GENERAL EDUCATION COMMITTEE 

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FACULTY SENATE

 

 

Submitted to Faculty Senate July 2, 2002

 

Committee Members:  Emily Johnson (Director and Chair), Mary Anderson, Sandy Grunwald, Jean Hindson, Jess Hollenback, Tom Pribek, Roger Reinsch, Brenda Soto-Torres, Michael Winfrey, Gretchen Reabe (Student)

Administrative Consultants:  Bill Cerbin, Amelia Dittman, Carla Burkhardt, Sandra Keller, Theda Holder, John Magerus, Diane Schumacher

 

Introduction

 

The 2001-2002 academic year represents a new beginning for the General Education Program at UW-L.  It is the first full year that a Director of General Education was in place, a 50% time appointment.  The Director served as Chair of the General Education Committee and as the “go-to” person for questions and inquiries about the Program, or for procedures for submitting new or revised courses or Writing in the Major proposals.  A summary of the Director’s activities is included below.

 

The 2001-2002 General Education Committee itself was largely a “freshmen” group with only a few returning members. Therefore, a significant portion of the first few meetings was taken with orientation for the committee.  To help develop a better understanding of General Education at UWL and the role of the GEC, the Director created and distributed a binder with pertinent information on the history and current status of the General Education program to all committee members and consultants. Information in this binder also helped members understand some of the challenges faced by the program and committee, including concerns about program assessment.

 

In regular General Education Program considerations, the committee reviewed and acted on four courses and three Writing-in-the-Major proposals.  Presentations from several groups or individuals were also made to the committee.  The list of these presentations or requests is found under the Presentations/Requests section of this report.

 

The General Education Committee was charged by Faculty Senate to “(1) review and possibly update the goals of the General Education Program and (2) to begin the process of establishing a formal and broad assessment system for courses in the General Education program to ensure that the objectives of general education are being met.”  A significant portion of the year was spent on item number one, although efforts to review and revise goals will impact development of an assessment plan. Efforts on both of these charges will be addressed later in this report.

 

In addition to these charges, the committee acknowledged early in fall some troubling perceptions about the General Education program at UW-L. One such perception is that the program is a “collection of courses” that has no readily apparent structure or purpose.  A related concern is that General Education does not seem to tie into the expected competencies and learning outcomes of students’ majors.  Such views erode the value of general education and have the effect of seeing it as “something to be gotten out-of-the-way” rather than an essential and integral aspect of a baccalaureate degree.  Therefore, the committee recognized the need for a better-informed campus community and the need to examine strategies that might enhance and revitalize the current program, and thereby create a more coherent program. Some strategies for enhancing the program are included under the Goals and Recommendations in the final section of this report. 

 

Brief Summary of Activities of the Director

The Director met with several groups and individuals on campus to describe the current program and/or to hear concerns or proposals for changes to the program. Some of these included the Student Senate, the Student Academic Affairs Committee, Senate Executive Committee, Student Learning Project Committee, History Department Curriculum Committee, the SAH Gen Ed Ad Hoc committee, Teacher Education faculty and staff regarding new teacher certification requirements, Student Support Services staff, and Nick Nicklaus and others from Residence Life.  She also was asked to serve on the University Retention Committee and attended a UW-System Retention conference in Madison with other Retention Committee members. She was also a participant in UWL’s Future Search Conference. 

 

The Director engaged in several efforts to better inform and emphasize the importance of General Education to the campus community. These efforts included fall and spring e-mail announcements reminding faculty and staff about the importance of General Education and the need to conscientiously articulate to students in syllabi and classes the purpose of General Education and how their courses reflected the goals and objectives of the program. The Director also provided a brief overview of UWL’s General Education Program to new faculty & staff during their fall orientation and an introduction to and description of General Education to new students enrolled for Semester II.  Faculty and staff were also invited and encouraged to respond to the second draft of General Education Learning Outcomes developed by the GEC. Finally, the Director sent an introductory letter and General Education brochure to all first semester freshmen.  Included within each letter was a postcard asking students to respond to one of four questions related to General Education or their first semester experiences. Unfortunately only about 35 students responded. General Education was also one topic discussed in all UWL 100 sections.

 

The Director attended two national conferences on general education to learn more about national initiatives and leadership in general education.  Barbara Rusterholz and Charles Martin-Stanley accompanied her on one of these conferences. They subsequently prepared a report for the General Education Committee.

 

New Courses and Writing-in-the-Major Proposals

Four courses were reviewed and approved.  As each of the courses was reviewed, special emphasis and discussion pertained to how the course addressed and assessed General Education program goals and how inquiry based learning and critical thinking were incorporated into each course.

 

THA 351 World Theater for placement in Section II Liberal Studies Component

Category B.2. Global and Multicultural Studies

HON 207 Gender, Race Power, Privilege in Section II Liberal Studies Component

            Category A. Multiracial Women’s Studies

HON 204 Human Nature, Culture, and Reality (formerly GHR400) in Section II Liberal Studies Component

            Category D. Self and Society: Understanding Oneself and the Social World

MUS 201 Musical Cultures in Section II Liberal Studies Component

            Category B.2. Global and Multicultural Studies

 

Three Writing-in-the-Major Proposals were reviewed and approved.

  • Communication Studies Program
  • Department of Modern Languages
  • Computer Science Major

 

Writing in the Major curricular arrangements allow students to gain writing experience and develop writing skills within each major.  Students who complete these programs are then exempt from the two required Writing Emphasis courses.

 

Presentations/Requests

Several individuals or groups made presentations and/or requests to the committee. These included: 

  • Library Committee presentation on the importance of Information Literacy and a request to incorporate these types of learning experiences systematically into the existing (or revised) General Education curriculum. Information literacy will be considered as the GEC develops student learning outcomes.
  • Communications Studies Department Chair, Laura Nelson, on the backlog problems in the required course, CST 110.  Chair Nelson asked the committee to support a request of the administration to support a minimum of 40 sections of CST 110 for the next 4 semesters.  The committee endorsed this proposal.
  • Student Senate Vice President Adam Mueller asked the committee to consider making Foreign Language a requirement of General Education.  No action was taken on this suggestion.
  • Continuing Education requested the GEC to consider offering General Education courses via Distance Ed to high schools.  No action was taken on this request.
  • Student Learning Project committee members Barb Rusterholz and Becky LeDocq presented information on results of the NSSE and the work that the ad hoc committee, Student Learning Project, is doing in relation to the NSSE results and its relation to General Education. GEC will use the NSSE results as part of its deliberations about potential General Education program revisions.
  • Sandy Keller, representing Teacher Education, presented information on the new teacher certification requirements and the role of General Education in that process.  GEC will keep in mind the certification requirements as it works on revisions and implementation of the program assessment plan.

 

Faculty Senate Charges.

1. General Education Goals. The General Education Committee spent the majority of the year engaged in discussion of the purpose and role of General Education at UWL, a review of the current goals and objectives of General Education at UWL and revision of these goals into broad student learning outcomes that represent programmatic outcomes.  This is in contrast to current goals and objectives that tend to be either categorical or course specific. Action statements were used in the revised outcomes because these lend themselves better to developing even more specific learning outcomes that can then guide assessment of the program. 

 

Two drafts were prepared. The first was a list of major outcomes with a rather detailed list of subcomponents.  These were reviewed by the GEC and sent to chairs for feedback.  A second draft was then prepared that identified six major learning outcomes.  These were disseminated across campus for feedback.  About 80 individuals or groups provided feedback. The Director will spend part of the summer summarizing the feedback and making recommendations for further work to the committee in the fall.  GEC recognizes that the outcomes need further refinement such that they can be readily articulated, understood and supported by the campus community. Student input is also needed.  Further refinement of the outcomes is also needed to develop a revised and more effective assessment program. 

 

2.  Assessment Plan.  The committee reviewed some of the past assessment efforts and difficulties as found in the report to Faculty Senate of March 2000.  The committee decided that the above student learning outcomes need to be defined and in place before a revised assessment plan is developed. The committee recognized that a revised assessment plan must continue to look at inputs (e.g., evaluation of course syllabi, whether or not inquiry based learning is occurring, etc.) but must also emphasize programmatic student learning outcomes. 

 

Other GEC Activities

1.  AAC&U President’s CALL for the Campaign for the Advancement of Liberal Learning.  The committee voted to endorse this initiative and asked the Director to forward this CALL to Chancellor Hastad asking for his support and signature.  The request was sent in June, 2002.

 

2. Use of meeting time: Future review of course and Writing-in-the-Major proposals.  The committee agreed that in order to complete the work related to a revised and revitalized General Education Program and to begin the development and implementation of an assessment plan, only some of the scheduled meetings during the 2002-2003 academic year will be used for review of course and Writing-in-the-Major proposals.  The dates set for review of these proposals were Monday, October 7, 21 and November 4 in fall semester and Monday, March 3 and 7 in spring semester.  The Director will inform all chairs and program directors of these meeting dates.

 

3.  Faculty Development.  The committee approved use of some of the “Innovations in General Education Fund” for sending committee members or other faculty representatives and the director to relevant national conferences.  A GEC subcommittee also met and identified several areas for faculty development initiatives, including workshops on Problem-Based and/or Case-Based Learning or other Inquiry Based learning initiatives, a GEC conference  (retreat) prior to fall semester with a consultant available, if possible, and a request that the Teaching Day in January 2003 focus on General Education.  The committee received no “Innovation” proposals this year.

 

Goals and Recommendations

The GEC established several goals for next year.  These include:

  • Complete the revision of General Education goals in the form of student learning outcomes. Use  feedback received from faculty and staff and seek student input.
  • Revise the General Education assessment plan. Use the student learning outcomes as the basis of this plan and review earlier assessment efforts. 
  • Begin the process of instituting revisions in the current structure of General Education in time for the new catalogue. Possible examples:

o        Define Freshmen Experience and identify appropriate courses that belong in the Freshman Experience

o        Investigate the possibility and feasibility of senior capstone interdisciplinary courses in General Education

o        Investigate development of an integrated (with majors/minors) hierarchical four-year Gen Ed program

·     Identify Faculty Development needs and initiatives related to improvement in the General Education program.

·     Integrate NSSE results into our discussion of General Education goals, student learning outcomes and Freshmen Experience.

Recommendation. Currently, the Faculty Senate By-Laws for the GEC mandates that it be an eight-member faculty committee with required representation from each college and a student representative.  The Director is also a member and chair of the committee. Although a small committee often is more efficient, the size of GEC limits its ability to form into subcommittees. Because the work of this committee impacts the largest academic program on campus and all students on campus, subcommittees are sometimes needed to divide the workload.   Furthermore, the current structure of the committee does not adequately represent the various core curriculum areas of General Education or the academic, student affairs and student constituencies on this campus. During the summer the Director will, therefore, develop a draft of By-Law changes regarding membership of the GEC that can be presented to the committee.  The committee will then recommend to Faculty Senate an expansion of the committee for the following academic year.