The fundamental liberal arts skills (critical thinking, information literacy, written expression, and oral expression) are the cornerstones of a traditional liberal arts education and are essential to an integrative curriculum. All students in all majors employ them throughout their academic careers. Making sure that all students achieve proficiency in these four skills will lead to the excellence in education that our mission statement calls for. A liberal arts education is a comprehensive education designed to cultivate autonomous and well-rounded members of the world community by developing the fundamental skills enabling the full exercise and expression of one’s person. As such, these fundamental skills do not mark mere technique, but represent some of the core capacities shaping human intelligence.
Critical thinking describes the capacity to recognize and appreciate the context of a line of thought (e.g., a rhetorical argument; a mathematical proof; a musical composition, etc.); the capacity to evaluate its consistency, coherence, importance, and originality; and the capacity to create an independent line of thought.
Information literacy describes the capacity to identify the need for information and to locate, analyze, evaluate, and effectively use all forms of information (e.g., written, oral, visual, quantitative, etc.).
Written Expression and Oral Expression
Written expression and oral expression describe the capacities to clearly articulate a coherent, creative, and compelling line of thought in writing and speech, respectively, with attention to the power of both language and images.
Although each skill maintains its identity as the definitions above signify, these skills inextricably inform one another. These skills will be introduced and practiced in the Core Curriculum, but as students matriculate beyond the Core Curriculum the outcomes for these skills will expand, multiply, and diverge. In other words, the idea of “all four skills in all four years” will form an integral part of the academic culture at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Students will begin to understand this culture before they arrive on campus, become immersed in it during their time on campus, and further develop these skills after they leave the campus. Assessment of these skills will take place in a variety of ways in the Core, in the majors, and in the senior capstone experiences.