Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Teaching & Learning


Given the distinctiveness of small colleges, the primary purpose of this study was to gain a more complete understanding of general education curricula of selected small colleges in terms of the colleges' stated goals, their process of developing and modifying, and the stucture and content of their present general education curricula. A second purpose was to propose a model for developing general education curricula.

Three research methods were employed: a review of related literature, an analysis of written institutional documents, and campus interviews. Two groups of small colleges, with enrollments of less than 2000, participated. Data from the first group of ten colleges, identified as exemplary based on a national survey, were collected from catalogs, mission statements, and responses to questions. Data from the second group, four Midwestern liberal arts colleges, were gathered from institutional documents and interviews. The intention of the study was not to compare the two groups, nor to contrast approaches to general education in small versus large institutions, but to combine the various data to develop a fuller understanding of current practices.

The data showed several common goals: developing students' learning skills and intellectual curiosity, increasing students' knowledge of the liberal arts, and preparing them for service to society. Other stated goals were to provide students with broad academic exposure, encourage their aesthetic appreciations, and develop their values and acceptance of cultural diversity.

The study revealed many similarities in the stucture and content of general education and in the total number of required general education credits. All but two curricula studied have a restricted distribution type of general education structure. Coursework in advanced learning skills, the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences is required by all of the institutions studied.

Publishing a new catalog or preparing for an accreditation visit may prompt a general education review. A bottom-up process of revision is common: suggestions are initiated by faculty and/or academic departments; recommendations go to the college's Curriculum Committee; and final approval is granted by the full faculty.

The model focuses on three significant areas in general education and reflects a consistency in the data.

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