Millersville University, Faculty Senate
General Education Curriculum
CONSULTANT'S REPORT ON GENERAL EDUCATION REVIEW AT
Dr. Michael E. Knight of Kean College visited Millersville University on
March 17 and 18 [of 1994] at the invitation of the General Education Review
Committee to contribute to the review of the General Education Program. Prior
to the visit extensive written materials, including the catalog, advisement
materials, and committee reports and documents of both the Assessment
Committee and the General Education Review Committee were examined. During
the visits meetings were held with the following groups.
The report that follows is based on those meetings and the review of the
previously described documents. An effort has been made to identify a series
of issues regarding general education and to develop the report based on
these issues with recommendations regarding possible actions.
Members of the Faculty Senate
Members of the Student Senate
Members of the Assessment Committee
Members of the general faculty and student body
Members of the General Education Review Committee
It is clear that the General Education Program designed by Millersville
University is the product of much discussion and deliberation. The program
certainly demonstrates an institutional perspective encouraging high
standards of performance, integration of the curriculum and the application
of knowledge, skills and abilities in a variety of settings. This structure
of the program and the students' educational experiences supports the
following description of program review by J. Gaff in General Education
Formative evaluation asks students and faculty to describe the best
parts of the program, problems encountered, and suggestions for improvement.
Although a formative evaluation may not yield a definitive verdict about the
success of the program, it provides information that can help program
planners maximize whatever strengths it possesses. (p. 147)
The consistent implementation of a formative evaluation perspective seems
more likely to support a continual journey toward program improvement. At the
same time measures of success can be described and ascertained through the
assessment process so that concerns about the development of students can be
addressed. Gaff also states:
Formative evaluations are designed and conducted primarily to yield
information that can be used by program planners to adjust the program as it
evolves. (1983, p. 147)
The balance between accountability and improvement seems to lean toward
improvement as the long term strategy to demonstrate institutional
effectiveness and therefore provide accountability.
The key issues of general education identified during the March visit can be
categorized as follows:
LEADERSHIP, ADMINISTRATION AND OWNERSHIP
Leadership and Administration
Curriculum and Professional Development Assessment
It appears that there is a degree of fragmentation of general education that
is interfering with the announced intentions of the program. The questions of
ownership and participation were addressed very differently in some of the
group meetings. In order to maintain a focus on general education a
consistent voice is required. An examination of your catalog and the
discussions on campus about the perspectives component led me to two
relatively unrelated definitions of its purpose and implementation. What
I had expected to be a group of integrating, culminating courses were
presented as something quite different. The fragmentation is likely created
by the absence of a common understanding of the general expectations for the
program, and the specific contributions of the various clusters and the
perspectives courses. Use of Fundamentals, Proficiency Requirements, and
Competency Courses as titles for the same educational experiences may also
contribute to the confusion particularly that of entering students.
Information in the Millersville University catalog (pp. 25 and 26) describes
the purpose and intention of perspective courses. Consistent responses by
students and faculty led me to the conclusion that the purposes and
intentions of the perspectives component are not being achieved with
There is no intention to suggest abandoning the concept of perspectives
courses but rather to encourage the development of a clear definition that is
communicated across the campus and consistently represented in those courses.
I believe the perspectives component is the highlight of a well designed
1. The General Education Program Review Committee should immediately make
a request of the Faculty Senate that the committee be designated as the group
with a clear charge of responsibilities including conducting the assessment
of general education, and the principal body for proposing changes in general
2. Develop a proposal to modify the current designations of types of
courses to provide a more easily understood structure and sequence of courses
that reflects the intended focus of a particular course or cluster. An
emphasis has been created that focuses on satisfying requirements rather than
supporting student development.
3. Rewrite the general education objectives to emphasize achievement
and performance of the objectives. (What will the students learn and how will
they demonstrate their learning?)
4. Efforts should be initiated to develop a shared vision of general
education and its role in the curriculum experienced by each student. This
vision should be consistently communicated to all of your constituencies. The
participation of all interested groups is crucial.
5. There is a need for additional information about general
education. An understanding of course taking patterns would allow for more
efficient and effective scheduling and staffing of courses. Strategies used
by students to complete their schedules and satisfy the requirements have
apparently created a situation in which more attention is given to efficiency
than to encouraging an examination of their educational planning and
development. Transcript studies in several departments will provide you with
information on student trends and patterns on how requirements are fulfilled.
A recommendation to support the Institutional Research Office with additional
staff seems appropriate. Consideration should be given to inviting faculty to
participate in or propose research projects that will improve the quality of
available information and involve these faculty in your efforts to improve
general education. The General Education Review Committee would probably be
in the best position to identify these research needs and the individuals
with the particular skills to complete a specific project.
6. I believe it is essential to select an individual to provide daily
leadership and direction to the General Education Program. There is a need
for someone who has the responsibility and authority to address the problems
that frequently arise and coordinate the efforts to respond to these
problems. The question of appropriate levels of authority and responsibility
might best be addressed through discussions between the committee and the
individuals who currently have responsibility for the following areas.
Scheduling, staffing, advisement, registration, exemptions, course
sequencing, and the necessity of continuous communication about these matters
are some of the specific problems to be expected. I would further suggest
that this position be filled by a faculty member on three quarter
released time. Among the reasons for this suggestion is the time necessary to
address the problems and issues, and guide the evolution of the program would
tax anyone who has other administrative responsibilities. In addition,
someone who has been involved in the creation and teaching of general
education would have an advantage as they worked with faculty in course
revisions and faculty development.
The following recommendations are proposed to enhance the advisement process
and are extensions of some of the prior suggestions.
1. Methods for training and informing new faculty for advisement
should be developed to support the current program and maintain accurate and
consistent information as modifications are made.
2. Recruiting and registration materials should include the outline
of general education and its role, contribution, and relationship to the
3. Major departments should be encouraged to include information on
general education in appropriate publications and in their orientations for
4. Incoming students should participate in a formal orientation which
would include general education information.
5. Focus groups with students at various levels should be conducted
on a regular basis to assess the advisement processes.
CURRICULUM AND FACULTY DEVELOPMENT
These two areas may be seen as the design and implementation of the
curriculum. As such, the following recommendations are an attempt to take
advantage of the natural synergy between them.
1. The need for continuing faculty development should be recognized
as a high priority in budgetary planning.
2. The orientation and training of faculty, particularly new faculty,
regarding their role in contributing to the goals of the General Education
Program and the application of these goals within the major departments is
essential. The goals listed in your catalog (p. 25) virtually mandate
3. Incentives should be identified to support the development and
teaching of perspectives courses that provide the broad-based, integrative
qualities described in your catalog. These incentives could best be
determined by the faculty who might be involved in the course
4. The recent survey on general education provided little impetus to
make changes in the current program. However, every group with whom I met
identified significant concerns. A conclusion that the campus community
believes changes should be made, but the fear is that they will be made
in a "piece meal" manner seems reasonable. The charging of the General
Education Review Committee with primary responsibility for guiding change
would address that fear.
5. The committee should discuss the possibility of requesting the
faculty in each academic program to develop proposals to address their need
for writing emphasis. This suggestion is intended to encourage a writing
across the curriculum viewpoint focusing on the writing abilities,
skills, and the needs of the particular program.
6. Modify the ten page writing requirement to encourage a broader
variety of writing activities to meet the specific needs and purposes of
7. Prepare a one page definition/explanation/description of the
purpose of these courses.
8. Examine existing courses for inclusion in this component.
9. Assess the current perspectives courses as one of your first
assessment activities to determine if they are meeting their objectives and
how they are contributing to the goals of general education.
10. Request faculty provide course syllabi to their department chair
communicating what they expect their students will learn and how they expect
the students to demonstrate this learning.
11. Arrange informal meetings to discuss general education and
teaching, bringing diverse groups together.
1. A first requirement is the development of a "policies and
procedures" document by the Assessment Committee including the requirements
2. A three-year plan for the assessment of general education should
be developed, approved and widely disseminated.
3. Faculty development in assessment should be planned in conjunction
with the Assessment Committee.
4. Current activities that may be used to support general education
assessment should be identified.
I am aware of two facts. The number of recommendations may seem overwhelming,
and many of the recommendations require actions by others. Participants in
the various meetings communicated support for the structure and intentions of
the General Education Program. For these reasons, and because many of the
recommendations are interrelated I believe you will be successful in your
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