Overview. In the academic year 2002-2003, the newly-restructured General Studies Council (GSC) was formed, after its governance policies and procedures were approved by each of the four undergraduate Colleges. (It should be noted that the previous General Studies Committee had met to review the proposed governance document and to "clean up" remaining items on the agenda.) The first meeting of the GSC occurred on November 7, 2002. SVCAA Hadley welcomed the members of the Council and directed the Council to address the recommendations raised by the 2001 academic program review.
The GSC accomplished a number of objectives during this academic year including:
- Approval in concept of an assessment plan at its May, 2003 meeting. It is presented later in this document. (See Appendices A and B.)
- Reviewed and reaffirmed the objectives for the GSP. (See Appendix C.)
- Approved the student outcomes for the GSP. (See Appendix C.)
- Began discussion of the fundamental nature of the Liberal Education and discussed a preliminary proposal for restructuring the GSP (presented by Dr. Charles Peek, UNK English).
- The GSC clarified some of the procedures and policies involved in approving new courses as GS, WI, and CD.
- The Director consulted the GSC on a number of issues concerning student waivers of GS requirements to meet graduation requirements.
Planned Data Collection. The objectives of the entire General Studies (GS) program, which are written in terms of student outcomes, have been composed and approved. (See Appendix C) There is a set of 4 overarching objectives, which apply to all courses in the program. More specific objectives have been written for each perspective (category) within the program and thus only apply to the courses within that perspective. Thus far, the objectives have been used to determine whether a new course qualifies as a General Studies course and as a qualifying course in a perspective. Assessment of student outcomes will be based on these objectives.
General Observations. The GS program, however, presents some unusual problems for student outcome assessment. (See Appendices A and B.) For any two students who have completed the GS requirements, it is possible (and relatively likely) that they will have only three courses in common (ENG 101, ENG 102, and SPEECH 100). The design of the remainder of the program permits a wide variety of course choices within each perspective. Additionally, there is no rigid sequencing of courses within GS. So it is not possible to mark clearly when a student is finished with the entire program. Indeed, some students are still completing their GS requirements in the senior year.
While the Writing Intensive (WI) and Cultural Diversity (CD) requirements (12 and 6 hours, respectively) are associated with the GS program, they are overall requirements for graduation and are not specific course requirements within the GS program. Therefore a student could meet those requirements by taking courses in their major and minor and not in the General Studies program. The general objectives of the program, however, do connect to the WI and CD requirements. Thus, assessment of those objectives would need to consider what students learn in those courses.
The student outcome assessment of the WI and CD requirements need to be based on clearly written student outcomes, which are currently in development.
Since all students are required to take the GS program, the number of students to be assessed presents a daunting problem. It is neither possible nor desirable to collect data from every student who finishes the program. However, any sample of students who are assessed would need to be stratified with regard to relevant demographics, such as major, possibly minor, and other variables of interest. For example, UNK has a significant number of students who spend two years completing mostly GS courses but then transfer to other programs in Allied Health fields. Their assessment poses some interesting and difficult questions.
Conclusions and Recommendations. The size and scope of the assessment plan for the GSP will require the cooperation of the departments and further support from the administration. The Director requested a graduate assistantship be assigned to the GSP in order to assist in the data collection and analysis. The request was approved during the summer of 2003 and a graduate assistant hired by the fall semester.
Use of Results. A preliminary timetable was established with regard to the assessment of the GSP. Data collection would occur in the fall semester. This would allow time for analysis of the data and preparation of an assessment report, which would be presented to the GSC at a spring meeting. At this time, the data could drive future agendas of the GSC, thus connecting assessment to the planning process--at least at the level of the GSC. For the present, the Director would initiate contact with departments who are willing to begin GS assessment in their courses. However, in the long term, the plan is to assess every GS course within the next five years.
||Individual assessment of courses from Mathematics, English (ENG 101 and/or 102), Chemistry, and Psychology
|2004-2005 and beyond
||Recruit other departments by the Spring semester, 2004. Collect data in the Fall, 2004 and present to the GSC in the Spring.
Assessment of Process. The assessment procedures are still in the planning stages. As the first run of data collection is conducted in the 2003-2004 academic year, the institution will be making its first steps in institutionalizing assessment. However, the development process has been slow because student outcome assessment is new, it is not clear what resources are needed, and it takes an enormous amount of time to maintain faculty ownership of assessment as it pertains to the GSP.
Future Ideas for Data Collection. The assessment plan was altered at a June 23, 2003 meeting between the SVCAA, the Director and members of a team who attended an AAC&U conference on Assessment of General Education in Omaha from June 1-5, 2003. In order to expedite collecting student outcome data, the team had learned that assessment of the GSP should be simplified in the following manner:
- The four main learning objectives for the GSP should be assessed.
- Pre-test, Post-test designs for assessment are not necessary since the objectives are not stated in value-added terms.
- It is acceptable to use a "divide-and-conquer" strategy for assessment of the GSP. So assessing the GSP on a course-by-course rotation may be a more manageable strategy.
As a result of the meeting, the plan to sample 100 first-year students and 100 juniors was postponed. Rather the Director will ask a number of Departments to cooperate by conducting an assessment of their GS courses that measures student outcomes with regard to the stated objectives. Obvious choices were English and Mathematics.
Other areas where data is already being collected or could be easily collected will be sought out.