Minerva’s general education curriculum is designed to provide students with broadly applicable skills and knowledge that can be used across disciplines. These courses focus on four Core Competencies: Critical Thinking, Creative Thinking, Effective Communication, and Effective Interaction. Minerva pioneered this program at the Minerva Schools at KGI, where students take four, two-semester courses during their first year, in which they are introduced to 81 separate learning outcomes—known as Habits of Mind and Foundational Concepts (HCs).
The skills and knowledge acquired in these courses are framed by Big Questions: challenging problems that span multiple disciplines and introduce students to topics from major fields of study, such as “How can we feed the World?” or “Why do people commit crimes?”. By applying the HCs to concrete problems and synthesizing learning across disciplines, students gain the ability to transfer their knowledge and begin mastery of essential skills.
These Minerva general education courses have been converted to a series of semester-length modules that can be flexibly arranged in order to accommodate the diverse needs of different students, institutions, and programs. For example, a university might allow students to take the full sequence of Collegiate Accelerator courses over multiple years to augment coursework from its existing curriculum. Because the courses cover the same learning outcomes and Big Questions, students from any institution who complete the Collegiate Accelerator courses will gain a powerful advantage in their future studies and professional lives.
Additionally, two preparatory Bedrock Courses are designed to help a broad audience of students learn the requisite skills for the more advanced courses in the curriculum.
Strategic Learning and Growth provides tools for students to reflect, plan, and act in ways that will allow them to learn new skills and reach goals more effectively. Students study key scientific findings related to learning and executive functioning and practice creating habits that promote self-awareness, knowledge acquisition, efficient planning, and careful decision making. The course will focus on instilling a growth mindset and developing practical strategies for engaging in continuous cycles of reflection and learning.
In Applied Algorithmic Thinking, students learn how to apply fundamental concepts in computer science to solve real-world problems and how to implement basic algorithmic strategies in Python. Students study how to apply concepts from computer science to solve difficult problems.
Expressive Clarity focuses on clarity and style in communication. Students develop an understanding of why great writing and speaking matter and learn how to use effective word choice, phrasing, sentence structure, and tone across a variety of mediums.
Applied Creative and Critical Thinking engages students in the key skills that facilitate effective work in any area: logical reasoning, problem solving, and recognizing and mitigating cognitive biases. In this course, students systematically practice these skills, learn to apply them to concrete problems across domains, and gain a foundation in critical and creative thinking upon which they can build expertise in any disciplinary knowledge.
Statistical Intuitions and Applications prepares students to use probability and statistics to extract useful information from data. The course covers a range of topics including identification of the correct tool to be used for a given application to representing a problem formally by identifying the variables and parameters and creating a model using relevant data to address the problem. Students also investigate the use of descriptive statistics, examine probability and probability distributions, and study Bayesian statistics and inference as a framework for thinking about problems and prediction probabilistically.
Deriving Insights from Evidence emphasizes the tenets of good research design and teaches students how to think creatively and critically when proposing and evaluating research designs in the natural and social sciences. Drawing on knowledge of statistics, students learn to frame problems effectively, develop and test hypotheses, derive insights from empirical evidence, and distinguish among different types of data that can be gathered from experiments.
In Evaluating Evidence, students learn how "thinking like a scientist" will enable them to frame problems effectively, recognize and develop testable hypotheses, and evaluate the strength of empirical evidence supporting conjecture. Students explore the relationships among facts, hypotheses, theories and scientific laws and the desirable properties of hypotheses (testable, simple, consistent, and accurate). Students also compare the types of inferences that can be drawn from observational data and the results of experimental interventions. This course is appropriate for students who have not learned statistics.
In Interpretation, Communication, and Design students will learn to convey their thinking and persuade others in a compelling manner through written essays, presentations, and artistic works based on the principles of verbal and nonverbal expression and design. Humans organize and interpret what they see and hear according to certain principles. Knowing these principles enhances our ability to evaluate a wide range of products and applying them enables us to create high quality multimodal and multimedia communications.
Systems and Society focuses on effective engagement in social systems. Students examine social interaction through the lends of complex systems theory, which provides a powerful framework for understanding human behavior and group dynamics. Students learn to recognize that they are embedded within many different complex social systems, and they apply their understanding of these systems to analyzing and improving social interactions.
Computational Modeling and Decision Theory teaches students to use computational tools to find either optimal or approximate solutions to problems. In addition, students will study decision-making in the face of risky or uncertain outcomes. The approach is two-fold: investigating quantitative tools for making rational decisions as well as understanding descriptions of common biases and heuristics applied by humans that may lead to non-optimal choices.
Systems and Strategic Leadership builds on Systems and Society, by drawing on student knowledge of complexity in social systems as a basis for acquiring tactics for interpersonal and group engagement. By synthesizing knowledge of complex systems with techniques for influencing individual and groups -- such as strategy development, negotiation, and applied leadership -- students learn how to interact effectively within and across groups and organizations.