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General Education Program

Part One. Foundations

Courses in these categories help students locate themselves culturally, historically, and intellectually in an increasingly complex world. The foundation categories are intended to give students a broad conceptual base for their further studies and their roles as informed citizens in the world of the future, training them to think critically and analytically about ideas and events, sharpening their ability to assess arguments and information, and engaging them with the principles of scientific inquiry and primary works of culture and civilization.

 

Category III. Scientific Inquiry


In this category, students learn about the process and methods of scientific inquiry, examining the fundamental principles underlying a body of scientific knowledge and how those principles were developed. Students learn to evaluate the soundness of scientific arguments and appreciate how current ideas might change in response to new data. Students engage in scientific inquiry through field experiences or a practical component. A section of laboratory or field experience is required.

As a result, all students should acquire substantive knowledge in science and technology; understand the processes by which scientists investigate and answer scientific questions; and be able to articulate the basic principles used to explain natural phenomena.

Based on this category description, courses proposed for this category will be evaluated by the following criteria:

  1. The Scientific Process. In this category students learn to solve scientific problems and to understand the processes by which scientific knowledge is obtained and evaluated, with particular reference to quantitative methods.
  2. Fundamental Principles. In this category students learn about the fundamental principles underlying the body of science on which the course concentrates.
  3. Historical Perspective. In this category student learn to understand the historical development of scientific inquiry through paradigm shift and the elimination of competing ideas.
  4. Field or Hands-on Laboratory Experience. Courses in this category provide at least one field or “hands-on” laboratory experience every other week, in which students collect and/or analyze their own data.


Part Two. Case Studies


In these categories students learn to think critically through a focused inquiry into a particular area of knowledge. Analytical techniques and methodologies are demonstrated to illuminate specific topics in the natural and social sciences, the arts and humanities.

Category IV. Science and Its Significance


In this category, students learn why science is important in people’s lives. Through a concentrated study of a single area of research or small set of related areas, students learn to articulate the relationships among observed phenomena, the scientific principles those observations inform, their technological applications, and their societal implications.

Scientific inquiry is understood in the context of its historical setting, philosophical assumptions, as well as its material consequences. A section of laboratory, field experience, and/or discussion and writing is required.

As a result, all students should be able to connect science and technology to real-world problems and issues, including personal and societal needs; to discriminate unsound from well-supported scientific claims about those issues; and to talk about science cogently in articulating scientific concepts and their significance for other areas of their lives.

Based on this category description, courses proposed for this category will be evaluated by the following criteria:

  1. Focus. Courses in this category must be topical in the sense that they approach science through a specific problem or area of research rather than as a broad overview of a discipline.
  2. Social Significance. In this category students learn to understand the social context and implications of scientific research, so they can speak and write about science thoughtfully as an integral part of contemporary life.
  3. Analytic Techniques and Methodologies. In this category students learn to think critically about scientific problems, using quantitative reasoning to analyze data and the methodologies employed by natural scientists.
  4. Technological Applications. In this category students learn some technical and technological applications associated with the scientific principles studied.
  5. Field or Hands-on Laboratory Experience. Courses in this category provide at least one field or “hands-on” laboratory experience every other week, in which students collect and/or analyze their own data.


This category must be fulfilled at USC, no matter what courses a student may have taken elsewhere before transferring to the University. The faculty are therefore encouraged to create classes on particular themes that do not have ready equivalents elsewhere.