A Faculty Retreat—To Advance November 18, 2011
Academically Adroit Contexts for General Education Reform Clarifying the Rationale Enabling Substantive Accomplishment Paul L. Gaston Trustees Professor, Kent State University
Not one of them is . . . . The Graduate 1968
(Actually, Your Four Words) • Intentionality • Vision • Coherence • Integration
Informing the baccalaureateDefining the Undergraduate General Education CurriculumEvident in every program, for every degreeClarified in every disciplineAssumed in every courseReferenced (at least by implication) in every classInterpreted for every student
THE UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT COLORADO SPRINGS DEPARTMENT OF ACADEMIC ASPIRATION Professor U. R. A. Pedant Editor, Journal of Literary Study University of the Lower Midwest Springfield, Iowa 77777 Dear Professor Pedant, It is with pleasure that I enclose an article for publication in the Journal of Literary Study.
In order to avoid any misunderstanding, I want to make it clear that the objectives of this article are nowhere clearly defined or stated. I ask that you respect my lengthy experience as a scholar and that you assume my intent will emerge in due course. Because the structure of the article may not become apparent, a reader may not understand how its different elements add up to a coherent whole. Trust me, they do, even if readers may not realize it. I can’t hold every reader’s hand! They are adults, after all.
More important is my conviction that any effort on your part to evaluate my article would be at best premature and at worst a violation of my academic freedom. Many readers who fail to understand my arguments at first may in time—perhaps many years later—come to appreciate their importance. Frankly, in the short term, who is a better judge of my effectiveness as a scholar than I am? I will look forward to seeing my article in print as soon as possible. Academically Yours,Steioff Mei Bach
7 An instructor asks a student in her Anthropology class why she decided to take the course and she responds, “Because I needed something at 10:30 on Mondays and Wednesdays.”
6 Odds that two students on the UCCS Campus, meeting at random, will be able to discuss what it means to achieve “an awareness of self and an awareness of society”* (a) should be greater than they are. (b) may be slim. (c) are not significantly different from zero. *UCCS General Education Coals, December 2010
5 Frequently heard questions during advising appointments: “Why do I have to take all these courses? What do they have to do with my major?”
4 As a campus tour passes your office you hear a savvy parent ask, “What are UCCS’s learning outcomes for the baccalaureate?” and the guide says, “Huh?”
3 Two faculty members are enjoying a cup of coffee. A “How’s the semester going? Feel good about your teaching?” B “I’d be a lot better teacher if I had a lot better students!”
2 UCCS has as one of its commitments that students’ knowledge will include “aspects of their culture, the physical world, human behavior and institutions in society.” A member of an accrediting team asks a panel of faculty members , “How, exactly, do you document what ‘aspects’ are learned by your students?” 20
1 Of all academic objectives considered during student advising appointments at UCCS, this is the one most frequently and fervently voiced: “I want to get general education out of the way as quickly as possible.” 21
Changing Contexts: The Curriculum 19th Century college: common core curriculum 20th Century university: breadth (general education) + depth (the major) 21st Century colleges and universities: connecting liberal and professional learning --Carol Geary Schneider, “Contemporary Goals for Undergraduate Learning,” AAC&U, 10 June 2002
Changing Contexts: Our Students YESTERDAY TODAY More women than men Many non-traditional students Older More responsibilities Often part-time Usually commuting Often highly mobile Access broader through financial aid Increasing diversity • College populations: men (and a few “coeds”) from well-to-do families • Traditional age: 18-22 • Residential predominantly • Usually a commitment to a single institution • Very limited diversity
Changing Contexts: Our Students TOMORROW • Even fewer traditional (18-22) students • More students of color (by 2020, 46%) • More low income students • More first-generation college students • More nonnative students for whom English is a second language • More mobile students, with less institutional loyalty • More part-time students • More students studying through distance education
Changing Contexts: Competition • Continued growth in for-profit competitors • Mission expansion in community colleges • Sustained increase in online learning • Introduction of surrogate credentials
Changing Contexts: Higher Employer Expectations • 91% say that they are “asking employees to take on more responsibilities and to use a broader set of skills than in the past” • 90% say that their “employees are expected to work harder to coordinate with other departments than in the past.” • 88% say that “the challenges their employees face are more complex than they were in the past.” • 88% agree that “to succeed in their companies, employees need higher levels of learning and knowledge than they did in the past” Source: “Raising the Bar: Employers’ Views on College Learning in the Wake of the Economic Downturn” (AAC&U and Hart Research Associates, 2010)
Changing Contexts: Higher Employee Rewards From a federal database analyzing qualifications for 1,100 different jobs comes evidence that the highest salaries apply to positions that call for intensive use of liberal education capabilities, including-- Writing Inductive and Deductive Reasoning Judgment and Decision Making Problem Solving Social/Interpersonal Skills Mathematics --Source: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce
General Education at “C” Level Coherence Continuity Competence
Coherence • Will the reinvented curriculum more fully reflect—and advance—the institution’s mission? • Will the curriculum embody genuine choices? • Will the curriculum express a more explicit emphasis on learning—rather than teaching? • Will the objectives of all coursesbe clearly stated? • Will there be a recognizable and marketable logic to the new curriculum?
Continuity • Will there be clear links between general education and education in the chosen field? • Will values of general education emerge through study in majors? Vice-versa ? • Will opportunities for students and faculty to build (and cross) bridges between general education and the major expand? • Will the UCCS curriculum articulate more fully with community college curricula? And vice-versa? • Will the values of the reinvented general education program be available to the transfer student?
Competence development, e.g. Will students who complete a foreign language requirement be able to order a croissant in Paris or a latte in Florence? Will students who complete the quantitative reasoning requirement be “numerate”? Will all students become effective epistemologists? I.e., “computer fluent”?
But General Education Cannot By Itself Achieve COHERENCEThere Must Also Be . . .
In an integrated curriculum, general education and the major are closely aligned and interdependent.
A few “best practices” A Develop overarching elements B Sustain linkages C Relay responsibility D Share responsibility
A Overarching Elements • Implement distinctive elements at critical junctions throughout baccalaureate curriculum so as to create defining educational experience • First-year experience • Second tier, in-depth learning • Capstone experience
“University-Wide Goals” With the objective that all its students should gain an understanding of social responsibility, Michigan State has adopted an approach that spans the entire baccalaureate curriculum. Housed initially in residential colleges, the program seeks to build a culture of engagement and reflection. ~Twenty-First Century Chautauqua Program Michigan State University
The University of Mary Washingtonidentifies eight goals it expects students to meet. The catalog offers alternate approaches through which competence may be documented or demonstrated. California State University-Monterey Bay lists alternate approaches to 13 University Learning Requirements. “Our ULR system works a little bit like getting your driver's license. When you get your license, you are not held accountable for how you learned to drive. You just have to demonstrate your knowledge and abilities.” Alternate Approaches, Clear Goals
B Sustaining Linkages • Regard liberal education as a four-year program aligned with (rather than simply preparatory for) the major • Create opportunities for connection of learning from different courses, disciplines, contexts • Encourage mediated connections between classroom and field-based learning
Throughout Four YearsAt the University of Albany (SUNY) “The General Education Program . . . . is conceived as extending throughout the four years of undergraduate study. Indeed, certain requirements, such as those in U.S. History, Global and Cross-Cultural Studies, and Oral Discourse, may be more appropriately completed during the junior and senior year.”
Climbing the Tiers atThe University of Arizona • Tier One introduces students “to fundamental issues and concepts in three study areas: Traditions and Cultures, Individuals and Societies, and Natural Sciences.” Students complete Tier One by the “midpoint” of their degree. • Tier Two offers juniors and seniors “more in-depth examination of particular disciplines.” Courses are organized into four study areas: Arts, Humanities, Individuals and Societies, and Natural Sciences. One study area may be satisfied by course work in the student’s major.
C Relaying Responsibility • Majors clarify expectations • Expectations are understood and addressed by students and faculty • Majors express understanding that skills not challenged and developed erode • All faculty accept responsibility for the baccalaureate education of all students
The “Liberalizing” Majorat Rice University • Emphasis falls not only on what is learned—but how. Undergraduate students complete two or more courses in each of four “ways of knowing.” Some of these “ways” are approached through liberal education courses. Others may be approached through courses in the major.
D Sharing Responsibility • Through creative faculty appointments, extensive faculty development, and innovative curricular design, erase or perforate distinctions between liberal and professional education • Expect all disciplines to consider germane “liberal arts” issues (ethical issues in accounting, the rhetoric of economics, the history of chemistry, the sociology of health care, etc.) • Expect liberal arts disciplines to manifest awareness of and appreciation for issues of professional education
“Learning to Write Well”at Hamilton College • “Of all the framers, the most energetic wordsmith was Hamilton. . . . Hamilton's relationship with words was intimate and inexhaustible.” Fittingly, the College requires “at least three writing-intensive courses” of all students, but that requirement is only “a small part of the culture of writing at Hamilton.” All faculty share a commitment to sustaining and improving the writing of their students.
Practice in Your Chosen Areaat the University of Washington • Arts and Sciences students at the University of Washington must earn 10 credits of writing-intensive courses following a 5-credit English composition course. Catalog advice to students: “At least some of your writing-intensive courses should be courses in your major, providing you with writing instruction and practice in your chosen area of study.”