Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Open Access Dissertation


General education--United States--Case studies; College students--United States--Attitudes--Case studies; General education--Curricula--United States;


Using a case study method, I investigated how students negotiate their way through the general education program at a middle-western comprehensive university, and consequently I increased my understanding of the student perspective of this portion of their undergraduate curriculum. From 34 semistructured qualitative interviews with general education science students, I discovered that they could articulate only a dim notion of the purpose of general education. I also became aware that the university structure failed to clearly communicate to students that the faculty values the general education curriculum.

The following themes for further analysis emerged from the student interviews: the purpose of general education, the purpose of liberal education, student attitudes and motivation, good and bad general education classes, good and bad professors, professors who do not like to teach general education, the role of advising for general education, the selection of general education courses, scientific literacy, and the long-term effect of general education on a student's life. I then synthesized these student perceptions within the context of related literature.

Utilizing this literature, student perceptions, and my own reflective journal, I explored several conflicts which I believe contribute to many of the perceived problems with general education at a comprehensive university. These included the conflict between teaching general education and the research ethos, the conflict between faculty scholarship and university mission, the conflict with hiring faculty from research universities without previous teaching experience, and the conflict between vocationalism and general education which includes the problem of advising.

Finally, I offered my own vision of a more ideal general education curriculum, including a university-wide focus on the distinct purpose of general education that uniquely serves the needs of students. I described the necessity for student motivation within general education classes which emanates both from the stated university mission and from committed faculty. I also commented on the self-defeating effect of faculty who undermine the university's value for general education by suggesting that other portions of the undergraduate curriculum represent a more important focus for student efforts.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Department of Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Greg Stefanich, Chair

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (vi, 235 pages)



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