Assessment of General Education
Overview. Almost all courses in the Morris Catalog 2007-2009 carry general education designators. Assessment by direct measures of student learning occurs course by course in the home discipline of courses with designators. Indirect measures are gathered by means of a survey of graduating seniors that has been done annually since 2002.
Relevant points about governance at UMM. Each discipline (department) belongs to one of four academic divisions. A small program of interdisciplinary studies is administered by the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean. The Campus Assembly is the collegeŐs legislative body, consisting of its faculty, academic staff personnel, elected student members, civil service personnel holding the title of associate vice chancellor for physical plant and master planning, registrar, or director, and elected civil service/staff members. Total membership for the fall of 2007 is 222.
The General Education Program. Students must complete 120 semester credits to earn the B. A. degree. Of those credits, 60 must be outside the discipline of the major and distributed across three categories: First-Year Seminar; Skills for the Liberal Arts; and Expanding Perspectives. The Skills category is further divided into four subcategories and the Perspectives into six. Catalog copy of the general education program can be found at the end of this section.
There are goals to be met for each category and subcategory. In order to carry a general education designator, the goals of a course must match those of a category or subcategory. In addition, only courses of two or more credits can carry the designator and each course can carry only one. Almost all courses in the Catalog satisfy general education categories.
The General Education Subcommittee. This ad hoc subcommittee of the Curriculum Committee reviewed the general education assessment programs of several colleges and universities, and recommended a course-embedded program for UMM. Although the subcommittee discussed learning outcomes for the general education categories, in actual practice those are left to course instructors. This point is taken up again after the next paragraph.
Approving courses for general education. Disciplines recommend a designator for each of their courses carrying two or more credits. There are three levels of review to assure that course and general education goals coincide, with the discipline recommending to the division, the division to the Curriculum Committee, and the Curriculum Committee to the Campus Assembly.
Assessing and improving student learning in general education. The bulk of this report is devoted to assessing and improving student learning in the disciplines. However, general education is based in discipline courses, so assessment in general education occurs course-by-course. As a consequence, overall improvement of student learning in general education occurs by the accumulation of increments.
Do the learning outcomes of individual courses meet the broad goals of the general education program? In other words, is a course-embedded assessment program in which instructors set the learning outcomes an adequate mechanism for achieving the goals of general education? On the one hand, assigning of general education designators through a three-tiered review process is a rigorous way of matching course and general education goals. But on the other, does it really work? What do the discipline reports themselves reveal? Are in fact general education goals honored in the actual teaching of the courses? The author of this report believes that there is strong evidence that the course-embedded program works, but before turning if only briefly to that evidence, the following should be noted.
Some disciplines chose not to report on course-embedded assessment, which is the only assessment directly relevant to general education. Examples are Political Science and Psychology, whose assessment reports focused on their capstone courses. And in a few instances disciplines have discussed assessment methods while not including a statement of goals. Now let us return to the evidence.
Consider the first course in the report, Physical Anthropology, which carries the Sci-L designator, science with lab. Compare the general education and course goals:
General Education: Physical and Biological Sciences. To increase studentsŐ understanding of the structure and dynamics of the physical and biological worlds, and of the scientific method.
Physical Anthropology: The course seeks to develop student understanding in three broad areas: i. the biological basis of human life through the study of genetic inheritance, human adaptation, and variation; ii. the study of living non-human primates and their social behavior; and iii. the principles of evolution as well as the evolutionary history of fossil anthropoids, hominoids, and ancestral humans.
Evidently the course goals are concrete instances of the broad goal of increasing ŇstudentsŐ understanding of the structure and dynamics of the...biological world.Ó The instructor thoroughly measured the learning objective outcomes and thus the outcomes of the general education category. On the basis of the reports one can cite similar instances of concrete course goals realizing broad general education goals in disciplines such as Art History, Chemistry, College Writing, all of the Foreign Language disciplines, Economics, Management, Mathematics, Philosophy, Physics, Sociology, Statistics, Studio Art, and Theatre Arts.
General Education Survey for Graduating Seniors. This survey, administered annually, asks graduating seniors to self-assess the degree to which they have achieved general education goals and to rate whether or not they hold the goals to be important. Although this survey does not provide a direct measure of student learning, a sense of student views is important in guiding program review and development.
Seniors consistently rate their achievement higher than the importance of a general education category. This apparent discounting of the relevance of liberal learning to their lives is an ongoing source of concern that is being addressed by two campus units, the Curriculum Committee and the Retention Group. Specifically they are considering how the curriculum can better incorporate the purposes and benefits of a liberal education.
The general education categories that seniors esteem of lowest importance are, consistently, Foreign Languages, Fine Arts, and Artistic Performance, although recently Mathematical/Symbolic Reasoning also attained a low ranking. Of highest importance to them are College Writing, the Social Sciences category (human behavior, social processes, and institutions), recently joined by the Human Diversity category. They also give themselves high achievement marks in these three categories that they rate as most important. There is a strong correlation of achievement/importance with the studentŐs division, and thus of the home of the studentŐs passion for learning.
The General Education Program
General Education Requirements (60 credits)
Provision i UMM courses designated as appropriate for meeting general education requirements are those which, if passed successfully, demonstrate the studentŐs competency in a given skill or area. Students are required to complete a minimum of 60 credits of general education coursework outside the discipline of the major and must meet the requirements listed below. The requirements may be met not only through UMM courses, but also by transfer of credit, examinations for proficiency or credit, assessment of prior learning, individual projects, and other means. For details, students should consult with their advisers. In some instances the specific general education requirements may be met using fewer than 60 UMM credits. If this occurs, then introductory or advanced elective courses from any discipline outside the major—with the exception of courses in elementary or secondary education, wellness and sport science, or accounting courses in management—may be used to fulfill the remaining credits of the 60-credit general education requirement. Note: The designation following each category below, e.g., FYS for First-Year Seminar, appears at the beginning of the parenthetical information for each course that is appropriate for that category.
I. The First-Year Seminar (FYS)***—One 2-credit course.
II. Skills for the Liberal Arts—One to five courses.*
These requirements emphasize the development of the intellectual skills, the communication skills, and the framework for learning needed for successful advanced work. Because new students need this foundation early, they are expected to complete many of these requirements during their first and second years.
A. College Writing (CW)—One course.*
B. Foreign Language (FL)—Two courses in a single language.**
C. Mathematical/Symbolic Reasoning (M/SR)—One course.*
D. Artistic Performance (ArtP)—One course.
III. Expanding Perspectives—Eight courses of at least 2 credits each.
A. Historical Perspectives (Hist)—One course.
B. Human Behavior, Social Processes, and Institutions (SS)—One course.
C. Communication, Language, Literature, and Philosophy (Hum)—One course.
D. Fine Arts (FA)—One course.
E. Physical and Biological Sciences (Sci—without lab; Sci-L—with lab)— Two courses, at least one with lab.
F. The Global Village—Two courses, one from each of two areas.
1. Human Diversity (HDiv)
2. People and the Environment (Envt)
3. International Perspective (IP)****
4. Ethical and Civic Responsibility (E/CR)
* This requirement may be fulfilled through exemption.
** Students are required to demonstrate proficiency in a second language at the level achieved at the completion of the first year of college language study. Students can demonstrate proficiency by: a) passing 1002—Beginning Language II or an equivalent college course; b) passing the appropriate placement test; c) passing an examination for credit, such as AP or CLEP; or d) proving that they have a native language other than English. Students who plan to complete courses in the same language that they studied in high school must take the placement examination and abide by the placement recommendation. If, after an initial exposure to the recommended course, the placement seems inappropriate, they may follow the recommendation of their language instructor as to the proper entry course.
*** Students who do not successfully complete FYS should contact the Scholastic Committee Office (320-589-6011) for information on completing the requirement.
**** International students should contact the Scholastic Committee Office for an exemption.
Provisions ii through iv
Provision ii—Goals will be used to match courses to general education requirements (see below).
Provision iii—Only courses of two or more credits will satisfy an Expanding Perspectives requirement.
Provision iv—A course can satisfy only one of the general education categories.
Each major can provide students with a statement about how a student majoring in that area will formally acquire computing and writing skills. Students should contact their faculty adviser for current information.
Goals of the General Education Requirements
I. First-Year Seminar: First-year seminar aims not only to teach students to think critically and to assess sources of information, but also to help students to become aware of the lenses through which they perceive and to recognize that their perceptions are not universal.
II. A. College Writing: To understand the writing process through invention, organization, drafting, revising, and editing; and develop writers who can write about a range of ideas for a variety of readers.
II. B. Foreign Language: To develop some fluency in the skills of speaking, listening, reading, and writing in a second language; and critical insight into another culture.
II. C. Mathematical/Symbolic Reasoning: To strengthen studentsŐ ability to formulate abstractions, construct proofs, and utilize symbols in formal systems.
II. D. Artistic Performance: To introduce an understanding of the creative process through individual performance, and demonstrate skill in such activities as composition, theater, dance, studio art, and music.
III. A. Historical Perspectives: To increase studentsŐ understanding of the past, the complexity of human affairs, the ways in which various forces—economic, cultural, religious, political, scientific—influence efforts to control events, and the ways historians verify and interpret their findings.
III. B. Human Behavior, Social Processes, and Institutions: To increase studentsŐ systematic understanding of themselves as functioning humans, their individual similarities to and differences from others, their awareness of the nature and significance of their conscious experience, and the forces that shape their interpersonal attachments and interactions; or to increase studentsŐ understanding of methods of analyzing modern society or some significant legal, political, economic, religious, social, or scientific component of it.
III. C. Communication, Language, Literature, and Philosophy: To expand studentsŐ capacity to understand, analyze, discuss, and evaluate discourse concerning the complexity of the human condition through the study of languages and works of thought and imagination.
III. D. Fine Arts: To develop studentsŐ understanding, analysis, and appreciation of the arts.
III. E. Physical and Biological Sciences: To increase studentsŐ understanding of the structure and dynamics of the physical and biological worlds, and of the scientific method.
III. F. The Global Village: To increase studentsŐ understanding of the growing interdependence among nations, peoples, and the natural world.
III. F. 1. Human Diversity: To increase studentsŐ understanding of individual and group differences (e.g., race, gender, class) and their knowledge of the traditions and values of various groups in the United States.
III. F. 2. People and the Environment: To increase studentsŐ understanding of the interrelatedness of human society and the natural world.
III. F. 3. International Perspective: To increase studentsŐ systematic understanding of national cultures substantially different from those in which they received their prior schooling.
III. F. 4. Ethical and Civic Responsibility: To broaden and develop studentsŐ capacity to question and reflect upon their own and societyŐs values and critical responsibilities, and to understand forces, such as technology, that cause them to modify these views and often mandate creation of new ways to resolve legal, social, and scientific issues.
 The Division of Education is comprised of Education, Elementary Education, and Secondary Education. Disciplines in the Division of Humanities are Art History, Studio Art, English, French, German, Music, Philosophy, Spanish, Speech Communication, and Theatre Arts. In the Division of Science and Mathematics are Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Geology, Mathematics, Physics, and Statistics. The Division of Social Sciences consists of Anthropology, Economics, History, Management, Political Science, Psychology, and Sociology.