February 20, 2007
Dear SAH Curriculum Committee,
I am responding to your recent motion asking GEC to stop any consideration of program revisions and focus on assessment of the current program. I am deeply disappointed by this action, and wish to explain why.
The Board of Regents (and NCA) are NOT asking for a report on assessment in General Education, but on our progress on revisions, implementation, and assessment of the program. The motion coming from SAH has the potential to derail hours and hours of work that people on and off the General Education Committee have put in. Please note that the changes being considered at this time are very modest and are not NEW programs. These modest changes would allow us to begin a program of assessment as soon as possible while also implementing some changes that we feel can improve the program and student learning in the program. And since the changes under consideration right now are quite modest, in essence we will be assessing the current program. Furthermore, although there is still not 100% consensus on GEC for even these modest changes, I believe there is a majority that can agree on some of these. The proposal last spring and as it stands now was seen as first steps in revision, not the bottom line. We know that not all information coming from past assessments are reflected in the changes—but extant assessment data along with new assessment data would continue to inform committee recommendations.
I would ask the SAH curriculum committee to review carefully the assessment information we do have (see attached Executive Summary), to think about what this assessment data suggests, make recommendations for further assessment, and suggest how we can improve student learning in the sciences –and elsewhere, without growing the program, which no one wants to do. I have heard several wonderful ideas for different science courses, for more interdisciplinary courses, for the possibility of more 300 and even 400 level courses, and ideas, and even excitement, about some of the other possible changes in the program. But it seems that changes are good ONLY IF they do not impact what a department already offers or if faculty are not asked to do something in a different way or teach a different course. It is almost as if “we are all for reasonable change, but only if it does not affect us.” I totally understand the issues and fears surrounding General Education and the role it plays in generation of SCH, but I also know that you know that generation of SCH is not what a quality baccalaureate degree or the general education program should be based on. How can we overcome this impediment to change?
Furthermore, GEC now has a department willing to seriously consider offering an FYE course, a course they already plan to revise. In addition, another department is seriously considering this. Your motion will essentially stop all consideration of this possibility, another opportunity lost. I know that faculty and staff on this campus care deeply about students and student learning. But we seem to get stuck when we are asked to consider changes if these changes affect us or our programs. How can we work together to affect positive change on this campus?
I would like to end this response with an email from the student member on the General Education Committee, Nick Bakke, who is reporting on the feedback from the student association.
Good evening everyone,
I just got [done] discussing our successes and dilemmas about the general education program to Student Senate. I wanted to let you know some of the input of the students about our "proposed plan". I will elaborate more at our meeting in Monday.
I gave everyone the "four variations" of our proposal, starting with the current general ed program and progressed up to the three tiered approach. I am happy to announce that they were VERY HAPPY with the NEW additions into the program. I had explained the FYE, global perspectives, and the Civic Engagement piece to all of them and they had excellent reviews on it. So I would like to point out that although we have received a lot of "negative" feedback from the different departments about our changes and new implementations of the general ed program we have received a positive feedback from the students. Keep in mind that the STUDENTS are the ones that are gaining the knowledge and dispositions of the general education curriculum and that should be our primary focus, not the departments.
Please reply if you have any concerns, comments, or questions, otherwise have a great weekend and I will see all of you on Monday.
As you may guess, I will be asking our faculty senators to vote against your motion.
Emily J. Johnson
Director, General Education