Essential Skills

General education courses teach content material related to the course topic and general education area (1-7) while also developing three of five essential skills: Communication, Information & Digital Literacy, Quantitative Reasoning, Personal & Social Responsibility, and Critical Thinking. Each essential skill is comprised of a set of component skills.

UNM General Education Assessment AY 19-20

The New Mexico Higher Education Department, in coordination with a cross-institutional New Mexico Curriculum and Articulation Committee (NMCAC), defines essential skills and related component skills, determines whether a course meets State of New Mexico General Education criteria, and requires assessment of general education programs.


Distribution of Essential Skills by General Education Area

Area I: Communication

  • Communication
  • Information & Digital Literacy
  • Critical Thinking 

Area II: Mathematics and Statistics 

  • Communication
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Critical Thinking

Area III: Physical and Natural Sciences 

  • Personal & Social Responsibility
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Critical Thinking 

Area IV: Social and Behavioral Sciences 

  • Communication
  • Personal & Social Responsibility
  • Critical Thinking 

Area V: Humanities

  • Information & Digital Literacy
  • Personal & Social Responsibility
  • Critial Thinking

 Area VI: Second Language 

  • Communication
  • Personal & Social Responsibility
  • Critical Thinking

 Area VII: Arts and Design 

  • Communication
  • Personal & Social Responsibility
  • Critical Thinking

Alignment of Component Skills With Essential Skills

Information from the New Mexico Higher Education Department.

Communication - Address All of the Component Skills

Communication - Address All of the Component Skills

Genre and Medium Awareness, Application, and VersatilityIdentify and communicate in various genres and mediums (oral, written, and digital) using strategies appropriate for the rhetorical situations (i.e., attending to audience, purpose, and context).
Strategies for Understanding and Evaluating MessagesApply strategies such as reading for main points; seeking key arguments, counterarguments, rebuttals; locating supportive documentation for arguments; reading with a specific stakeholder lens; applying a theoretical lens (e.g. cultural, political, economic) to understand and evaluate messages in terms of the rhetorical situation (audience, purpose, and context).
Evaluation and Production of ArgumentsEvaluate the authority of sources in their own arguments and those of others; distinguish among supported claims, unsupported claims, facts, inferences, and opinions. In arguments, integrate support for their own claims with information from sources that are used and cited ethically and appropriately (using a major citation system such as MLA and APA).
Quantitative Reasoning - Address All of the Component Skills
Quantitative Reasoning - Address All of the Component Skills
Communication/Representation of Quantitative InformationExpress quantitative information symbolically, graphically, and in written or oral language.
Analysis of Quantitative ArgumentsInterpret, analyze and critique information or a line of reasoning presented by others.
Application of Quantitative ModelsApply appropriate quantitative models to real world or other contextual problems.
Critical Thinking - Address All of the Component Skills
Critical Thinking - Address All of the Component Skills
Problem SettingDelineate a problem or question. Students state problem/question appropriate to the context.
Evidence AcquisitionIdentify and gather the information/data necessary to address the problem or question.
Evidence EvaluationEvaluate evidence/data for credibility (e.g. bias, reliability, and validity), probable truth, and relevance to a situation.
Reasoning/ConclusionDevelop conclusions, solutions, and outcomes that reflect an informed, well-reasoned evaluation.
Personal and Social Responsibility - Address 2 of the 5 Component Skills
Personal and Social Responsibility - Address 2 of the 5 Component Skills
Intercultural reasoning and intercultural competenceExplain a range of personal, social, cultural, or social justice issues as they relate to one’s own or others’ perspectives.
Sustainability and the natural and human worlds

Examine the relationship among environmental, socio-cultural, political, and economic systems as they interact with and affect the sustainability of the natural and human worlds.

Ethical Reasoning

Describe shared ethical responsibilities or moral norms among members of a group. Explain ethical issues or propose solutions based on ethical perspectives or theories.

Collaboration skills, teamwork and value systems

Demonstrate effective and ethical collaboration in support of meeting identified group goals. (Accountability is implied with “ethical.”)

Civic discourse, civic knowledge and engagement – local and globalExplain and support one’s own position on specific local or global issues while recognizing that there may be multiple valid perspectives.
Information and Digital Literacy - Address 3 of the 4 Component Skills
Information and Digital Literacy - Address 3 of the 4 Component Skills 
Authority and Value of InformationRecognize the interdependent nature of the authority and value of information and use this knowledge ethically when selecting, using, and creating information.
Digital LiteracyUnderstand, communicate, compute, create, and design in digital environments.
Information StructuresSelect, use, produce, organize, and share information employing appropriate information formats, collections, systems, and applications.
Research as InquiryEngage in an iterative process of inquiry that defines a problem or poses a question and through research generates a reasonable solution or answer. 

General Education Assessment

UNM's Office of Assessment conducts annual General Education Program Assessment. This assessment provides the UNM community with clear information about student development of essential skills in the general education program and opportunities for improvement in teaching and learning. 

Faculty collect a selection of artifacts (tests, papers, projects) from a randomized selection of students in courses representative of each area of general education.  These artifacts are then analyzed by an independent group of raters to arrive at a determination of essential skill level in each general education area. 

UNM General Education Assessment Reports may be found on the UNM Assessment website.