Faculty agrees to new general education goals, assessment

1:31:07 PM CDT - Thursday, May 26, 2005

By Amy Geiszler-Jones

In just a matter of minutes, the 50 or so WSU faculty members took care of issues that have taken committees countless hours to craft.

At the general faculty meeting May 10, the faculty in attendance agreed to new goals and an assessment plan for the general education program. There was only minimal discussion on the new goals and no discussion on the assessment plan before the faculty passed both issues.

The general education committee had streamlined the program's previous six goals into four and included a new goal related to basic library research skills. The new goals state that students will study and apply basic mathematical principles, written and oral communication, and basic library research skills and that they will study and gain a basic understanding of the natural sciences, social and behavioral sciences, humanities and fine arts.

A question on using the word "basic" by one faculty member stirred a short discussion on the goals before a motion was made to end the discussion and vote on a motion to accept both the goals and the assessment plan. Barbara Hodson, who as Faculty Senate vice president was presiding over the general meeting, punctuated the affirmative vote with a pumping of her fist and uttering "yes," exemplifying the relief many felt by accomplishing what has been a long task.

The faculty have been working on an assessment process for a number of years, following a 1997 report from the North Central Accreditation agency, which recommended that WSU develop such a process before its next accreditation review in 2007. A few years ago, a plan to purchase an assessment tool for the program was rejected in a general faculty meeting.

Under the approved plan, WSU will survey graduating students. To find out how the program is perceived and to start measuring the skills and perspectives the program is supposed to provide, a sample of seniors who took all their gen ed coursework at WSU and those who transferred all or most of their gen ed hours will be surveyed.

WSU will use a three-year cycle to study the three components of basic skills courses, further studies courses and issues and perspectives courses within the program. The cycle will most likely start with the further studies courses, general education coordinator Don Blakeslee said, since the committee recently reviewed the basic skills classes.

The assessment plan relies heavily on having instructors and departments involved in teaching gen ed courses provide the committee with data.

Another key component is a feedback process. The committee will meet with advisers and representatives from the libraries who can offer input on students' library research skills.

During the May 10 meeting, the faculty also passed editing revisions to the faculty handbook that took a committee of three faculty members two years to complete. "Most of what we did was editing to make sure (the handbook) was up to date with the policies and procedures manual," said Scott Goldy, one of the committee members.

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