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General Education Student Learning Outcomes and Objectives

The General Education Program is guided by the following student learning outcomes (goals) and objectives:

(These outcomes and objectives comply with the requirements for general education at Louisiana colleges and universities set by the Louisiana Board of Regents and also with accreditation criteria set by SACS-COC.)

Core Proficiency Skills

Reading Comprehension

Expected Outcome/Goal: Upon completion of their degree program, students, as fluent readers, will be able to understand, to analyze, and to evaluate readings from a variety of texts and to apply that learning to academic, personal, and professional contexts.

Rationale: The ability of students to engage in critical and learned inquiry, to apply their learning to new contexts, and to communicate effectively is dependent upon their ability to read with fluency and comprehension. This proficiency, which cannot exist in isolation from other general education proficiencies, nor from the breadth-of-knowledge areas, will be developed and fostered throughout the core curriculum and the degree program. All core courses must require students to interpret and to analyze textual material. Writing courses and breadth-of-knowledge courses must require a substantial component of reading assignments as part of their syllabi.

Learning Objectives for Reading Comprehension

Depending upon the type of text, the student will be able to

  • Define or describe authorial purpose and/or thesis and tone
  • Differentiate between main ideas or themes and supporting details
  • Identify stated and implied ideas
  • Describe the strategy of organization or structure
  • Distinguish between fact and opinion
  • Make logical inferences from their reading
  • Accurately summarize, paraphrase, and organize information from their reading
  • Evaluate the persuasiveness of the written text
  • Apply what they have read to what they have already learned and to new contexts
  • Appreciate the value and importance of reading

Effective Communication

Expected Outcome/Goal:  Upon completion of their degree program, students will be able to effectively use the English language, writing and speaking with clarity, coherence, and persuasiveness.

Rationale: Students should complete introductory communication requirements within their first two years of undergraduate work. Basic college-level proficiency in writing is to be achieved by successful completion of a 6-hour writing sequence, English 101 and English 102, and is to continue to be developed by the required 3-hour writing-intensive course, as well as by the integration of writing as a tool of inquiry throughout the major. Oral competency is to be specified by each degree program from a list of approved courses (See Core Curriculum). Oral communication skills should continue to be developed within the major.

Learning Objectives for Effective Communication in Writing

Students will be able to

  • Use the standard diction, grammar, and mechanics of American English
  • Apply fundamental strategies such as invention, drafting, revising, editing for their writing projects
  • Adapt writing to specific purposes, contexts, and audiences
  • Employ conventions appropriate to academic and professional writing
  • Develop a controlling idea or thesis for the writing project
  • Develop effective organizational strategies
  • Arrange supporting details coherently
  • Employ a variety of sentence structure, using effective coordination and subordination
  • Construct logical and persuasive arguments
  • Locate, evaluate, and synthesize primary and secondary sources into presentations without falling into plagiarism
  • Document sources in at least one standard style of documentation

Learning Objectives for Effective Communication through Speaking

Students will be able to

  • Apply basic principles of rhetorical communication, especially those related to analyzing audience and purpose
  • Generate, evaluate, and organize material for effective oral presentation
  • Deliver effective oral presentations in a variety of communication settings, using standard diction of American English
  • Speak clearly and project the voice sufficiently, employing appropriate verbal and nonverbal strategies
  • Utilize visual aids effectively
  • Lead and participate effectively in group discussions
  • Apply active listening skills in interpersonal settings

Critical Thinking

Expected Outcome/Goal:  Upon completion of their degree program, studentswill be able to think critically, independently, and creatively so that they can make informed and logical judgments of the arguments of others, arrive at reasoned and meaningful arguments and positions, and formulate and apply ideas to new contexts.

Rationale: The general education program offers an integrated learning experience through which students develop and enhance their ability to reason well, to problem-solve, and to create independently. No one course or set of courses fulfills all the outcomes for this proficiency, for it must be continuously exercised through a variety of courses and experiences, ultimately leading to the development of a habit of mind, one that values reflection and discernment, logical thinking and fair evaluation.

Learning Objectives for Critical Thinking

Within the context of the critical reading or interpretation of a problem or issue presented in a variety of learning contexts, students will be able to

  • Independently formulate significant questions for exploration;
  • Clearly and accurately identify and evaluate problems/issues/consequences/ raised;
  • Recognize applicable general and/or disciplinary-specific modes of inquiry available to find answers, to problem-solve, to investigate;
  • Effectively apply appropriate mode(s) of inquiry to gather, generate, and evaluate relevant information;
  • Accurately define the processes of deduction, induction, and other key elements of logical reasoning such as the differences among facts, inferences, assumptions, opinions, and theories;
  • Accurately interpret evidence/findings, especially alternative positions different from their own;
  • Evaluate the quality of reasoning behind arguments, interpretations, and/or beliefs;
  • Clearly communicate and defend their positions or conclusions by evaluating the validity of ideas and information, providing evidence and support, and arguing against competing claims when applicable;
  • Create new ideas/positions/solutions/ techniques by critically examining emerging issues, solving problems, and applying knowledge and theory to novel situations;
  • Evaluate their own positions/conclusions through reflective thinking.

Students will also display the following critical thinking habits of mind or dispositions* necessary to higher-order thinking and independent learning:

  • Value and exhibit intellectual inquisitiveness and truth-seeking, even if the results do not support their self-interests, assumptions, or beliefs;
  • Approach learning and inquiry with open-mindedness, specifically the importance of recognizing their own biases and viewing an issue through multiple perspectives;
  • Internalize the habit of analyzing and assessing the reasonableness of arguments, positions, beliefs put forward;
  • Value the necessary focus, organization, and discipline necessary to approach complex problems;
  • Develop confidence in their own critical thinking skills;
  • Exhibit intellectual maturity by being able to accept that sometimes inquiry leads to more uncertainty or ambiguity or to more than one solution and to alter their position when reflective judgment indicates the need for revision.

*The above dispositions and skills are based on those identified by Peter Facione and can be assessed by the California Critical Thinking Dispositions Inventory. (Facione, P.A. [1990]. Critical thinking: A statement of expert consensus for purposes of educational assessment and instruction. Executive summary: “The Delphi Report”. Millbrae, CA: The California Academic Press.)

Quantitative Reasoning and Mathematics

Expected Outcome/Goal:  Upon completion of their degree program, students will be able to comprehend and to use quantitative concepts and methods to interpret and to critically evaluate data and to effectively problem-solve in a variety of contexts demanding quantitative literacy.

Rationale: Students gain their initial college-level competency in mathematics through completion of Math 101 with a C or better or by credit in calculus. They are then required to take a second mathematics course, according their skill level and major. This six-hour core requirement provides the opportunity to use mathematics as an essential quantitative tool of analysis, but, more importantly, to provide a foundation for the development of quantitative reasoning. Because quantitative reasoning is an essential skill in all disciplines, all degree programs should ensure that students continue to develop their quantitative literacy. Upon graduation, students should be able to apply basic mathematical methods to solve real-world problems.

Learning Objectives for Quantitative Reasoning and Mathematics

Students will be able to

  • Perform calculations with integers, fractions (rational numbers), decimals, ratios and percents
  • Use arithmetic, algebraic, and/or geometric and statistical methods, to solve applied and word problems
  • Demonstrate understanding of the terms and symbols used to generate, present, and analyze data
  • Interpret and evaluate quantitative or symbolic models such as graphs, tables, units of measurement, scales, distributions
  • Represent and communicate quantitative or symbolic information
  • Generate and apply conclusions based on pattern recognition

Information Literacy

Expected Outcome/Goal: Upon completion of their degree program, students will be able to locate, access, analyze, and utilize information that facilitates learning and critical inquiry and to adhere to the standards of academic honesty in their use of that information.

Rationale: According to the American Library Association, “information literacy is a key component of, and contributor to, lifelong learning. Information literacy competency extends learning beyond formal classroom settings and provides practice with self-directed investigations as individuals move into internships, first professional positions, and increasing responsibilities in all arenas of life.” Because information increasingly exists in electronic form, students must be informationally literate in both print and digital environments. Basic competency in information literacy is to be initiated by the completion of English 102 and to be further developed within each degree program.

Learning Objectives for Information Literacy

Students will be able to

  • Recognize when information is required and the type of information required
  • Identify a variety of types and formats of potential sources for information.
  • Locate and access information both in print and in electronic or digital form
  • Evaluate the quality, accuracy, timeliness, and usefulness of the information
  • Utilize the information in accordance with the ethics of academic honesty

Computer Literacy

Expected Outcome/Goal:  Upon completion of their degree program, students will be able to demonstrate competence in computer literacy, including fundamental concepts of computing and fluency in the use of contemporary computing and information technology.

Computing and informational technologies grow and change at a very rapid pace. Therefore, a firm grounding in the foundational concepts of computing in information technology must be achieved. These foundational concepts will be applied through the use of contemporary hardware, software, and network infrastructure. At Nicholls, all students must achieve competency in computer literacy to enable to them to access, to interpret, and to apply information that facilitates learning and critical inquiry. Computer literacy is determined by each department from the list of approved courses or through a competency exam, administered each semester by the Department of Computer Science.

Learning Objectives for Computer Literacy

Students will be able to

  • Effectively organize, manage, and present data, using contemporary software applications such as spreadsheets, word processing, databases, and electronic presentation software
  • Store and retrieve data from locally (e.g. from within the computer, a CD-ROM, or USB drive) or remotely (e.g. via a network virtual drive, FTP service, or WebDAV service)
  • Understand the relationships of key components behind concepts such as hardware, networks, data storage, operating systems, and software programs.

Breadth-of-Knowledge Areas

Fine Arts: The Aesthetic Experience

Expected Outcome/Goal:  Upon completion of their degree program, students will have a deeper appreciation and understanding of the creative process, the pleasures and challenges of artistic expression, and the role and value of the fine arts in society and culture.

The Fine Arts requirement provides students with the opportunity to explore and to value aesthetic creation and form as an essential means of conceiving and expressing the human experience. This exploration can take the form of performance, application, or study in a three-hour course in art or music. The specific learning objectives are further developed and broadened through the opportunity to participate in or to attend cultural and artistic events on campus.

Learning Objectives for the Fine Arts Requirement

In at least one area of the fine arts, students will be able to

  • Depending upon the nature of the course, demonstrate an understanding of the history of one art form or describe the historical, political, or social context out of which a notable category of work arose
  • Recognize the techniques or forms used in at least one form of art
  • Articulate the difference between the aesthetic values of two historical periods, cultures, or civilizations
  • Identify and evaluate the influence of artistic achievement in society and in their personal lives

The Humanities: Cultural and Historical Understanding

Expected Outcome/Goal: Upon completion of their degree program, students will have a richer understanding of the human condition through investigation, appreciation, and evaluation of the aesthetic, historical, philosophical and literary dimensions of human experience.

Rationale: The general education humanities courses offer students a means for understanding the human condition through the study, appreciation, and evaluation of the ways that intellectual and aesthetic endeavors have shaped and continue to shape human culture and experience. Because these dimensions are expressed through written texts and artifacts, students sharpen their reading, interpretative and analytical skills as they develop a critical understanding of cultures and traditions different from their own. Study in the humanities also encourages a thoughtful examination into the nature of rational inquiry itself and into the values, ethics, and the moral dimensions of private and public life. The Humanities requirement is fulfilled by a three-hour history course (Western civilization or World) and three hours of sophomore-level literature or philosophy.

Learning Objectives for the courses on the Humanities list


Students will be able to

  • Evaluate contemporary issues and/or historical problems within the discipline’s contexts.
  • Employ a wide range of methods for recording and explaining the human experience.
  • Demonstrate awareness of cultural practices and how being from a particular culture affects experiences and values.

Learning Objectives for the Humanities history requirement

  1. For students choosing the Western civilization option: Students will be able to
    1. Demonstrate an understanding of the central events and institutions of Western Civilization
    2. Describe and analyze the historical, political, economic, and cultural impact of the West on other areas of the world
    3. Apply historical knowledge to evaluate contemporary issues or problems
  2. For students choosing the World History option:Students will be able to
    1. Demonstrate an understanding of a general outline of world history
    2. Describe and analyze historical periods and changes of significance
    3. Describe and analyze the principle characteristics of the history, culture, institutions, etc. of one non-Western civilization.
    4. Evaluate the influence of the political, economic, and cultural impact of one non-Western civilization on other areas of the world
    5. Use historical knowledge to evaluate contemporary issues or problems

Learning Objectives for the Literature Requirement

Students will be able to

  • Analyze and construct clear and well-supported interpretations of literary texts
  • Demonstrate a familiarity with central forms and genres of literature, as well as with basic critical terminology and approaches used to analyze these forms and genres
  • Understand how literature reflects, interacts, and influences society, history, and culture
  • Demonstrate a familiarity with a range of influential works and authors from various time periods and from Western and non-Western contexts
  • Recognize and describe, by example, how literature provides the opportunity for intellectual and imaginative participation in various modes of human thought and values, not necessarily their own, thereby offering the opportunity for growth in self-knowledge and in reflection on their relationship to others and to the world around them.

Natural Sciences: Scientific Reasoning and Understanding

Expected Outcome/Goal:  Upon completion of their degree program, students will be able to comprehend and to apply the basic principles of science and methods of scientific inquiry.

Rationale: Through exposure to both the biological sciences and the physical sciences, students will develop a greater understanding of how science is the process of understanding natural phenomena. Students also need to be familiar with the vocabulary and methods of science so that they can understand and value the importance of scientific inquiry in the world around them and be better prepared to evaluate and to utilize new information and technologies. General education science courses further develop students’ critical thinking skills by encouraging open-mindedness and a reasoned understanding of the nature of evidence and the methods of acquiring and testing it.

To fulfill general education requirements, students choose a six-hour sequence in the biological or physical sciences and a three-hour course in the area other than that selected for the sequence as specified by the degree program.

Learning Objectives for Scientific Reasoning and Understanding:

Students will be able to

  • Differentiate among facts, laws, theories, and hypotheses
  • Define major concepts, principles, and fundamental theories in at least one area of science
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the basic terminology in at least one area of science
  • Formulate a hypothesis, given a simple problem or questions, and design a valid experiment to test it
  • Make informed decisions on contemporary consumer or social issues demanding scientific literacy

The Social and Behavioral Sciences: The Individual and Society

Expected Outcome/Goal:  Upon completion of their degree program, students will have developed a deeper understanding of the relation of self to world through investigation of the influence of social, cultural, economic, and political institutions in shaping human thought, value, and behavior.

Rationale: The social and behavioral sciences are made up of the disciplines that use the methods of scientific inquiry to understand human behavior and the interrelationship of human experience and societal, political, and economic systems. Study in these fields enhances students’ awareness of the interdependent nature of individuals and societies and thus better equips them for thoughtful participation in a democratic society. Study here also encourages greater sensitivity to differences among people. However diverse the specific disciplines are in this category, they all investigate group differences–whether economic, ethnic, psychological–and thus expose students to significant issues of cultural diversity. Finally, like all breadth-of-knowledge areas, study in this category requires students to examine their pre-conceptions about the world and to interpret and analyze logically. The Social and Behavioral Science Requirement is fulfilled by six credit hours to be chosen from the following disciplines: Economics, Geography, Government, Psychology, or Sociology. Three of the six hours must be at the sophomore-level.

Learning Objectives for the Social and Behavioral Sciences Requirement:

In the context of at least one social science, students will be able to

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the major concepts and methods used by social or behavioral scientists to investigate, to analyze, or to predict human or group behavior
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the major principles, models, and issues under investigation by the social and behavioral sciences
  • Describe how the individual or groups of individuals are influenced by social, cultural, or political institutions both in their own culture and in other cultures
  • Apply disciplinary knowledge from the social or behavioral sciences to contemporary ethical or social dilemmas

Core Dispositions

Personal Values, Ethics, and Social Responsibility

Expected Outcome/Goal:  Upon completion of their degree program, students will developed a deeper, more informed awareness and appreciation of the necessity for strong values, ethical conduct, and social responsibility, especially the importance of personal, academic, and professional integrity.

The General Education Program ensures that students have the opportunity not only to develop the necessary intellectual skills and knowledge base for success, but also to reflect upon the importance of humane values, ethical conduct, and social responsibility. The following objectives are integrated throughout the core curriculum and through co-curricular activities and programs.

Learning Objectives for Personal Values, Ethics, and Social Responsibility

Students will be able to

  • Analyze ethical dilemmas confronted by individuals and diverse communities and the foundations upon which resolution might be possible
  • Compare and contrast their own value system to those of others
  • Give examples of the historical development of value systems and the impact of ideology upon ethics
  • Define ethical issues within their fields of study and within the profession they have chosen to pursue
  • Describe the values behind their opinions, decisions, and actions
  • Follow commonly accepted ethical standards in their academic work and in their behavior toward others
  • Demonstrate tolerance and respect for diverse groups of people
  • Describe the core values and accountability of citizenship in a democratic society

International and Diversity Understanding

Expected Outcome/Goal:  Upon completion of their degree program, students will recognize and appreciate cultural diversity and will have gained a global perspective grounded in the understanding of international cultures, issues, and trends linking communities around the world.

Rationale: The Louisiana Board of Regents requires that an international education component be included into the general education program to ensure that all students develop an awareness of international connections and issues. The BOR has intentionally left this requirement vague to allow universities the freedom and discretion to interpret the requirement in ways that will best cohere with their university mission. At Nicholls State, international education content is integrated throughout general education courses, particularly in the humanities and social sciences areas, to provide students with knowledge of the history, art, literature, social and political institutions of other cultures.

Moreover, campus-wide cultural and co-curricular activities expose students to the interdependence of the international communities, as well as to the importance of creating an environment of tolerance and respect.

Student Learning Objectives for International and Diversity Understanding

As a result of their university education, graduating students will be able to

  • Explain their own cultural perspective and make meaningful comparisons to other cultural perspectives
  • Make meaningful comparisons between the creative accomplishments of their own and those of other cultures
  • Demonstrate the ability to respond constructively to questions or conflicts that arise between cultures or between diverse groups within their own society
  • Define the choices and responsibilities of involved citizenship

*Note: The word “diversity” here refers to groups of people within a pluralistic society distinguished by their gender, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, class, religion, or disability.

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