General Education Committee

Brief Report to Faculty Senate

May 4, 2004 (revised 9/04 with recommendations to Faculty Senate)

(Revisions appear in italics)



Implementation of the current General Education Program (GEP) began in the Fall of 1991 after several years of committee meetings, deliberations and hard work. The program has many fine goals and many appropriate courses.  However, many students (and some faculty) do not value the GEP and do not see it as an integral part of their college education.  A common statement heard from both students and faculty is “get your Gen Eds out of the way; ”yet, most faculty value a liberal arts education. The link between educational outcomes in the GEP and those in the major is often not very apparent. Thus, the General Education Committee began to look carefully at the strengths and weaknesses of the program and to identify ways to strengthen it and overcome some of the problems. 


One of the problems with the current program voiced by faculty and students is that it lacked coherence. Indeed, the program is seen as a collection of courses that are generally disconnected from one another and disconnected from students’ majors. Courses continue to be added to the program but no courses are ever deleted.  There is no real mechanism for re-certifying (reviewing) courses and insuring that they continues to address program goals.  Moreover, the criteria for adding a course to the program is quite vague such that almost every course that comes before GEC becomes part of the program.  Whether we want to admit it or not, one of the major reasons for submitting courses to the General Education Program has been to generate Student Credit Hours for departments.  


Assessment of student learning has also been problematic, in part, because of a lack of specific learning outcomes.  Although there are fine goals for the program, goals are too broad and vague to be assessable. The specific objectives that were written for various categories in General Education were more or less course specific and not programmatic.  This creates problems in assessing student learning in the program since students take only one or two courses out of several options within a single category. We have not been able to systematically assess whether students are achieving the goals of the program.


Based on literature on effective General Education Programs and effective assessment strategies, identification of student learning outcomes was seen as the first step in improving the program.  Learning outcomes clearly state what it is we expect students to know and be able to do upon completion of the program. The key here is the idea of programmatic learning outcomes, not course specific objectives.  These were written with the help of an outside consultant and received tentative approval from Faculty Senate during the 2002-2003 academic school year.


The next step was to rethink the structure of the program such that it is based on learning outcomes but that it also becomes a coherent ­program. With this in mind, GEC focused on three interrelated areas during the 2003-2004 academic year: assessment, the first year experience, and overall structure. A subcommittee for each area was formed and non-GEC faculty and staff were included in each subcommittee.  The Director of General Education sat in on as many of the subcommittee meetings as possible. In addition, the committee decided to pilot some ideas during the next academic year. The pilot projects and subcommittee work are briefly summarized below.


GEC work during 2003-2004

Pilot projects for 2004-2005

The pilot project that will involve the most students is the use of the theme, “Human Rights.”  General Education faculty were invited to include this theme in existing courses and GEC received a wide response that includes courses from almost every college.  The use of the theme was one attempt to bring coherence to the program by having students hear about the same theme from various perspectives across a variety of courses. Student affairs staff were also encouraged to use the theme in some of the programming within the residence halls and with the invited lecture series. 


­Update Fall 2004.  Approximately 22 courses are using the Human Rights theme fall semester. Several campus wide events will also focus on this theme including one play, Tongue of a Bird, and two lecture and concert speakers, Dr. Randall Kennedy and Dr. Allan Johnson.


Another pilot project is the creation of a few “Freshmen Experience” courses.  This involves the infusion of some of the transition to college and student success activities and information into already existing General Education courses.  These courses will be reserved for freshmen and will have slightly lower enrollments.


Update Fall 2004.   Two courses are being piloted as Freshmen Experience courses, ECO 120 and one section of SPA 303.


At least one learning community will also be piloted.  One Math course and one Computer Science course will be linked and these students will also be in one or two sections of the UWL 100 freshmen seminar course.  The goal is to create more community and coherence for students by having an opportunity to see each other often, and to discuss course material across the two courses (UWL 100 can serve as a discussion section to some degree) as well as engaging students in other activities related to the transition to college as per the freshmen seminar.  Faculty from the courses will be encouraged to meet occasionally to coordinate activities and discuss the benefits and drawbacks to this arrangement.


Update Fall 2004.  This learning community with the link between Math, Computer Science, and UWL 100 IS NOT occurring this fall semester due to changes in staffing.



Subcommittee members: Sandy Grunwald (convener), Jean Hindson, John Betton, Terry Beck

The assessment subcommittee had multiple tasks.  These included the beginning assessment on one or more of the learning outcomes as well as the development of a revised assessment plan.  Areas targeted for assessment included Critical Thinking (using the standardized instrument and plan developed by Bill Cerbin), Written Communication, and Global Perspective. Bill Cerbin assessed freshmen Critical Thinking skills using several CST 110 and ENG 110 sections in the fall.  During spring 2004 semester assessment data was collected from several senior level courses.  Analysis of these data and a report will be forthcoming.


Assessment data on written communication is currently being gathered.  GEC established a timetable for assessment reports from Writing in the Major Programs (WIMP) to be sent to the committee.  The timetable is based on the year that the WIMP was approved.  Two departments, Math and Microbiology, are submitting reports by the end of May, 2004.  Other reports will be forthcoming over the next several semesters.  In addition, the assessment subcommittee developed a web-based survey asking Writing Emphasis instructors to evaluate students’ writing by focusing on one of the students’ writing assignments given this semester. Collection of this survey information is continuing until the end of spring semester.  The assessment subcommittee will review the results and write a report that will be given to GEC for review and discussion and then sent back to all Writing Emphasis instructors and respective departments.


Global perspective was assessed both in the fall and spring using volunteer classrooms.  The subcommittee developed an instrument that included a published short story with follow-up questions.  Results from both semesters will be tabulated and a report written, to be shared with GEC for review and discussion.  Assessment results from all areas (critical thinking, writing, global perspective) will be combined into a report that will be accessible on the General Education web site (to be developed summer of 2004).  Recommendations based on assessment results will be shared with the campus community.


Update Fall 2004. The reports on General Education assessment activities completed during 2003-04 are not yet completed.  Data have been collected in all areas mentioned, are still being analyzed and reports will be forthcoming.


In addition, the Assessment Subcommittee developed a draft plan for on-going assessment of student learning in the General Education Program.  The plan includes a recommended sequence for assessing each learning outcome area, the requirement that departments, on a rotating basis, provide at least one course period from a freshmen and senior level course for assessment activities to occur, provision of faculty development opportunities on effective assessment strategies, and requirement of embedded assessment activities in and assessment reports from every course accepted into the General Education Program.  The plan will be fine-tuned during the summer months by the Director working in cooperation with Bill Cerbin.


Update Fall 2004.  Two assessment teams were formed during the summer of 2004 with a focus on identifying or developing assessment tools to assess several of the student learning outcomes.  Members of these teams were paid a summer stipend for their work, which continues during the academic.  The stipends were made possible through the Innovations in General Education Fund and with money from Faculty Development Fund out of the Provost Office. The teams were made up of faculty from each of the four colleges and two individuals of the GEC.  The assessment instruments will be piloted during fall semester and then used in selected classes in spring semester.  See Recommendation to Faculty Senate #4 below.


First Year Experience

Subcommittee members: Jess Hollenback (convener), Bruce Riley, Mary Leonard Anderson, Nick Nicklaus, Mick Miyamoto, Chris Bakkum, Telitha Bean Thompson

Since most freshmen enroll in several General Education courses, and since the freshmen year is often pivotal in terms of retention and college success, one of the aims of a revised GEP is to be more intentional about students’ first year.  This subcommittee examined several options for the first year, including some of the pilot projects mentioned above.  They are also proposing the development of a second semester 2-credit seminar that is more content oriented, theme-based, and linked to another general education, theme-based course. 


Update Fall 2004:   One proposal funded by the Innovations in General Education Fund is focused on the development of a 2-credit seminar.  This seminar will be the second semester sequence to one section of UWL 100 offered in fall 2004 by Dr. Betsy Morgan. Students enrolled fall 2004 of this section of UWL 100 will be enrolled in the spring 2005 of the 2-credit seminar, pending approval of the course. A second proposal for development of a 3 credit freshmen seminar was funded from the Innovations in General Education Fund.  This seminar is being planned in the School of Education as both a GE course and as a part of the Teacher Education foundational courses.


Additionally, this group wrote and had approved by GEC goals and learning outcomes for the first year experience.  GEC will work at dovetailing these learning outcomes with the learning outcomes developed for the GEP.  This group also considered and proposed to GEC that a “freshmen core” of coursework be identified.  GEC asked departments to respond to the question about what they think are fundamental knowledge and skills that should be addressed during the students’ first year. This feedback was used in further deliberations, although no final recommendation has yet been made pending completion of a structure proposal from the Structure subcommittee.  Because of work from this subcommittee a proposal for allowing UWL 100 to receive General Education credit will receive a first read in Fall 2004.




Subcommittee members: Mike Winfrey (convener), Ray Martinez (Fall Semester), Brian Udermann (Spring Semester), Diane Schumacher, John Magerus, Deb Hoskins


The first task of the structure subcommittee was to design a survey to get feedback from seniors and alumni about the current GEP and some possible changes to the program.  Two waves of senior surveys were distributed, one in late fall semester and one in early spring semester, with a total of about 490 students completing the survey.  Results were considered in the subsequent deliberations about changes in the GEP.  The alumni survey is on hold given that we had hoped to make it a web-based survey and ran into difficulties in doing such a large survey using our campus servers.


The structure subcommittee worked with the FYE group to discuss possible changes.  One change proposed by Structure and approved by GEC was the addition of freshmen seminar credits within General Education.  GEC would like to see many variations on a freshmen seminar that would meet the needs of many more students.  GEC recognizes that this would require resources or reallocation of current resources.


The subcommittee has looked at and considered many possible models for a structure to the program.  One of the major goals of any new structure would be that it be based in part on learning outcomes and that it be more coherent and stress the integration of knowledge.  However, structural changes would include more than category names or number of categories.  Other considerations beyond curriculum and categories include:

§         Attention to First Year Experience

§         Assessment

§         “Governance” of GEC

§         Credibility and authority of GEC

§         Integration with learning outcomes for majors


The structure group adopted as a theme for a new GEP, “The Integration of Knowledge and Knowledge for Life.”  Current ideas for curriculum being considered by the subcommittee and GEC include:

§          up to three credits could be earned through a freshmen seminar

§         a program with fewer and more integrated categories

§         6-9 credits of advanced coursework (courses at the 300 or 400 level) be required

§         a capstone experience be required (as part of the 6-9 credits above)

§         an emphasis (within categories and courses) is placed on integration of knowledge, interdisciplinary or multi-disciplinary courses/experiences, and/or linked courses 

§         a program with fewer credits

§         inclusion of some kind of freshmen core

§         infusion of diversity, ethics, integration of knowledge across the curriculum

§         three to four other “emphasis” or core areas that include the broad liberal arts curriculum and a focus on the learning outcomes make up the program “visible” structure 


One category structure currently being considered includes the following three areas:

§         Human Systems and Human Diversity

(could include social sciences, humanities, and the arts)

§         Natural and Logical Systems

(could include physical and/or life science, math, health and well-being)

§         Citizenship and Ethical Decision-Making

(could be disciplinary, interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary)


Advanced coursework and freshmen seminars would fit within one or more of these categories.


A revised program would put more emphasis on ongoing assessment of student learning.  Courses could be put on a cycle for re-certification every 5-6 years (sooner if there were concerns about the course).  Assessment results and reports would be required for application for re-certification.  Assessment strategies and embedded assessment activities would be required in initial course proposals.  GEC would work with other units on campus to offer faculty development workshops on assessment and for course design or re-design based on learning outcomes. GEC may also suggest that assessment of student learning in and service to General Education be included as part of departments self-study and APR review and that service on GEC and involvement in General Education interdisciplinary, linked, or multidisciplinary courses be given due consideration for promotion and tenure. 



GEC would like to move forward with changes to General Education as soon as possible.  However, it recognizes the need for on-going campus input and Faculty Senate approval.  At this time, GEC plans to finalize a structure and implementation plan early in Fall 2004 semester.  We would simultaneously ask for feedback and input from the campus community and Faculty Senate by early October.  After revisions and approval from Faculty Senate, hopefully in November, implementation would begin immediately. 


Implementation would include re-certification of current courses and a call for new courses that fit the goals and learning outcomes of the program with a focus on integration of knowledge.  Departments would be notified of the timeline for review of their courses in the program as soon as possible.  Appropriate forms and “workshops” would be offered to help faculty understand the revised requirements.  Implementation would need to dovetail with the work of UCC given possible course changes.  We would  hope to have additional freshmen seminar courses offered and staffed (with reallocation of resources) by fall of 2005.  We would see full implementation of a revised program by the fall of 2007.



FALL 2004

Revised Timeline for AY 2004-2005

GEC would like to move forward with changes to General Education as soon as possible.  However, it recognizes the need for on-going campus input and Faculty Senate approval.  The tentative timeline of GEC activities is listed below.


This revised timeline represents initiatives from Administration and some of the necessary steps for insuring a campus supported revised General Education Program. 


­ Feedback on initial timeline and subsequent GEC activity.  The timeline suggested in the May 2004 report is not supported by the administration.  They are asking that a new program be in place by Fall 2005.  In light of this, the GEC Structure subcommittee met during the summer 2-3 times.  These meetings focused on developing a reasonable timeline, clarifying the role of the General Education Program at UW-La Crosse (via possible mission and philosophy statements), continued work on a revised structure, and identifying roadblocks to innovations in the program.  The following timeline also comes with it specific request/recommendations to Faculty Senate



Early September/Fall:

1.      Faculty Senate endorses GEC’s continuing work on a revised GE program based on learning outcomes

2.      Departments are requested to evaluate current courses vis-à-vis the learning outcomes.   Reports due back by November 15

3.      UWL 100 is approved as a General Education Course

  1. A draft structure is sent to Faculty Senate and the campus community for feedback.  Feedback requested by December 1.
  2. A series of workshops are offered on using learning outcomes for GE course review.
  3. A mini-conference on developing interdisciplinary learning communities is offered Sept. 30-Oct.2.
  4. Call for grant proposals focused on development of

            a. Freshmen Seminars and/or Freshmen Experience courses

      b.  Interdisciplinary, linked, learning community type courses


End of Fall/Early Spring semester

  1. GEC map learning outcomes as they occur in current program using reports from departments.
  2. GEC revises draft of structure based on feedback
  3. GEC funds some proposals related to course development, redesign
  4. GEC uses part of the January Teaching Conference day for GE faculty discussion on GE courses, connections, learning outcomes.
  5. GEC asks departments to do course assessment vis-à-vis GE learning outcomes on at least one or two courses
  6. Begin feasibility study for a revised GE program.  Budget Review Committee asked to write final report. Faculty Senate will provide parameters of what should be included in the report.


February- March

1.      Another draft of a revised GE structure sent to campus community for feedback.  Draft includes phase in/phase out plan of new and old GE program. Feedback requested by March 1.

2.      GEC uses outcomes map to plan faculty development opportunities and initiates a series of workshops for GE faculty.

      3.   GEC uses outcomes map to plan course certification process for current and new courses

      4.  Possible additional call for grant proposals focused on course redesign/revision in keeping with outcome based, interdisciplinary focused GE program.



            March – May:

1.      GEC begins official review of current courses and newly developed courses

2.      GEC used feedback on draft 2 of structure to revised program structure.

3.      GEC presents Revised Structure to Faculty Senate for approval. 

4.      Feasibility report is completed in April.


By end of year:

·         Faculty Senate will be asked to approve new structure

·         An increase in the number of freshmen in FS/FE courses (ideally half our new student population; most likely this will entail more FE courses than FS courses)  

·         An initial set of courses of a revised program will have been identified and certified

·         Assessment Reports from assessment team projects completed and sent to GEC

·         Assessment reports from departments on one-two courses completed and sent to GEC


May through Summer:

·         Faculty Development workshops

·         Possible additional Call for Grant Proposals for appropriate faculty development and course development



Recommendations to Faculty Senate related to revisions to the GE program:

  1. Student Credit Hour (SCH) Policy. GEC is recommending a policy that changes how SCH are “counted” at UW – La Crosse. This policy requests that unit “quotas” of SCH not be used; rather an institutional count of SCH be used.  This type of “SCH accounting” will help focus attention on a GE program based on student learning, and reduce competition and “turf battles” that often occur as various units vie for SCH.  This should also encourage more cooperation, collaboration, innovation and interdisciplinary work among colleges and departments or programs. (see attached)


  1. GE as a learning outcome based program. GEC is asking Faculty Senate to continue to endorse GEC’s efforts toward a revised General Education Program that is based on the Sudent Learning Outcomes (SLO).  The learning outcomes presented to Faculty Senate in 2002 will provide the basis for the GEC work. However, these outcomes will continue to be seen as a “living document” subject to change as we get information from departments and conduct assessment of student learning.


  1. Charge Departments with review of current GE courses.  GEC be allowed to charge departments to review their current GE courses using the learning outcomes.  This report would be due to GEC by mid-November.  GEC will use these reports to develop a matrix of courses and learning outcomes to identify how the outcomes are being addressed in the current program.


  1. General Education Assessment Plan.  One of the ongoing roadblocks to effective assessment of the General Education program is the lack of an appropriate student sample.  GEC requests that Faculty Senate endorse the recommendation found in the GE assessment plan that asks


all units offering undergraduate courses be required to devote the equivalent of 1 class period, in an upper division and/or a lower division course, for the purposes of General Education assessment activities. This would occur on a rotating basis such that units would be asked to participate every 4-5 semesters. This method would allow a good sampling of both upper and lower division students and allow for pre- and post- general education assessment of student learning outcomes to be accomplished.