Millersville University, Faculty Senate

Millersville University

Objectives of the General Education Program

as presented by the

General Education Review Committee

Brief History: Two years ago, the faculty senate gave to the General Education Review Committee the task of assessment of the general education program at Millersville University. As part of our upcoming Middle States Review, all programs, including the general education program, will need to be engaged in outcomes assessment. The Five-Year Program Review, completed in May, 1996, identified creation of revised, assessable outcomes, as a necessary prerequisite to assessing the general education program. What is proposed here, then, are revised outcomes or goals of general education; they are not requirements. Although future changes in the curriculum would need to be guided by these objectives, any such changes in the curriculum would only occur as a result of the same process now in force, which is to say, through a vote of faculty senate. It is not antitipated that adopting these objectives will lead to any increase in either the number or the complexity of general education requirements. In fact, it is our belief that any changes made must be minimally disruptive and move in the direction of simplicity and efficiency rather than the opposite direction.

During the Fall of 97, the General Education Review Committee established nine different clusters of possible outcomes objectives, and a working group for each cluster. Each group was headed by a member of the committee except one, which was headed by a faculty volunteer. Each committee member was also a "second", or helper on a second working group. Faculty members from various departments were recruited to serve on the working groups, and ideas were circulated at meetings, through e-mail, and on the web site to obtain feedback at various stages of development.

We are still investigating means of assessment for some of these objectives. As only three to five objectives will be tested at any one time, we are most concerned immediately with specifying means of assessment for those objectives which are to be assessed first. Last summer, we examined two nationally normed general education tests, and decided to administer both to a sample of our undergraduates as a sort of pilot test during the first two weeks of the Spring 1999 semester. (This was recommended to us by Nichols, our outcomes assessment consultant.) Available exams test students on math, critical thinking, science reasoning, critical reading, and writing skills.

General education objectives are divided into three tiers as follows:

Tier I: Fundamental Skills - Six Objectives

Rationale: Students need these skills by the end of their first year of college. While we teach these in courses that fall under specific disciplines, at the fundamental level our main purposes of instruction are (1) their importance for success in higher level courses in a multitude of disciplines and (2) their general usefulness for a wide range of personal, civic, and career purposes.

1) Mathematical Reasoning: Students completing 30 credits at MU will demonstrate that they can:
a) formulate problems from the real world in the abstract language of mathematics;
b) select and perform mathematical procedures appropriate for solving such problems;
For a) and b), in particular assess:
i. Solving basic algebraic equations that model real world phenomena AND
ii. Understanding and interpreting statistical data
c) understand mathematical concepts and procedures appropriate for further learning.
For c), in particular assess:
i. Comprehension of basic geometric concepts AND
ii. Using calculators to solve mathematical problems

2) Critical Reasoning: Students completing 30 credits at MU will demonstrate that they can:
a) demonstrate an understanding of and ability to recognize, analyze, and appreciate arguments supporting theories and perspectives other than ones own;
b) provide reasoned support for their own beliefs;
c) fairly and competently compare and evaluate competing arguments.

3) Inquiry/Information Literacy: Students completing 30 credits at MU will demonstrate that they can:
a) generate research questions/pose problems;
b) recognize when they have a need for information;
c) find reliable sources;
d) evaluate information found and select relevant information;
e) make effective use of information, including being able to integrate what they have learned into a final product.

4) Communicating using a variety of speaking and writing processes: Students completing 30 credits at MU will demonstrate that they can:
a) generate, express and revise ideas;
b) take into account others' critiques of their ideas;
c) present ideas publicly in both spoken and written form;
d) reflect on their ability to work through these processes.

5) Communicating within different contexts: Students completing 30 credits at MU will demonstrate that, effectively and deliberately, they can:
a) use speaking and writing for a variety of purposes (e.g., for learning, pleasure, persuasion, exchange of information);
b) target different audiences according to those purposes;
c) select appropriate strategies for both writing and speaking (e.g., genre, conventions, style, vocabulary) for those audiences and purposes;
d) demonstrate awareness of their decisions.

6) Communications Technology Literacy: Students completing 30 credits at MU will demonstrate that they are competent with appropriate communications technology, and hence are able to:
a) make use of appropriate communications technology (e.g. word processing, spread sheets, e-mail, web-based publishing)
b) explain the way new technologies alter the processes of inquiry and communication.

Tier II: Disciplines-based Skills, Knowledge - Six Objectives

Rationale: Students should have these at least by the time they graduate, but they often need them earlier, either as part of the process of selecting a major, as an important knowledge base for other courses, or for general knowledge and skills useful in personal life, careers, and civic life. What students learn here is definitely taught within a discipline, such as sociology, art history, or biology, but the ultimate justification for our requiring students to take a certain number of courses within each division would seem to be a belief that there are several fairly distinct types of knowledge with which students need to be acquainted. Each type of knowledge is characterized by its own modes of communication and its own methods of critical reasoning and inquiry. These three types of understanding include the scientific, the social scientific, and the artistic/humanitistic, as represented in the MU curriculum by the three G-Blocks.

A) Humanities and Fine Arts: At completion of their general education requirements, all MU students should be able to:

7) Identify and discuss (in a way that demosntrates broad-based knowledge within one or more disciplines) at least two individuals/movements from a list of historical and contemporary artists, philosophers, musicians, playwrights, or writers, including Western and non-Western examples.

8 understand and be able to make use of some of the critical and creative methods of the arts and humanities, including the ability to
a) intelligently analyze, critique, and defend their reasoned opinions concerning works of theater, literature, art, philosophy or music (American or international, contemporary or historical)
b) create and/or appreciate works of art and literature

B) Science and Math: At completion of their general education requirements, all MU students should be able to:

9) articulate connections between scientific principles, technologies, and events affecting our everyday lives.

10) explain how we know and why we believe key concepts in the natural sciences, and be able to use:
a) scientific reasoning
b) laboratory methods
c) mathematics to solve scientific problems
d) appropriate technology

C) Social Sciences: At completion of their general education requirements, all MU students will be able to:

11) demonstrate an understanding of:
a) the relationships among people, culture, environment, institutions and systems across history and geography, and
b) the cultural, institutional, and environmental interdependence of coutries and regions of the world.

12) explain and be able to use some of the methods of inquiry of the social sciences, including quantitative and qualitative methods, to: a) study human behavior and social institutions
b) communicate the results using appropriate language, and
c) ascertain and evaluate the results obtained by others.

Tier III: Connections - Six Objectives

Rationale: Some capacities need to be acquired by students throughout their college careers; multiple opportunities for exposure and a grounding in a number of different disciplines provide an opportunity for depth and help avoid superficiality. This type of knowledge is genuinely interdisciplinary, in the most significant sense. It requires the student to make connections not only among courses from different disciplines, but from courses to life.

D. 13) Diversity/Understanding: At completion of degree requirements, all MU students must be able to demonstrate an understanding of:
a) at least two major U.S. ethnic groups,
b) the paradigms involved in studying other cultures/geners/sexual orientations, and
c) global diversity in terms of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, disabilities, etc.
d) linguistic diversity within a community.

14) Diversity/Skills: At completion of degree requirements, all MU students should be able to demonstrate they have learned attitudes and skills essential for communicating with, working with, and making decisions with people of diverse backgrounds.

E. 15) Historical Consciousness: At completion of degree requirements, MU students will be able to explain how the development and expression of institutions and beliefs interact with historical circumstances.

F. 16) Coherence: At completion of degree requirements, MU students will be able to see and discuss connections among courses in various disciplines and between their course work and "real life." In addition, they will be able to use what they have learned to make decisions and solve problems.

G. 17) Personal, Ethical, and Civic Values and Decision-making/Skills: At completion of degree requirements, MU students should be able to:
a) articulate and defend with reasons their own personal, moral, and civic values;
b) understand and respect the differing perspectives of others; and
c) use this knowledge of self and others to resolve conflicts and make decisions in "real life".

The HPE department has requested that we incorporate a couple of changes into #18.

Original version:
18) Personal, Ethical, and Civic Values and decision-making/Behavior: At completion of degree requirements, MU students should manifest certain virtues when it comes to what we might call areas of genuine consensus about personal, moral, and civic values; examples include:
a) academic and intellectual honesty,
b) commitment to personal growth, hard work, self-respect, self-discipline, and perseverance,
c) development of civility, empathy, and respect for others,
d) intellectual humility, independence, and courage, and
e) acceptance of responsibility for the consequences of their choices.

Revised version:
(as above, except change:
b) commitment to personal growth, wellness, hard work, self-respect, self-discipline, and perseverance, and
e) acceptance of responsibility for the consequences of their choices on their own welfare and that of others.

These objectives were developed by the General Education Review Committee. While a large number of faculty have participated to some degree in the process of developing the objectives, the following people have played a major role in heading and/or seconding the working groups initiated by the GERC:

Dottie Blum, Math
Ana Borger-Reese, Foreign Languages
Jamie Byrne, Communication and Theatre
Bonnie Duncan, English
Fred Foster-Clark, Psychology
Elizabeth Masciale, English
Jay Mone', Biology
Barbara Montgomery, Dean of SS and Humanities
Ed Rajaseelan, Chemistry
Kathy Schreiber, Geography
Derek Shanahan, Geography
Barb Stengel, Ed Foundations
Marjorie Warmkessel, Library
Ryan Kunkle, History Major
Colleen Stameshkin, Philosophy - Chair


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