Ways of Thinking/ Ways of Doing is the name of Stanford’s innovative general education breadth system. The Ways are 11 courses in 8 Ways that you must take any time during your undergraduate years.

The Ways of Thinking/Ways of Doing (Ways) breadth system is a capacity-based approach to fulfilling Stanford general education requirements rather than the previous discipline-based breadth model.   At its core,  the Ways system aims to provide a well-rounded general education experience - owning knowledge, honing skills and capacities, developing personal and social responsibility, and adaptive learning.   The Ways system is intended to complement and integrate with students’ experiences in the major.  It recognizes the diversity of approaches to learning within any discipline and asks faculty to consider what approaches they are taking in a given class and in the overall approaches emphasized within a major.  It also provides students with a more clearly articulated and meaningful rationale for breadth and more flexibility in selecting courses of interest in a wide array of fields. 

  1. Aesthetic and Interpretive Inquiry (2 courses)
  2. Applied Quantitative Reasoning (1 course)
  3. Creative Expression (2 units)
  4. Engaging Diversity (1 course)
  5. Ethical Reasoning (1 course)
  6. Formal Reasoning (1 course)
  7. Scientific Method and Analysis (2 courses)
  8. Social Inquiry (2 courses)


Click here for comprehensive descriptions, including the rationale and learning outcomes,for each Way.


The Ways program is comprised of eight Ways requirements.  You must take a total of eleven courses

  • Two courses each in:
    • Aesthetic and Interpretive Inquiry (AII)
    • Social Inquiry (SI)
    • Scientific Method and Analysis (SMA)
  • One course each in:
    • Applied Quantitative Reasoning (AQR)
    • Engaging Diversity (ED)
    • Ethical Reasoning (ER)
    • Formal Reasoning (FR)
  • Two units in Creative Expression (CE)

Creative Expression is a 2-unit requirement.  CE may be taken for a grade or credit/no credit at the discretion of the instructor.  The CE requirement may be fulfilled by doing one of the following:

  • taking one CE course with a minimum of 2 units
  • taking a 1-unit CE course twice in different quarters
  • taking two 1-unit courses in the same department such as in Dance, Music, or TAPS

Each course must be a minimum of 3 units and taken for a grade with the exception of Creative Expression.

While a course may be certified for up to two Ways, you may only count one Way per course with the exception of residential ILE programs.

Thinking Matters courses and Major requirements may also fulfill Ways, but other requirements may not double-count.

Integrated Learning Environment (ILE) programs include ITALIC, SIMLE, and SLE which are intensive residential programs and fulfill four Ways through a yearlong program:

    • 91 = AII
    • 92 = AII
    • 93 = both ED and CE (2 units)
    • 91 = AII
    • 92 = AII
    • 93 = both SI and ER
  • SLE:
    • 91 = AII
    • 92 = both AII and ED
    • 93 = ED


The Ways of Thinking/Ways of Doing breadth system is overseen by the Breadth Governance Board (BGB).  The Board is chaired by David Palumbo-Liu, Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor and Professor of Comparative Literature.  View the full list of committee members, including a list of teams for specific Ways of Thinking/Ways of Doing.  The charge to the Breadth Governance Board was established in September, 2012.

For more information on the BGB, please click here.


The Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford (SUES) recommended the change to the new Ways of Thinking/Ways of Doing breadth system as a core part of its aims for a Stanford undergraduate education (owning knowledge, honing skills and capacities, developing personal and social responsibility, and adaptive learning).  SUES and the Faculty Senate believed that undergraduate education would be better structured by shifting from a discipline-based to capacity-based model of achieving breadth.

The full text of the Faculty Senate legislation can be found here.