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General Education Learning Outcomes and Assessment Rubrics

About Learning Outcomes:

Learning outcomes are statements that define the knowledge or skills students will gain from a learning experience. Each of our General Education categories is defined by learning outcomes. These guide how the courses are designed and reveal what students will learn. Faculty have some flexibility in their design of the courses - see the learning outcomes for those that are required (in bold) and those that are suggested.  

Each semester we reflect on the curricula in general education courses to ensure that we are continuously improving the learning experience for students. We look at student work using criteria aligned with the learning outcomes. 

See below the learning outcomes for each General Education category and  assessment criteria represented in the General Education Rubrics. To support the use of the General Education rubrics they are provided below in a web presentation, as pdfs to allow printing, and in ELMS via the Speedgrader tool.

About the General Education Rubrics:

chalkboard with word assessment writtenThe General Education rubrics are carefully constructed by faculty teams (see background) with reference to the American Association of Colleges and Universities VALUE Rubrics and each represents the current priorities of the General Education Faculty Boards. These are provided as tools to faculty to assess student work and determine opportunities for curricular improvements. The rubrics also serve to articulate to students specific goals and expectations of General Education. 

The rubrics are not written in a discipline-specific language. Faculty are encouraged to explain the language in the rubric to students in the context of the course discipline and students are encouraged to question any aspects that seem unclear. 

In the development of the rubrics the Faculty boards determined the learning outcomes to be addressed. Generally each rubric targets a select set vs all category learning  outcomes; see rubrics for learning outcomes addressed. 

The development of rubrics and assessment processes is ongoing in our program and we expect to continually add new materials and approaches. See the Assessment of General Education for more detail on how rubrics are used for continuous improvement.

Learning Outcomes & Rubrics: 

Fundamental Studies

These are the courses where students develop crucial skills for success in their academic and in professional lives.

Academic Writing

The Fundamental Studies Introduction to Writing requirement prepares students with a foundational understanding of academic writing and the skills for success in further studies at Maryland and beyond.

Courses in Academic Writing must address all 6 of the 6 Learning Outcomes.

On completion of an Academic Writing course, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate understanding of writing as a series of tasks, including finding, evaluating, analyzing, and synthesizing appropriate sources, and as a process that involves composing, editing, and revising.
  • Demonstrate critical reading and analytical skills, including understanding an argument's major assertions and assumptions and how to evaluate its supporting evidence.
  • Demonstrate facility with the fundamentals of persuasion as these are adapted to a variety of special situations and audiences in academic writing.
  • Demonstrate research skills, integrate their own ideas with those of others, and apply the conventions of attribution and citation correctly.
  • Use Standard Written English and edit and revise their own writing for appropriateness.  Students should take responsibility for such features as format, syntax, grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the connection between writing and thinking and use writing and reading for inquiry, learning, thinking, and communicating in an academic setting.

See the rubric for Academic Writing-Persuasionrubric for Academic Writing-Inquiry.

Professional Writing

The Fundamental Studies Professional Writing requirement strengthens writing skills and prepares students for the range of writing expected of them after graduation.

Courses in Professional Writing must address all 7 of the 7 Learning Outcomes.

On completion of a Professional Writing course, students will be able to:

  • Analyze a variety of professional rhetorical situations and produce appropriate texts in response.
  • Understand the stages required to produce competent, professional writing through planning, drafting, revising, and editing.
  • Identify and implement the appropriate research methods for each writing task.
  • Practice the ethical use of sources and the conventions of citation appropriate to each genre.
  • Write for the intended readers of a text, and design or adapt texts to audiences who may differ in their familiarity with the subject matter.
  • Demonstrate competence in Standard Written English, including grammar, sentence and paragraph structure, coherence, and document design (including the use of the visual) and be able to use this knowledge to revise texts.
  • Produce cogent arguments that identify arguable issues, reflect the degree of available evidence, and take account of counter arguments.

See the rubric for Professional Writing-Purpose/Argument and rubric for Professional Writing- Planning.

Oral Communication

Human relationships, from the most formal to the most personal, rest in large measure on skilled listening and effective speaking. Skillful listening and speaking support success in personal relationships, educational undertakings, professional advancement, and civic engagement.

Courses in Oral Communication must address at least 6 of the 9 Learning Outcomes.

Learning Outcomes in bold are required.

On completion of an Oral Communication course, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate competency in planning, preparing, and presenting effective oral presentations.
  • Use effective presentation techniques including presentation graphics.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the role of oral communication in academic, social, and professional endeavors.
  • Demonstrate effectiveness in using verbal and nonverbal language appropriate to the goal and the context of the communication.
  • Demonstrate an ability to listen carefully.
  • Demonstrate an enhanced awareness of one’s own communication style and choices.
  • Demonstrate an ability to communicate interpersonally and interculturally with others in conversation, interview, and group discussion contexts.
  • Demonstrate skill in asking and in responding to questions.
  • Demonstrate awareness of communication ethics in a global society.

See the rubric for oral communication.


The Fundamental Studies Mathematics requirement prepares students with the mathematical understandings and skills for success in whatever majors they choose, as well as in everyday life.

Courses in Mathematics must address at least 3 of the 5 Learning Outcomes.

On completion of a Mathematics course, students will be able to:

  • Interpret mathematical models given verbally, or by formulas, graphs, tables, or schematics, and draw inferences from them.
  • Represent mathematical concepts verbally, and, where appropriate, symbolically, visually, and numerically.
  • Use arithmetic, algebraic, geometric, technological, or statistical methods to solve problems.
  • Use mathematical reasoning with appropriate technology to solve problems, test conjectures, judge the validity of arguments, formulate valid arguments, check answers to determine reasonableness, and communicate the reasoning and the results.
  • Recognize and use connections within mathematics and between mathematics and other disciplines.


Note: Assessment Rubric is being developed.

Analytic Reasoning

Courses in Analytic Reasoning will foster a student’s ability to use mathematical or formal methods or structured protocols and patterns of reasoning to examine problems or issues by evaluating evidence, examining proofs, analyzing relationships between variables, developing arguments, and drawing conclusions appropriately.  Courses in this category will also advance and build upon the skills that students develop in Fundamental Mathematics.  For most courses here, a course taken for the Fundamental Mathematics requirement is a prerequisite.

Courses in Analytic Reasoning must address at least 4 of the 6 Learning Outcomes.

On completion of an Analytic Reasoning course, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate proficient application of the skills required by the Mathematics Fundamental Studies requirement, including the ability to communicate using formal or mathematical tools.
  • Distinguish between premises and conclusions, or between data and inferences from data.
  • Understand the differences among appropriate and inappropriate methods for drawing conclusions.
  • Apply appropriate methods to evaluate inferences and to reason about complex information.
  • Systematically evaluate evidence for accuracy, limitations, and relevance, and identify alternative interpretations of evidence.
  • Use formal, analytical, or computational techniques to address real-world problems.

See the rubric for analytic reasoning.

Big Question

Big Question (formerly I-Series) courses are unique to UMD and form the the signature of the General Education program. Offered by all undergraduate programs these courses engage students in consideration of topics of current and enduring significance - the Big Questions of our time.

A signature course could take students inside a new field of study, where they may glimpse the utility, elegance and beauty of disciplines that were previously unknown, unwanted, disparaged, or despised. Students may be able to see how such areas of investigation could become a subject for extended study, a major, or even a lifetime commitment. By addressing both contemporary problems and the enduring issues of human existence, the signature courses will speak to the University’s historic role both as a timeless repository of human knowledge and as a source of solutions to burning issues of the day. At their best, the signature courses might do both. Big Question courses offer extraordinary opportunities for increasing the level of intellectual discourse on campus and for providing occasions where new pedagogical methods may be introduced. The possibilities are large and exciting.

Big Question courses must address at least 4 of the 6 Learning Outcomes.

On completion of a Big Question course, student will be able to:

  • Identify the major questions and issues in their Big Question course topic.
  • Describe the sources the experts on the topic would use to explore these issues and questions.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of basic terms, concepts, and approaches that experts employ in dealing with these issues.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the political, social, economic, and ethical dimensions involved in the course.
  • Communicate major ideas and issues raised by the course through effective written and/or oral presentations.
  • Articulate how this course has invited them to think in new ways about their lives, their place in the University and other communities, and/or issues central to their major disciplines or other fields of interest.

See the rubric.

Distributive Studies

Distributive Studies courses offer students insights into the methods of the different disciplines, the kinds of questions disciplines ask, and their standards for judging the answers. Unique to UMD are the Scholarship in Practice courses that engage students in authentic work of the course discipline and are offered by all colleges and schools.

History and Social Sciences

Courses in this area introduce students to history and to the social science disciplines and their combination of qualitative and quantitative methods. It includes courses in criminology, economics, history, psychology, sociology, and other social sciences.

Courses in History and Social Sciences must address at least 4 of the 7 Learning Outcomes.

Learning Outcomes in bold are required.

On completion of a History and Social Sciences course, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of fundamental concepts and ideas in a specific topical area in history or the social sciences.
  • Demonstrate understanding of the methods that produce knowledge in a specific field in history or the social sciences.
  • Demonstrate critical thinking in evaluating causal arguments in history or in the social sciences, analyzing major assertions, background assumptions, and explanatory evidence.
  • Explain how culture, social structure, diversity, or other key elements of historical context have an impact on individual perception, action, and values.
  • Articulate how historical change shapes ideas and social and political structures.
  • Explain how history or social science can be used to analyze contemporary issues and to develop policies for social change.
  • Use information technologies to conduct research and to communicate effectively about social science and history.

See the rubrics for History and Social Sciences.


Courses in the foundational humanities disciplines study history and the genres of human creativity. It includes courses in literatures in any language, art, art history, classics, history, music, and music history as well as courses in the foundational disciplines of linguistics and philosophy.

Courses in the Humanities must address at least 4 of the 6 Learning Outcomes.

Learning Outcomes in bold are required.

On completion of a Humanities course, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate familiarity and facility with fundamental terminology and concepts in a specific topical area in the humanities.
  • Demonstrate understanding of the methods used by scholars in a specific field in the humanities.
  • Demonstrate critical thinking in the evaluation of sources and arguments in scholarly works in the humanities.
  • Describe how language use is related to ways of thinking, cultural heritage, and cultural values.
  • Conduct research on a topic in the humanities using a variety of sources and technologies.
  • Demonstrate the ability to formulate a thesis related to a specific topic in the humanities and to support the thesis with evidence and argumentation.

See the rubric for Humanities.

Natural Sciences

Courses in the Natural Sciences introduce students to the concepts and methods of the disciplines studying the natural world. It includes courses in the traditional physical and life sciences, environmental science, animal and avian science, and plant science, among others. It also includes a substantial, rigorous laboratory experience.

Courses in the Natural Sciences must address at least 4 of the 6 Learning Outcomes.

Learning Outcomes in bold are required.

On completion of a Natural Sciences course, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a broad understanding of scientific principles and the ways scientists in a particular discipline conduct research.
  • Apply quantitative, mathematical analyses to science problems.
  • Solve complex problems requiring the application of several scientific concepts.
  • Look at complex questions and identify the science and how it impacts and is impacted by political, social, economic, or ethical dimensions.
  • Critically evaluate scientific arguments and understand the limits of scientific knowledge.
  • Communicate scientific ideas effectively.

In addition to the Learning Outcomes above, on completion of a Natural Sciences course with a laboratory experience students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate proficiency in experimental science by: making observations, understanding the fundamental elements of experiment design, generating and analyzing data using appropriate quantitative tools, using abstract reasoning to interpret data and relevant formulae, and testing hypotheses with scientific rigor.

See the rubric for Natural Sciences.

While Scholarship in Practice courses will be evaluated for appropriateness through the learning outcomes listed below, essentially every college on this campus has relevance to this area of Distributive Studies.  Examples include (but are not limited to) the following: courses in Business that focus on the design of productive systems and enterprises, drawing upon knowledge from economics, psychology, mathematics, and other disciplines; courses in Engineering that require students to design environments, technologies, and systems by applying knowledge from the natural sciences and mathematics; courses in Education, Journalism and Architecture that provide students with an opportunity to engage in well defined professional practices; courses in Studio Art, Music Performance, Dance, etc., that introduce students to creative skills and performance arts; applied proficiency in a foreign language; extensive research experiences; and internships.

Courses in Scholarship in Practice must address at least 4 of the 5 Learning Outcomes.

Learning Outcomes in bold are required.

On completion of a Scholarship in Practice course, students will be able to:

  • Select and critically evaluate areas of scholarship relevant to the practice of the discipline.
  • Apply relevant methods and frameworks to the planning, modeling and/or preparing necessary to produce a project or participate in the practice in a manner that is authentic to the discipline.
  • Critique, revise and refine a project, or the practice of the discipline, according to the authentic manner of the discipline.
  • Effectively communicate the application of scholarship through ancillary material (written, oral, and/or visual).
  • Collaborate in order to bring about a successful outcome.

See the rubric for Scholarship in Practice and rubric for Scholarship in Practice - Collaboration.


Note: During AY2013-2014, the Scholarship in Practice Faculty Board recommended revisions to the learning outcomes for Scholarship in Practice.


The Diversity requirement emphasizes the promises and problems of plural societies and the challenges that must be addressed to achieve just, equitable, and productive societies.

Understanding Plural Societies

Life in a globally competitive society of the twenty-first century requires an ability to comprehend both theoretical and practical dimensions of human difference. From that perspective, Understanding Plural Societies is the centerpiece of the University’s Diversity requirement. Courses in this category speak to both the foundations—cultural, material, psychological, historical, social, and biological—of human difference and the operation or function of plural societies.

Courses in Understanding Plural Societies must address at least 4 of the 6 Learning Outcomes.

On completion of an Understanding Plural Societies course, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate understanding of the basis of human diversity and socially-driven constructions of difference: biological, cultural, historical, social, economic, or ideological.
  • Demonstrate understanding of fundamental concepts and methods that produce knowledge about plural societies and systems of classification.
  • Explicate the policies, social structures, ideologies or institutional structures that do or do not create inequalities based on notions of human difference.
  • Interrogate, critique, or question traditional hierarchies or social categories.
  • Analyze forms and traditions of thought or expression in relation to cultural, historical, political, and social contexts, as for example, dance, foodways, literature, music, and philosophical and religious traditions.
  • Use a comparative, intersectional, or relational framework to examine the experiences, cultures, or histories of two or more social groups or constituencies within a single society or across societies, or within a single historical timeframe or across historical time.

See the rubric for Understanding Plural Societies.

Cultural Competence

Cultural competence is the ability to demonstrate skills necessary to work with diverse individuals and teams.  More specifically, cultural competence covers the following: awareness of one's own culture; knowledge of different cultural practices; and cross-cultural skills.   Cultural competency contributes to an individual’s ability to understand diversity, communicate effectively, and approach issues with a global world view.

Courses in Cultural Competence must address at least 3 of the 5 Learning Outcomes. Learning Outcomes in bold are required.

On completion of a Cultural Competency course, students will be able to:

  • Understand and articulate a multiplicity of meanings of the concept of culture.
  • Explain how cultural beliefs influence behaviors and practices at the individual, organizational or societal levels.
  • Reflect in depth about critical similarities, differences, and intersections between their own and others’ cultures or sub-cultures so as to demonstrate a deepening or transformation of original perspectives.
  • Compare and contrast similarities, differences, and intersections among two or more cultures.
  • Effectively use skills to negotiate cross-cultural situations or conflicts in interactions inside or outside the classroom. 

See the rubric for Cultural Competence.

During AY2015-2016 the Diversity Board recommended revisions to the learning outcomes for Cultural Competence and Understanding Plural Societies. The Dean of Undergraduate Studies in each case approved the changes.

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