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Cluster One: Skills for the 21st Century (9 credits)

Cluster One Coordinator: Gretchen Hazard


Cluster One brings together the basic skills in reasoning, writing, and oral communication. Since ancient times, these skills have been recognized as the fundamental skills of educated persons and responsible citizens. Cluster One specifically emphasizes the critical knowledge and skills that students learn through the study of human discourse, argumentation, reasoning, and persuasion. As students examine issues they gain insight and understanding that knowledge rarely develops in isolation but within a larger interactive, and often complex, context. Cluster One also responds to the contemporary need for effective information literacy within diverse contexts of human communication and decision making.


(3 courses and 1 Information Literacy tests)

  1. Critical Thinking
    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

2. Human 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.
  • GCOM 121 Credit-by Examination

3. Writing

  • GWRTC 103 Critical Reading and Writing

All students are required to complete Cluster One requirements during their first academic year at JMU.

Cluster One consists of nine credits covering three areas, Critical Thinking, Human Communication, and Writing. Students complete one course in each area and the courses may be taken in any order. The information literacy competency exam is a non-credit carrying requirement.

All Cluster One choices are designed for students in any major. Students may use AP credit, IB Higher Level credit, or transfer credit for GWRTC 103, Critical Reading and Writing, which meet the writing requirement for Cluster One.

Enrollment in Cluster One courses is restricted to students in their first academic year at JMU.  Cluster One areas and courses are not repeatable without permission.  To secure permission to take a Cluster One course after the first year, students must submit a “Cluster One Request Form” available on the General Education website under “Forms.”  Permission to enroll is given based on course availability and need.

Complete one course from each of the three areas below (courses may be taken in any order):

Cluster One Course Descriptions

Information Literacy Requirement (one test):

Madison Research Essentials (MREST) deadline for freshmen and transfer students is February 28, 2014.

Learning Objectives:

After completing Cluster One: Skills for the 21st Century, students should be able to:

  • Critical Thinking
    • 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.

  • Communication
    • Understand and apply the fundamentals of audience analysis, message construction, development, organization, and presentation.
    • Deliver effective oral presentations in a variety of contexts
    • Identify, evaluate and employ critical and sensitive listening behaviors.
    • Identify and manage the verbal and nonverbal dimensions of communication in a variety of contexts.
    • Recognize and apply the influences of self-concept perception and culture on communication.
    • Identify, evaluate and utilize the nature and functions of power and the strategies of conflict negotiation.

  • Writing
    • Analyze and evaluate texts to identify their argumentative, credible and ethical elements; students should also be able to reflect on civic responsibility as it relates to written discourse.
    • Develop and support a relevant, informed thesis or point of view that is appropriate for its audience, purpose and occasion.
    • Demonstrate and understanding of writing as a series of steps involving invention, research, critical analysis and evaluation, and revision for audience, purpose and occasion.
    • Effectively incorporate and document appropriate sources to support an argumentative thesis or point of view; exhibit control over surface conventions such as syntax, grammar, punctuation and spelling that are appropriate for the writer's audience, purpose and occasion.
  • Information Literacy
    • 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.