Contemporary research in education has placed the growing emphasis on general education principles and standards intended for empowering students and developing them as personalities with the related discussions set in different socio-cultural and geographical contexts. This study explored how principles and standards of general education are integrated and implemented to support students’ development and enhancement of their skills in the context of the foundation programs in Oman. In more detail, utilizing personal views and perceptions of the programs’ administrators (department heads, program coordinators and course leaders) and teachers involved in constructing and offering the English language foundation program courses, as well as foundation program students, this study investigated how principles and standards of general education are integrated and implemented to support students’ development and academic growth. Both qualitative and quantitative research paradigms were used to provide detailed descriptions, discuss experiences, achievements, challenges, and inform future decisions. Also, computer-assisted (Libre QDA software) qualitative content analysis was conducted for meaningful and symbolic examination of the foundation program policy documents, including comprehensive curriculum document, literature review related to the General Education principles and standards, curriculum design, English language teaching and learning. The results presented in international publications and local professional development and teacher training events demonstrate that the foundation program courses have good potential for building solid basis for students’ skills and knowledge development, however, more efforts that include revisions in curriculum and teaching practices are required to develop students into educated, responsible and productive citizens for their own advantage and the benefit of the community.
Findings of our study reveal that foundation program curriculum documents emphasize effective writing and communication skills in English, mastering problem solving, helping students acquire the ability to express themselves effectively and creatively, think critically, differentiate and formulate values, and interact with others. Thus designed, they serve as a platform for an integrated and applied learning opportunity. For example, the curriculum of the foundation program at Sultan Qaboos University has immense potential for incorporating principles and standards of General Education that refer to the educational foundation of skills, knowledge, habits of mind, and values and are aimed at preparing students for success in their majors and in their personal and professional lives after graduation. In the context of the foundation program at Sultan Qaboos University, these include, but are not limited to incorporating critical thinking skills in the Comprehensive Curriculum Document and almost all teaching materials, and focusing on the development of critical thinking in students, i.e. thinking that is conscious, voluntary, goal-directed, systematic, analytical, open-minded, truth-seeking, reflective and reasonable. As well as that, the Comprehensive Curriculum Document guides and supports teachers to identify the scope for promoting critical thinking skills of the students. The materials, the suggested methods, the assessment procedures and the facilities provided to enable learning, along with the administrative support, all play an important role in making students better thinkers. Such an endeavor is a significant contribution towards preparing students for their future studies and becoming sensitized citizens of the country. Also, the faculty at the Centre believe that critical thinking plays an important role in cooperative reasoning and constructive tasks, thereby resulting in better learning. According to them, developing students’ critical thinking skills is the key consideration for ensuring student success. There is also a clear understanding that critical thinking can help students acquire knowledge, strengthen arguments they make, improve their analysis, and help them assess and reconstruct meaning. This involves mindful communication, problem solving and freedom from bias. In order to hone these skills, a variety of pedagogical approaches and tasks, which are progressive in nature, have been developed for all six levels of the English language courses in the foundation program offered at the Centre, such as, for example, portfolio-based learning and independent research projects.
|Short title||General Education in Foundation Programs|
|Effective start/end date||1/1/18 → 12/31/19|
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