General Education Learning Outcomes

The university-wide General Education Requirements are designed to convey the essential core of an undergraduate education by providing breadth across the humanities and arts, social studies, and natural sciences; competence in communication, critical thinking, and analytical skills necessary for success in college and beyond; and investigation of the issues raised by living in a culturally diverse society. This core is intended to provide students with intellectual and practical skills, basic knowledge of human cultures and the physical world, strategies for understanding these topics, and tools intended to contribute to their sense of personal and social responsibility. General Education complements the work students do in their majors and degrees, and by doing this, helps students learn what they need to know not just for making a living, but also for making a life.

To complete the General Education Requirements, students choose from many courses in communicationethnic studiesquantitative reasoning, and breadth of study across disciplines in the natural sciences, humanities, literature, and arts, and social and behavioral sciences.  Courses meeting these requirements have been reviewed and approved to determine that basic criteria for GER courses are met, and that the courses support learning relative to GER learning outcomes.

Specific details of each requirement’s learning outcome can be found below (note: the learning outcomes listed below were copied from the Requirements for Undergraduate Degrees Guide Page).

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The Communication requirement helps to ensure that all graduates of UW–Madison acquire essential communication and research-gathering skills necessary for success in university course work and beyond. Communication–A (Comm–A) and Communication–B (Comm–B) courses train students to gather and assess information from a variety of sources and to present different kinds of information, insight, and analysis to diverse audiences. These courses are essential for students’ career success and their preparation for public life in a rapidly changing world. While Comm–A courses focus exclusively on essential communication skills, Comm–B courses provide content instruction in a specific discipline and teach research, writing, and speaking skills in conjunction with the course content.

Communication General Learning Outcomes:  Students develop skills that enable them to be effective speakers and writers in and out of the classroom.

In courses satisfying the Communication requirement, students will:

  • Make effective use of information retrieved, organized, and synthesized from appropriate sources.
  • Present ideas and information clearly and logically to achieve a specific purpose.
  • Make effective use of communicative forms appropriate to a specific discipline and adapted to the intended audience.
  • Use appropriate style and conventions associated with particular communicative forms, genres or disciplines.

The two types of courses that support these broad goals do so in different ways, with different, but related, learning outcomes.

Communication-A Learning Outcomes: Students will advance basic skills in:

  • Using the four modes of literacy: writing, speaking, reading, and listening to formulate strategies for critical thinking
  • Using information-seeking skills to demonstrate the four modes of literacy

Communication-B Learning Outcomes: In the disciplinary or interdisciplinary context of courses taught in a wide range of departments and programs, students develop advanced skills in:

  • Identifying and make skillful use of relevant, reliable, and high-quality research sources appropriate to the course subject and discipline
  • Making productive use of the writing process, including brainstorming, outlining, drafting, incorporating feedback, and revising, to develop a fledgling idea into a formal paper, presentation, and/or project
  • Sharing research, course content, or creative activity in writing and at least one other mode of communication relevant to the discipline. Other modes of communication might include presentations using one or more media, debate, discussion, poster presentations, and other forms of expression that convey course content


The Ethnic Studies requirement is intended to increase understanding of the culture and contributions of persistently marginalized racial or ethnic groups in the United States and to equip students to respond constructively to issues connected with our pluralistic society and global community. Because this increased understanding is expected to have a positive effect on campus climate, students are expected to complete this requirement within the first 60 credits of undergraduate study.

Ethnic Studies Learning Outcomes: In the context of courses taught in a wide range of departments and programs, students draw connections between historical and present day circumstances and consider perceptions and cultural assumptions when examining questions and making decisions.

In courses satisfying the Ethnic Studies requirement, students will:

  • Articulate how the past has affected present day circumstances regarding race and racial inequities in the U.S.
  • Recognize and question cultural assumptions and knowledge claims as they relate to race and ethnicity
  • Demonstrate self-awareness and empathy toward the cultural perspectives and worldviews of others
  • Apply course concepts to their lives outside the classroom by respectfully participating in our multicultural society.


Quantitative Reasoning is the process of forming conclusions, judgments or inferences from quantitative information. At UW‐Madison, Quantitative Reasoning is divided into two categories, Quantitative Reasoning Part A and Part B, and these courses support attainment of learning in Quantitative Reasoning in different ways. QR‐A courses provide students with broad quantitative skills in mathematics, computer science, statistics or formal logic that students can expect to apply in other contexts. In QR‐B courses, students are required to think critically and apply college-level quantitative skills to interpret data, draw conclusions, and solve problems within a disciplinary or interdisciplinary context.

QR-A Learning Outcomes: Using quantitative information and the tools of college‐level mathematics, computer science, statistics or formal logic, students will develop skills to:

  • Solve problems;
  • Draw conclusions; and
  • Develop models and/or interpret data and/or devise algorithm

QR-B Learning Outcomes:  In the disciplinary or interdisciplinary context of a QR‐B course, students will:

  • Manipulate quantitative information to create models, and/or devise solutions to problems using multi‐step arguments, based on and supported by quantitative information;
  • Evaluate models and arguments using quantitative information; and
  • Express and interpret in context models, solutions, and/or arguments using verbal, numerical, graphical, algorithmic, computational or symbolic techniques.


This requirement encourages students to adopt a broad intellectual perspective, to examine the world through investigative, critical, and creative strategies practiced in the natural (computational, biological, and physical) sciences, social and behavioral sciences, as well as in the arts and humanities.

Breadth Learning Outcomes: Students acquire critical and creative thinking skills as well as enhance their problem-solving skills through a breadth of study across the humanities and arts, social studies, computational, biological sciences and physical sciences.

In courses satisfying the Breadth requirement, students will:

  • Articulate examples of significant contributions to human understanding achieved through various “ways of knowing” found in the arts and humanities; social and behavioral sciences; and computational, biological, and physical sciences.
  • Recognize and articulate the ways in which different disciplines approach questions that call upon different tools of inquiry, understanding, and creative enterprise.
  • Identify ways in which multiple tools of inquiry and understanding can be used to achieve greater insight into resolving “big” questions (e.g., climate change, poverty, global health etc.), evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of those approaches, and understanding which complementary approaches will help achieve meaningful change.
  • Evaluate different modes of inquiry across the humanities and arts; social studies; computational, biological, and physical sciences, and identify strengths and weaknesses of those approaches across disciplines when approaching a question.