective of general education is to develop basic competency in communications, critical thinking, and quantitative reasoning.

A general education should help students achieve a level of proficiency expected of college students in receptive communication skills -- listening and reading -- and expressive communication skills -- speaking and writing. A general education should provide students with the ability to think logically, critically, and analytically about issues which affect individuals and societies and the ability to make and/or contribute to decisions governing the resolution of these issues. A general education should provide students with the ability to understand and process statistical information and be able to work with mathematical principles considered essential to a college education.

PRINCIPLE 2: The second objective of general education is to develop an understanding of the contributions and influences of the sciences, social sciences, humanities, and creative arts toward the development of civilization and toward the identification, investigation, and resolution of individual and societal problems.

A general education should provide students with appropriate substantive knowledge and an understanding of the processes involved in these broad divisions of knowledge (i.e., the styles, functions, methods, epistemological, and symbolic systems) and the interrelationships as well as the interdependencies of these processes.


PRINCIPLE 3: The third objective of general education is to develop an understanding of the role of values in affecting human behavior.

A general education should provide students with an understanding of their own values and those of others who come from different cultural traditions and institutions but also those of at least one other cultural system in the world, past or present. It is important that students understand what happens when differing individual and/or societal values come into conflict and the processes by which such conflict may be resolved.


A general education should also facilitate an awareness and understanding of American ethnic minorities in the integration and application of the learning outcomes as they are articulated in the General Education proposal.

PRINCIPLE 4: The fourth objective of general education is to promote an appreciation of the interrelationships among skills, knowledge, and values rather than serve to introduce future majors to the various disciplines or departments.

The general education curriculum must have its own rationale for existence -- the curriculum should better prepare students for life in a complex, demanding, and rapidly changing world. General education should provide students with an understanding that subdivisions of areas of knowledge are simplifications of reality for the convenience of research and more manageable analysis. In order for students to appreciate the multi-dimensional nature of learning, courses offered for general education should introduce students to a particular discipline in a larger context which relates that discipline to other disciplines or be interdisciplinary.

PRINCIPLE 5: The fifth objective of general education is to provide the opportunity to further develop competence in the integration and application of the learning outcomes described in Principles 1 though 4.

In the upper division general education curriculum, students will integrate and apply their skills and knowledge to the identification, investigation, and resolution of individual and societal concerns and to the appreciation of human achievements. General education is not exclusively a lower division activity but one which extends throughout the collegiate experience. All students, native and transfer, should have both core/cornerstone learning experiences at the lower division level and culminating/capstone learning experiences at the upper division level.



As a long-term objective, it is desired that both the Communications and Reasoning portions of Segment I, Basic Subjects, will be competency-based. However, no such requirement is now made until the General Education Council and its Research Committee are able to establish the efficacy of such a goal for such areas as Oral Communications, Critical Thinking and Quantitative Reasoning.


Resources must be made available to conduct appropriate diagnostic procedures where appropriate -- including the design and administration of examinations -- for entering freshmen and transfer students as well as for faculty allocations required to teach special courses which may need to be designed for students to help them achieve the desired level of competency.

Credit by Examination or Evaluation

The procedures for obtaining credit by examination or evaluation are described in the University Bulletin.

Introductory courses, new or adapted courses/programs in Segment II, Arts and Sciences Core, and Segment III, Relationships of Knowledge, will be designed to provide students with the knowledge and understanding of the interrelationships and interdependencies among the broad divisions of knowledge as well as with the ability to apply their knowledge and understanding to situations in life. Those procedures (examinations, portfolios, etc.) which are used to determine credit by examination or evaluation must be carefully designed and scrupulously administered to assure that students possess those abilities and understandings for which the general education program is designed and at a level expected of college students.



Segment I, Basic Subjects, consists of courses which help students further develop competency in communications (writing/reading, speaking/listening), critical thinking, and quantitative reasoning. The term subjects rather than skills is used in the title of this Segment to suggest that these competencies may be taught within a contextual framework but with the primary goal of helping students achieve a level of proficiency expected of college students -- the "organizing" principle of courses in this Segment must be, in fact, the development of the desired proficiency. These courses should not be "remedial" but, rather, should be designed to help students build on those competencies they should have as entering college students. Although the objectives of course work in Segment I are somewhat different from the objectives of course work in Segments II and III, it is possible that courses in Segment I could be designed to include two or more competency areas; two or more faculty members might collaborate in designing a course/program proposal; and courses might be team-taught, offered in sequence, or offered in parallel. All areas of the University are encouraged to submit courses for Segment I, Basic Subjects.


Segment II, Arts and Sciences Core, is a breadth requirement and includes courses which facilitate students' understanding the basic elements of methods of inquiry and the general distinction among methods of treating phenomena; understanding oneself and one's physical, biological, and social environments; the examination of factors which influence various value systems, beliefs, and attitudes (e.g., beliefs and attitudes toward minorities, men/women, the aged, disabled, and dominant, sub-dominant, and foreign cultures); in general, the understanding that many of the concerns expressed in the areas of science, behavioral and social sciences, and humanities and creative arts are reflections of socio-cultural concerns. Among courses in Segment II shall be those which give students the direct opportunity to apply Segment II content to the understanding, integration, and conduct of their own lives.

Courses in each of the three component areas of this Segment should be structured into coherent curricular sequences or tracks. It is anticipated that a number of such tracks will be developed from which students may choose. In keeping with the desire to encourage sufficient breadth, no more than six units of a student's program in each component area of this Segment may be made up of courses sharing the same prefix.

Courses for Segment II may be designed by one faculty member or two or more faculty members housed in the same department or in different departments/colleges, who may choose to collaborate on a course/program proposal which may involve several units of credit and may be team-taught or courses offered in parallel or in sequence. The courses in Segment II must encourage students to discover relationships among various disciplines, and the requirements of Segment II should encourage faculty to design or redesign courses to specific disciplines may well quality, with the approval of the appropriate general education committee, to fulfill the requirements of this segment.

Committees of the General Education Council which are charged with evaluating and approving course/program proposals for Segment II should recommend that some upper division courses be included.

Segment III, Relationships of Knowledge, includes courses or blocks of courses which are interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary and represent internal cohesion. For example, these courses or blocks of courses may be the core courses for an interdisciplinary minor; they may be courses or blocks of courses designed to focus on issues, problems, or themes; and they may include field studies, research projects, or experiments designed to help students integrate those competencies and understandings gained in Segments I and II.

Courses in all three Segments may be designed by faculty members from the Colleges of the Arts and Sciences Core and from the inter-college programs, as well as from the Colleges of Education, HHS, Business, and Ethnic Studies. All General Education Committees are expected to maintain an open policy toward acceptance of course proposals from departments and colleges not normally in the area designated by the committee title. The courses or blocks of courses may be team-taught, offered in parallel, or offered in sequence.

The department, program, or college HRTP committee will assess and approve the qualifications of faculty who wish to teach an approved general education course with that department's, program's, or college's prefix.




Lower Division Semester Units




Upper Division Semester Units


Total Units










Basic Subjects










Written & Oral












Critical Thinking and Quantitative Reasoning










Total Units in Basic Subjects




























Arts and Sciences Core










Area of the physical and biological sciences




9 - 12


0 - 3


9 - 12


Area of behavioral and social sciences




9 - 12




9 - 12


Area of the humanities and the creative arts




9 - 12




9 - 12


Total Units in Arts and Sciences Core








27 - 30


(Minimum - 27 semester units/Maximum - 30 semester units)




















Relationships of Knowledge


Interdisciplinary or Multi-disciplinary: e.g., core of an Interdisciplinary Minor; patterns of courses focusing on themes or topics; etc.




6 - 9


6 - 9


(Minimum - 6 semester units/Maximum - 9 semester units)























It is required that a minimum of nine upper division semester units in general education must be taken at San Francisco State University. Therefore, students who take the minimum of six upper division semester units in Segment III must take a minimum of three upper division semester units in Segment II.


It is recommended that a maximum of twelve semester units of general education may be counted for fulfilling other requirements for graduation. Courses that meet statutory requirements may not be counted for G.E.






Written and Oral Communication 6 units

Courses in this portion of the Basic Subjects are those which help students further their written and oral communication skills as freshmen and sophomores and attain a level of skill development appropriate to engage in upper division course work. These courses should include a reading component which will serve as both the content and model for the writing and speaking. Students are expected to do significant amounts of writing as well as to learn and practice the basic principles of effective oral communication.2 It s also expected that courses in this portion will introduce students to the principles of research basic to that discipline offering the course, involving them in rudimentary library searches and analysis of data.

The 6-unit communication requirement may be met in a number of ways as approved by the Basic Subjects Committee. One way may be by taking one 3-unit course in written communication and another 3-unit course in oral communication; another may be by taking an integrated (one semester) or coordinated (two semester) 6-unit package focusing on this entire range of communication capabilities. The appropriateness of existing courses in written and oral communication to meet the communications requirement will have to be determined by the Basic Subjects Committee.

[1] It is understood that the course and/or competency requirements for oral and/or written communication must be met or evaluated in modified ways for students with certain physical disabilities.


[2] Refer to American Ethnic Heritage Criteria and Lifelong Learning requirements, p. 11.


[3] Refer to Cultural and Ethnic Diversity requirement, p. 14.


1 It is understood that the course and /or competency requirements for oral and/or written communication must be met or evaluated in modified ways for students with certain physical disabilities.


2 Such expectations are appropriate in all components of general education and, indeed, in the total college curriculum.