Shrink, Simplify and Assess

A Proposal to the BRIDGE Committee

 

Design Team

 

Seran Aktuna, English Language and Literature

John Danley, Philosophy

Cem Karacal, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering

Nader Panahshahi, Civil Engineering

Kerry Slattery, Construction

Laura Swanson, Management and Marketing

 

Abstract

 

The proposed approach to redesign the General Education curriculum at SIUE reduces the number of credit hours in the program to 33, eliminates most categories and groupings of course requirements, and adds a University committee to assess all aspects of the program. Compliance with the SIUE Objectives for the Baccalaureate Degree will be insured by assessing outcomes, requiring all students to complete core courses that will provide a foundation in liberal arts and sciences, and empowering individual programs to select the second writing course and incorporate ethics throughout the curriculum. The first component of the proposed program is 18 credit hours of skills courses in writing, critical thinking, speech, mathematics and statistics. Most of these are existing courses but both the course design and outcomes must be assessed to insure that students are meeting the Objectives for the Baccalaureate Degree. English 102 will be divided into multiple courses (ENG 102A, ENG 102B, etc.) each providing discipline specific content to be designed in consultation with individual schools or programs. Math and Statistics requirements can also be satisfied by completing higher level courses in those departments. The second component is to require three core courses to provide a foundation in liberal arts and sciences. These courses will be four credit hours consisting of a large, three hour lecture with multiple one credit hour laboratory sections. The core courses will be: Fine Arts and Humanities, Natural Science and Mathematics, and Social Science. These courses will be designed by teams of faculty to expose students to the full range of disciplines in each area. The third component of our proposal is to retain the Interdisciplinary Studies requirement to be taken after completing the other general education requirements. Freshman Seminar and Intergroup Relations requirements may be met by selecting skills courses that are designated to meet these requirements or by taking additional courses. This program requires 18 credit hours of skills courses, 12 hours of core courses and a 3 hour interdisciplinary studies course. Students may need an additional 6 hours to meet Freshman Seminar and Intergroup Relations requirements, but may be exempt from 6 hours of Math and Statistics if their majors require higher level courses in these fields. Assessment of the program will be the responsibility of a committee that will review course evaluations, syllabi, student work, staffing, class size and, where possible, student performance on nationally-normed tests.

 

 

 

 

Narrative

 

Introduction

 

Our team proposes to redesign the general education requirements for Southern Illinois University Edwardsville to insure that we are meeting the University's Objectives for the Baccalaureate Degree while simplifying the requirements and reducing the number of credit hours. The program retains the Intergroup Relations requirement mandated by state law as well as the traditional Interdisciplinary Studies requirement with the new Freshman Seminar which are distinctive features of the SIUE experience. While skills requirements will be largely prescriptive to insure that all graduates can demonstrate minimal proficiency in four areas, the second writing course will be redesigned to provide content tailored to the needs of different disciplines. The major innovation in our approach is to require core courses that broadly cover the three major areas defined in the current general studies program in order to provide a foundation in liberal arts and sciences. The final component is to develop a rigorous assessment plan for the general education curriculum to insure that objectives are met.

 

Proposed Program

 

The proposed program is summarized in the outline shown in Figure 1. The program is largely prescriptive. Students will select an English 102 section based on the requirements of their anticipated degree program. Three Speech courses are currently listed as options, but the Speech Communications department may choose to propose a new course that meets the Objectives for the Baccalaureate Degree. All three Core courses are required. Students will select from available Interdisciplinary Studies courses. Freshman Seminar and Intergroup Relations requirements may be met by appropriate skills courses or additional courses selected by the student or recommended by their academic program.

 

Skills Courses

 

Four critical skills are identified, and all SIUE graduates must demonstrate minimal proficiency by passing required courses in each area. The skills areas are: written communication, critical thinking, oral communication, and quantitative literacy. An additional skill, computer literacy, is expected of all students. Entering freshmen will be required to pass a proficiency test or take an Academic Development course in this area. Computer literacy will be exercised in the writing, math and statistics courses.

 

Written Communication. English 101 will be required for all students. Students may demonstrate proficiency through current testing procedures to satisfy this requirement. The second writing course will still be designated as English 102 and will still focus on expository writing, but new courses will be developed with an additional letter designation (e.g. English 102A) to focus on the types of writing required in a student's selected discipline. These courses will be developed by the English department in cooperation with other schools and departments. In the discipline-related sections, the essays and research papers will more closely conform to research and analysis approaches that will assist the students in their chosen disciplines. These courses will still share the objective of training students to communicate effectively through writing.

 



 

A. Skills courses (18 credit hours)

 

  Written                          ENG 101                                    3 credit hours

  Communication              ENG 1021                                  3 credit hours

 

  Critical Thinking             Phil 106                                      3 credit hours

 

  Oral                              SPC 103

  Communication             SPC 105                                     3 credit hours

                                or   SPC 1112

 

  Quantitative                  Math 111                                     3 credit hours

   Literacy                       Stats 1073                                    3 credit hours

                   

B. Core/Foundation courses in the Humanities and Social Sciences

      Fine Arts and Humanities 101                                      4 credit hours

      Natural Science and Mathematics 101                         4 credit hours

      Social Science 101                                                      4 credit hours

 

These courses will include 3 hours of large lecture/group work and one hour of small group discussion/lab work, as determined by the content.

 

C. Interdisciplinary Studies course                                3 credit hours

 

Total credit hours: 33

 

NOTE: All students will take one course listed as a Freshmen Seminar and one listed as Intergroup Relations.

 

1 Discipline-specific sections may be required by individual programs

2 The comprehensive content of Speech 111 is preferred, Speech 103 also satisfies IGR

   requirement. A new course may be developed at the discretion of the Speech Communication

   department that meets objectives.

3 Math requirement may be satisfied by MATH 120 or above and Statistics requirement by

   STAT 244 or above or MS 251

 

Figure 1. Shrink, Simplify and Assess program plan

 

Critical Thinking. All students will be required to pass Philosophy 106 to achieve proficiency in critical thinking.

 

Oral Communication. In order to develop oral communication skills, students will select from one of three Speech courses currently offered: Speech Communication 103, Speech Communication 105 or Speech Communication 111. Many disciplines require incoming students to have public speaking and presentation skills. The current course description for Speech Communication 111 indicates that a broad variety of oral communications skills are covered. This would be the preferred course among the three choices.

 

Quantitative Literacy. Undergraduate students at SIUE should have the quantitative skills required to apply mathematical concepts in their daily activities. All students must, at a minimum, pass Math 111. This requirement may be satisfied by passing another math course, Math 120 or higher. All students also must, at a minimum, pass Statistics 107. This requirement may be satisfied by passing another statistics course, Stat 244 or higher, or an approved statistics course taught by another department such as MS 251.

 

Core/Foundation Courses

 

Three new courses will be developed that must be completed by all SIUE graduates. The courses will be designed to cover the range of disciplines under each category. Appendix A gives examples of courses offered at Boston University , Colgate University and Farleigh Dickinson University that provide models of how this type of core curriculum may be implemented. These courses will be organized using the current General Education categories: Fine Arts and Humanities (FAH), Natural Science and Mathematics (NSM), and Social Science (SS). The courses should provide the student with an appreciation for each of the disciplines under that category. Each course will be four credit hours with three hours dedicated to lecture and a one credit hour lab section. Lectures will be taught to large groups with two (or possibly more) professors to adequately cover the breadth of the topic. The content and duration of lab section meetings will vary for each of the courses. These sections will allow small group discussion and interaction with a teaching assistant. They will also include some laboratory exercises for the NSM course as well as visits to exhibits or viewing of performances for the FAH course. Methods of inquiry used in the social sciences can also be practiced in these classes.

 

Interdisciplinary Studies Courses

 

The current requirement for one interdisciplinary course will be maintained. New assessment procedures will also be applied to these courses to insure that they meet requirements.

 

Assessment

 

A university level assessment committee will be formed to monitor the general education program. It is expected that the committee chair will be assigned at least half time to the position. The committee will have one member responsible for each skill area, core course and the IS program. These members will be granted some course release time to adequately perform the required duties.

 

General education courses will be evaluated to determine how well the course design is achieving the course goals and objectives. The objectives must be developed by the responsible departments, approved by the general education committee, and communicated to the instructors. According to the course material being covered, different methods of assessment may be used. These methods may include nationally-normed tests, internally-developed instruments, course-embedded assessment, student interviews and focus groups, feedback from upper-level courses and course portfolios.

 

A nationally-normed test such as the Collegiate Assessment of Academic Proficiency (CAAP) which covers areas of writing, mathematics, reading, critical thinking and science might be used to assess student learning in the skills courses. The Academic Profile is another nationally-normed test that assesses student knowledge in the areas of natural science, social science, mathematics, humanities, reading, writing, and critical thinking.

 

Additionally, internally-developed assessment of written communication skills and oral communication skills may be used. For this type of assessment, samples of student work are reviewed by a panel of faculty members using internally-generated criteria.

 

In courses with specialized knowledge or experiences such as the Core/Foundation courses, course-embedded assessment may be used. For course-embedded assessment, specific student work such as essays and exam questions that reflect the course goals may be used to assess student learning.

 

For course portfolios, each instructor would be required to assemble a notebook consisting of a course syllabus, three samples of graded student work on each assignment and exam, and a grade report to document the size of the class and the grade distribution. Notebooks will be submitted along with the final grades and available for review by the administrators responsible for the course and the assessment committee. Course portfolios and course-embedded measures would be particularly effective in assessing student learning in Interdisciplinary courses.

 

Student interviews or focus groups and alumni surveys should be used to gather student feedback on the general education experience. Feedback from upper-level courses and programs should also be used to assess the general education process.

 

The complexity of gathering and assessing so much data for so many students and courses may require that different area of general education be assessed on a rotating basis in two- or three-year cycles.

 

Compliance with the Statement of Objectives for the Baccalaureate Degree

 

The proposed program was designed with the SIUE Statement of Objectives for the Baccalaureate Degree as the primary evaluation criteria. Each of the seven objectives are addressed in our final plan. Our plan is designed to achieve these objectives more consistently than the current general education program by emphasizing assessment and enforcing breadth so every graduate accomplishes all objectives.

 

Figure 2 illustrates the required connections between the objectives and the requirements. All general education requirements support the Preparation in an Academic or Professional Discipline so these are not illustrated. Education in ethics is a required component of that preparation and is the responsibility of the individual academic programs to insure that it is adequately addressed.

 

     

Figure 2. Objective compliance plan

  

 

Analytic, Problem-solving, and Decision-making Skills

 

The Skills requirements for the proposed program provide the foundation for achieving the Analytic, Problem-solving, and Decision-making Skills objective. Individual departments must insure that students continue to develop these skills throughout the remainder of the undergraduate curriculum. The objectives and assessment of the Writing, Critical Thinking, Math and Statistics courses must insure that all components of this objective are addressed.

 

Oral and Written Communication Skills

 

Oral and Written Communication Skills will be developed in Writing and Speech skills courses as well as the Core courses and Interdisciplinary Studies course. Again, these general education courses are a foundation for additional training and experience in advanced courses in the student's major.

 

Foundation in Liberal Arts and Science

 

One of the concerns of some members of our team was that the current approach of allowing students (or academic programs) to choose Introductory and Distribution courses from a small number of disciplines in the liberal arts and sciences did not actually provide a foundation. As two members of our team are structural engineers by training, we understand a foundation to involve many individual footings or long continuous footings distributed around the entire structure. Our proposal calls for the development of three core courses in each of the traditional general education categories used at SIUE. These courses should be designed to introduce students to all major fields within these categories and develop an understanding of the relationships between these disciplines and with other areas of endeavor. Students will then pursue further study is some of these disciplines in the Interdisciplinary Studies course.

 

Value of Diversity

 

The primary vehicle for accomplishing the Value in Diversity objective is the Intergroup Relations requirement. SIUE students are expected to develop cross-cultural understanding as informed citizens of the would through their experiences in all parts of the general education program.

 

Scientific Literacy

 

The Skills requirements for Math and Statistics will provide the foundation for scientific literacy. The NSM Core course will be designed to address this objective and require laboratory investigations, and the SS Core course will include application of scientific principles to field investigations. The NSM Core course will also address the influence of technological developments on society.

 

Ethics

 

The ethics objective will be the responsibility of individual programs. A course in ethics may still be required by a department, but ethics must be taught across the curriculum so students are exposed to ethical issues in their chosen discipline. Individual programs will be required to document where and how ethics is covered. These documents will be reviewed during regular program reviews. Some cooperation with the Philosophy department may be required to develop adequate content.

 

Preparation in an Academic or Professional Discipline

 

While this objective may appear to be outside the sphere of general education, the link between general education and preparation for a profession to create an educated citizen cannot be ignored. Our graduates must understand that, as they will want to be considered to be “professionals” in their careers, more is required for that designation than mere technical competence. The general education requirements provide them with the skills and experiences to distinguish them from “technicians.”

 

Significant Implementation Hurdles

 

The two major implementation issues required for the proposed program are the creation and support of the assessment committee and the development of the core courses. The assessment committee will require at least one staff position, one-half faculty position and some incentive/compensation for the nine members responsible for each component of the general education curriculum. Core course development will require committees assembled from the College of Arts and Sciences with representatives from other schools to design these courses.

 

This major change to the general education program will greatly reduce or eliminate the demand for most introductory courses. Responsible departments will need to plan to reassign duties and resources accordingly. The new core courses will, of course, maintain the demand for faculty in many of these disciplines.


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Appendix A

 

Examples of Core/Foundation Courses at other Institutions


1. Boston University

 

       Introduction to the Social Sciences, http://www.bu.edu/cgs/academic/social_courses.html

 

     CGS SS 101 Social Science I: Introduction to the Social Sciences introduces the student to the basic tools of anthropology, sociology, social psychology, economics, and history. Students examine and apply the methods and principal concepts of these disciplines to the problems of contemporary society. The course introduces the structures and processes involved in an analysis of culture, society, the socialization process, social stratification, and social institutions. Cross-cultural inquiry demonstrates the universal social needs of people and illustrates how these can be met in a variety of social configurations.

 

       Traditions in the Humanities http://www.bu.edu/cgs/academic/humanities_courses.html

 

     CGS HU 101 Humanities I: Traditions in the Humanities is organized historically and is devoted to the study of fiction, drama, poetry, art, and film. The semester begins with a unit on ways of interpreting the humanities, proceeds with the study of literature and art from ancient Greece through the nineteenth century, and includes a film studies component.

 

       Evolution and the Development of Modern Science

http://www.bu.edu/cgs/academic/natural_courses.html

 

     CGS NS 101 Physical Science I: Evolution and the Development of Modern Science examines two major revolutions that changed our scientific worldview. The course begins with an examination of evolutionary theory. We explore Charles Darwin's model of evolution and current status, analyzing supporting data ranging from cell reproduction to genetics. We draw on our understanding of evolution to investigate the origin and evolution of our own species, Homo sapiens. The development of human civilization required an understanding of the natural world. We explore the origins of modern science, with a focus on the Newtonian revolution in physics, from this perspective.

 


2. Colgate University as described at

http://www.colgate.edu/DesktopDefault1.aspx?tabid=622&pgID=3080

 

Liberal Arts Core 151: Western Traditions

In this course students learn about the beginnings of Western thought and its resonance throughout the ages. They confront the complexity of Western culture and the impossibility of either embracing it or rejecting it reductively.

Students will be engaged by two questions that are central to understanding the past: How does the past continue to speak to us today? To what extent are the ideas and values of the past significantly different from our own?

 

Liberal Arts Core 152: Challenge of Modernity

The 19th century marked a crucial turning point in the West. Revolutions in technology and thought transformed Western culture; in some sense they created modern language and the modern world.

This course explores the distinctive features of modernity, providing students with a clear sense of the problem and promise of modernity for contemporary life.

 

Liberal Arts Core Cultures

Students will study one of three cultures -- Africa, Asia, or the Americas -- that are considered to be distinct from the Western tradition.

Each course is multidisciplinary in approach and materials and is taught by a faculty member with a special interest in and knowledge of the culture concerned.

These courses contribute to the student's skills, critical acumen, and breadth of understanding, including an appreciation and a measure of skepticism regarding a variety of beliefs, values, and conventions, including their own.

 

Liberal Arts Core Distinction

The Core Program offers a limited number of upper-level interdisciplinary courses each semester, focusing on ethical issues with contemporary significance.

These courses extend the four-course required program with an integrative capstone experience; they are open to all students who have completed the four-course Core requirement.

 

Liberal Arts Core Scientific Perspectives

This series of courses provides students opportunities to become involved in the process of scientific reasoning, methods of verification, and scientific explanation.

The courses are designed to introduce students to topics of current interest and to examine the historical and contemporary influence of science on the individual and society.

 

 

3. Farleigh Dickinson University as described at http://view.fdu.edu/?id=12

 

Core A - Global Challenge

The first course in the revised University Core program uses the benefits of distance learning to provide students with tools and perspectives for confronting issues faced by people living in an increasingly interdependent and interconnected world. As they investigate challenges to humankind, such as those raised by environmental degradation, modern warfare and deadly infectious diseases, students will interact with experts from around the globe, as well as classmates and faculty members. Special attention will be given to the implications of the scientific method as compared with cultural, aesthetic and ethical approaches to understanding the world around us. Through access to sources on the Internet, students will learn how to evaluate and integrate information.

Core B - Perspectives on the Individual

Aspects of our sense of being an individual are explored through situations in literature, art and theory: the individual and her body (the effect of genetics); the individual and the state (The Handmaid's Tale); the individual and death (Gilgamesh); the individual and integrity (Jesus, Buddha, Socrates); the individual and nature (Pico and Wordsworth); the individual and his internal conflicts (Freud); the individual and prejudice (The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Night).

Core C - Cross-Cultural Perspectives

This course begins with a text, such as Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart , which includes the theme of cross-cultural conflict. Four geographic regions will serve as the focus of the course: China , Latin America, Sub-Sahara Africa and Egypt . These regions may vary from time to time. The course will not attempt an in-dpeth study of the cultural values of these regions but, rather, will seek to introduce students to the concept of cultural diversity through illustration. The course will center around four organizing subjects or themes:

Core D - The American Experience: Quest for Freedom

The American Experience (Core D) equips students for critical encounters with the texts, images, sounds, and situations that constitute American life, politics, history, and culture.  Organized around the theme of “the American dream,” the course delves into enduring tensions in American life between inclusion and exclusion, the crowd and the individual, and innovation and nostalgia.  Additionally, the course examines the promise of money and power inherent in some (but not all) articulations of the American dream, as well as the reception of the American dream belief system abroad.

 

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BRIDGE Proposal Overview - Self-Assessment

1. How does your proposal support the values of SIUE (citizenship, excellence, integrity, openness and wisdom)?

 

Since the overseeing committee will be an active participant in deciding the course content and format of the proposed general education courses, these values will be embedded in the skills, core, and interdisciplinary courses. The repeated exposure of students to these values under different subject matters by different instructors will have a lasting effect. In their preparation of the course material, individual instructors will be asked to use intrinsic opportunities in the course material to emphasize the values by using a method appropriate for their course content.

 

2. How does your proposal support the stated objectives of the baccalaureate degree (oral/written communication skills, analytic/problem-solving skills, value of diversity, scientific literacy, ethics, foundation in the liberal arts and sciences, preparation in/for a discipline)?

 

Each one of these objectives are covered either through a course specifically targeting the objective or a combination of courses in which the objective is integrated. For example, we propose courses on oral and written skills and integrate skills such as ethics and problem solving into general education and discipline specific courses. Our proposal emphasizes a rigorous assessment of these skills using internal and/or external measurements of how well the objectives are achieved. In addition, the proposed scheme also gives enough flexibility to customize some of the skills based on the needs of the professional schools.

 

3. Does the proposal support the diverse range of needs of SIUE's student body and the special needs of the various professional and academic programs at SIUE?

 

Our proposal is specifically designed to accommodate the needs of various programs. The proposed skills and core courses have build-in flexibility to meet the needs of different students in terms of their background and area of study. For example, a student who is going to study Math can take higher level Math/Statistics courses while a student who is an art major is given the opportunity to take the listed skills courses in Math/Statistics and yet both will meet the objectives of the general education. The proposed four credit hour core courses can also be diversified and customized according to the needs and interest of the student body while keeping the objectives and assessment intact.

 

4. Does the proposal respond to and address the ‘emerging concerns' of the faculty for general education to be relevant it must address (integration, information, communication, application)?

 

Many of these issues are related to the implementation part of our proposal where the course objectives and format is decided by the individual faculty members in collaboration with the members of the overseeing committee. The knowledge gained in the skills courses need to be integrated into the core courses. Especially the small group discussion/lab section of the core courses will be the ideal platform to address these concerns.

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