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Cluster One: Skills for the 21st Century

Cluster One is the cornerstone of General Education: The Human Community at JMU. Through course work in three areas and a required information literacy test, this cluster requires students to demonstrate:

  • Critical thinking skills
  • Effective oral presentation skills
  • Effective writing skills
  • Competency in information literacy

Competence in these areas is fundamental to subsequent study in major and professional programs. Therefore, all students are required to complete Cluster One requirements during their first academic year at JMU.

Cluster One Structure

Cluster One consists of nine credits and a competency test. All students must earn credit for one course in each of three areas representing the primary content of the cluster: Critical Thinking, Human Communication and Writing. In addition to the three courses, students are required to demonstrate competency in information literacy by passing the Madison Research Essentials Test (MREST).

Enrollment in Cluster One courses is required of students in their first academic year at JMU. Cluster One areas and courses are not repeatable without permission. To secure permission to take a second Cluster One course, students must submit a “Cluster One Request Form” available on the General Education website under “Forms.” Requests will be accepted for permission to enroll in an open section of an appropriate class one week prior to the beginning of each semester and through the end of the open enrollment period. Permission to enroll is given based on course availability; there are no overrides available in Cluster One courses.

Cluster One Requirements

Cluster One skills in writing, human communication, information literacy and critical thinking are essential to academic success and, for that reason, should be taken during a student's first year at JMU. While Cluster One courses must be completed in the first year, the courses may be taken in any order.

Critical Thinking

In this area, students study various techniques and approaches to critical thinking such as analyzing and evaluating information, arguments, premises and concepts. Critical thinking fosters inquiry and problem solving abilities. Depending upon the course, the content focuses on the function of language, basic business principles, issues in recent history, mediated communication, informal logical reasoning or problem solving in science and technology. Cluster One offers six classes that meet this requirement.

Choose one of the following:

GBUS 160. Business Decision Making in a Modern Society

GHIST 150. Critical Issues in Recent Global History

GISAT 160. Problem Solving Approaches in Science and Technology

GMAD 150. Mediated Communication: Issues and Skills

GPHIL 120. Critical Thinking

GPHIL 150. Ethical Reasoning

Students pursuing a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree may not use either GPHIL 120 or GPHIL 150 to fulfill the B.A. philosophy course requirement.

Students who have received credit for one critical thinking class are not eligible to receive credit for a second critical thinking class without permission.

Human Communication

In this area, students are introduced to the study of human communication as a process. Emphasis is on examining the role of self-concept, perception, culture, verbal and nonverbal dimensions in the communication process; using power and managing conflict and applying critical listening skills. Depending upon the course, the content focuses on an overview of the principles and practices of interpersonal, small group and public communication, or constructing informative and persuasive speeches with an emphasis on individual public speaking contexts, or constructing informative and persuasive group presentations. Cluster One requires completion of one of three courses offered inhuman communication.

Choose one of the following:

GCOM 121. Fundamental Human Communication: Presentations

GCOM 122. Fundamental Human Communication: Individual Presentations

GCOM 123. Fundamental Human Communication: Group Presentations

Students who have received credit for one GCOM class are not eligible to receive credit for a second GCOM class. 

Writing

This area of Cluster One emphasizes the process of constructing  focused, logical, coherent and well-supported documents. Students employ research to produce writing stylistically appropriate to its audience, purpose and occasion. Students are introduced to a variety of writing genres.  Students are required to edit their writing for clarity and control of conventions.

Complete the following:

GWRTC 103. Critical Reading and Writing

GWRTC Credit and Waiver

Students may receive credit or waiver for GWRTC 103 under the following conditions:

  • An AP minimum score of 4 on the English Language and Composition or the English Literature and Composition test.
  • A Higher-Level IB English score of 5.
  • Transfer or dual enrollment credit for GWRTC 103.
  • Successful completion of the GWRTC 103 Waiver by Examination.

Students who have received credit for GWRIT 101 are not eligible to receive credit for WRTC 100. Students who have received credit for GWRIT 102 are not eligible to receive credit for WRTC 100 or GWRTC 103. Students may not repeat GWRTC 103 for credit.

Information Literacy

Information literacy is the ability to locate, evaluate and use information effectively to accomplish a purpose. Cluster One requires completion of the Madison Research Essentials Test (MREST). All entering students must pass the MREST by the deadline announced by the university.

Cluster One Learning Objectives

After completing Cluster One: Skills for the 21st Century, students should be able to use reading, writing, human communication, critical thinking and information literacy skills for inquiring, learning, thinking and communicating in their personal, academic and civic lives.

Critical Thinking

After completing course work in critical thinking, students should be able to:

  • Evaluate claims in terms of clarity, credibility, reliability and accuracy.
  • Demonstrate the ability to identify, analyze and generate claims, arguments and positions.
  • Identify and evaluate theses and conclusions, stated and unstated assumptions, and supporting evidence and arguments.
  • Apply these skills to one's own work and the work of others.

Human Communication

After completing course work in communication, students should be able to:

  • Explain the fundamental processes that significantly influence communication.
  • Construct messages consistent with the diversity of communication purpose, audience, context, and ethics.
  • Respond to messages consistent with the diversity of communication purpose, audience, context, and ethics.
  • Utilize information literacy skills expected of ethical communicators.

Writing

After completing course work in writing, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate an awareness of rhetorical knowledge, which may include the ability to analyze and act on understandings of audiences, purposes and contexts in creating and comprehending texts.
  • Employ critical thinking, which includes the ability, through reading, research and writing, to analyze a situation or text and make thoughtful decisions based on that analysis.
  • Employ writing processes.
  • Demonstrate an awareness of conventions, the formal and informal guidelines that define what is considered to be correct and appropriate in a variety of texts .
  • Compose in multiple environments using traditional and digital communication tools.

Information Literacy

After completing the MREST, JMU's information literacy test, and course work in critical thinking, human communication and writing, students should be able to:

  • Recognize that information is available in a variety of forms including, but not limited to, text, images, and visual media.
  • Determine when information is needed and find it efficiently using a variety of reference sources.
  • Evaluate the quality of the information.
  • Use information effectively for a purpose.
  • Employ appropriate technologies to create an information-based product.
  • Use information ethically and legally.