What is the most appropriate breadth designation for a course my department is proposing?

Breadth designations are administered by the College of Letters and Science, and indicate a course has been reviewed to meet the requirements for the L&S undergraduate degree (Natural Science, Humanities/Literature/Arts, and Social Studies requirements). Many schools and colleges also use the L&S breadth designations to indicate to students how they may meet their general education requirements.

Guidance Regarding Breadth Designations

Courses with a breadth designation indicate to students that the course meets university breadth requirements as well as the additional L&S breadth requirements.  A course may be eligible for breadth if it has broad content in one of the breadth categories described below and has Liberal Arts and Science (LAS) designation (LAS is designated with a "C" and is automatically assigned to nearly all L&S courses; departments outside of L&S can also request a Liberal Arts and Science (LAS), Level, and Breadth Designations - Review and criteria. To request a breadth designation for a course, a course change proposal must be submitted through the online course proposal system, with a brief statement explaining why the breadth designation is appropriate.  A course may only have one breadth designation, and the most appropriate may be requested from the following list. Note: an attribute should only be requested for a "topics" course if, and only if every course taught within the topic will always convey that attribute.

B—Biological Science
N—Natural Science. Satisfies the Natural Science requirement but not the Biological or Physical Science requirement.
P—Physical Science
S—Social Science
W—Either Social Science or Natural Science*
X—Either Humanities or Natural Science*
Y—Either Biological Science or Social Science*
Z—Either Humanities or Social Science*

*Please note that these four interdivisional breadth designations are reserved for those rare courses that will always meet both types of breadth represented. The student may appropriately be awarded credit for having completed either requirement, depending on the individual student's needs.

Per L&S policy, the following types of courses do not count toward the breadth requirement: elementary-level courses in mathematics; elementary- and intermediate-level courses in foreign language or courses in conversation and composition in a foreign language; English composition; directed study/independent study courses; practical and skill courses such as elementary-level courses in journalism, public speaking, acting, and theater production; courses in art; and courses in music performance. In addition, the following types of courses are inappropriate for satisfying the breadth requirement, and so lack breadth designation: courses that are highly specialized or narrowly pre-professional in nature; and internships, practicums, directed study, tutorials, senior theses, and other courses whose content is negotiated between students and faculty on an individual basis.

The goal of the descriptions below is to provide guidance and assist faculty and staff in determining whether a given course might be eligible for breadth designation in Liberal Arts and Science.  This document is not intended to be prescriptive in terms of learning objectives, but rather, it is meant to convey the values and goals that are consistent with a Liberal Arts and Science perspective.

THE ARTS & HUMANITIES (Breadth designations H, L, X, or Z)
Employing analytical, critical, and interpretive methods, “Arts & Humanities” courses teach a wide array of skills necessary to understand and analyze past, present, and future of the world around us. These courses focus on exploring the human condition, using knowledge to build empathy and appreciation for the complexities of one’s own and other people’s perspectives.  Literature courses (labeled with an “L” designation) are a subset of Humanities courses; they may be used to meet Humanities requirements and specific Literature requirements if students have them.

After completing an Arts & Humanities course, a student should be able to:
  • comprehend, and employ various approaches to interpreting and creating cultural artifacts such as works of art, literature, music, architecture, philosophy, film, etc.
  • demonstrate knowledge of major movements, trends, or events in the development of world cultures
  • demonstrate an appreciation of the complexities of the interpretative process within historical and cultural contexts
  • apply critical approaches to the works and alternative ways of considering them
  • think critically about and appreciate the complexities of one's own culture and larger global communities
Courses with “literature” designation focus on the reading and interpretation of texts in multiple genres, including fictional and nonfictional prose, poetry, and drama, from a range of cultures, in translation or in their original languages, irrespective of how they are presented. They teach skills of literary analysis while examining the relation between the texts and the cultures, historical periods, and ideas that produced them. These courses are a sub-set of Humanities and may be used to meet “Humanities” requirements and specific Literature requirements if students have them.

SOCIAL SCIENCES (Breadth Designations S, W, Y, or Z)
Courses in the Social Science discipline all rely upon methods of data collection (either qualitative or quantitative), data analysis, or data interpretation that characterize their factual, methodological, institutional, and theoretical inquiry into the systematic study of humans/groups and institutions/society.  

Ideally, after completing a Social Science course, a student should be able to:
• think critically about their own societies and the larger global community
• demonstrate knowledge of one or more methodologies
• demonstrate knowledge of one or more theoretical approaches
• synthesize and apply social science concepts
• view issues from multiple perspectives

Courses in the Natural Sciences are characterized by the systematic study of the natural and physical world, and with the use of abstraction and logical reasoning.  These courses typically involve a laboratory component.  As part of their overall Natural Sciences requirements, students are required to take both Biological and Physical Sciences (areas and designations described below). Courses that do not fit into those two categories, such as Computer Science, Mathematics, and Statistics, may have N, W, or Y designations.

PHYSICAL SCIENCES (Breadth designation P)
Courses in the Physical Sciences involve the systematic study of objective information about the physical world, broadly defined, and include areas of study such as Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Materials Science, and Earth Science (atmospheric science, oceanography).  Students are required to take Physical Science credits as part of their Natural Sciences requirement. Courses with this designation may meet Physical Science requirements or the broader Natural Science breadth requirements.

BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES (Breadth designations B or Y)
Courses in the Biological Sciences all deal with the systematic study of the structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, distribution, and taxonomy of living organisms. Students are required to take Biological Science credits as part of their Natural Sciences requirement. Courses with this designation may meet Biological Science requirements or the broader Natural Science breadth requirements.

Ideally, after completing a Physical Science or Biological Science course, a student should be able to:
• demonstrate knowledge of scientific concepts and assumptions
• analyze and interpret scientific evidence
• demonstrate knowledge of the scientific method
• demonstrate understanding of scientific reasoning, and determine when scientific information supports a given conclusion.
• think critically about the impact of scientific discovery on society

If you have any further questions or need additional guidance, please contact Kimbrin Cornelius at kimbrin.cornelius@wisc.edu

See Also:

Keywords:breadth, course proposal, new course, humanities, social science, physical, natural, literature, biology, biology, science, undergraduate, curriculum, general education   Doc ID:27031
Owner:Kimbrin C.Group:College of Letters & Science
Created:2012-10-24 16:40 CDTUpdated:2019-04-19 08:57 CDT
Sites:College of Letters & Science
Feedback:  1   0