GENERAL EDUCATION REVISION PLAN
April 14, 1997
Task Force on General Education Curriculum and Its Resources
In spring 1995, APSCUF leadership and the university administration held a series of meetings to discuss the growing budgetary pressures on the university. These pressures resulted from shrinking support from the Commonwealth for public higher education, a consensus that public support will continue to shrink in the future, and the belief that the existing curriculum could be made more cost effective. It was believed that the current General Education Program contributed significantly to these pressures through a negative impact on the student/faculty ratio, a primary measure of educational cost. In addition, there were serious problems with implementation. The maximum class size for 'W' courses was increased to 30, the number of "P" sections was insufficient to meet student need, and students were having great difficulty getting the courses they needed for a timely graduation.
As a result of these meetings, three task forces were established in summer 1995: 1) the Curriculum Cost Analysis Task Force, 2) the Class Schedule Audit Task Force, and 3) the Data Development Task Force. These three task forces were charged respectively with determining the precise costs of the general education curriculum, determining the role in which scheduling practices negatively affected our educational costs, and analyzing the data and information needs of the university. The first two task forces reported their findings to the Provost at the end of the 1995 fall semester and the third task force reported to the Vice President for Finance and Administration in spring 1996.
At the fall 1995 convocation, the President, with the concurrence of APSCUF, announced two interim curriculum measures, which took effect immediately, to contain costs, to ease the burden on faculty who were teaching "W" courses with enrollments over 25 and to reduce some scheduling difficulties: 1) the perspectives requirement was reduced from two courses to one course for all students currently enrolled, and 2) the ten pages of revised prose requirement for 'W' courses was dropped and faculty could use whatever methods and measures they deemed appropriate to foster and evaluate the writing aspects of their 'W' courses.
Later in fall 1995, the current task force was established. The Task Force on the General Education Curriculum and its Resources consists of four faculty appointed by the APSCUF President, four faculty selected by Faculty Senate, a student elected by Student Senate, and two non-voting ex-officio members appointed by the President. The task force was charged with:
a) considering the reports from the three task forces above and the general education program review conducted by the General Education Review Committee of the Faculty Senate, and
b) meeting with various administrative and faculty bodies and individual faculty, and
c) issuing a report consisting of specific recommendations regarding the interim curriculum measures as well as other matters pertaining to general education specifically and/or to the university curriculum in general.
The attached report is the response to this charge. We have tried to preserve the goals and philosophy of general education at Millersville University. We believe that these recommendations are modest and feasible. They are preferable to having the administration impose a solution or to having outside parties dictate remedies to us.
Rationale for why revision of the General Education Program:
Time frame: Phase I will be developed and implemented by Fall 1997, Phase 2 by Fall 1999.
--traditional term papers, particularly when revised through drafts, peer review, or other activities designed to encourage the development of written communication;
--short papers designed to lead to a larger writing project;
--literature reviews, book reports, precises of newspaper articles--especially when these are actively discussed and shared with others in the class;
--revised prose as determined by the instructor;
--portfolios that encourage the student, peers, and instructor to focus on the development of an aggregate body of work;
--shared interactive writing such as Internet discussion groups;
-- group writing projects such as web pages or writing which contains a public service component.
The above are examples only and are not meant to limit an instructor's ability to construct other strategies designed to lead students to more fully appreciate the writing process, a process which includes writing, rewriting, editing, and revision. Cours es with aWdesignation must continue to demonstrate the importance of writing in both individual learning and group communication. Rationale: This is in response to the increased class size in W courses and the lack of guidelines for what a W course should be.
The Task Force believes that an alternative approach to fulfilling the goals of general education is worth considering. The course designations W, C, Q and QARC were intended to ensure that certain kinds of learning experiences took place for all students. However, the Task Force believes that labels alone do not guarantee that the objectives of general education are indeed being addressed.
Universities are among the last organizations pressured to achieve economic efficiencies. Rather than a single event, the need to do more with less becomes an ongoing process. Without the pressure of a profit motive, university staff tend to ignore the economic realities. The challenge for college faculty and administrators is to reduce costs carefully, in well thought out ways which will not erode quality. What is needed is the kind of cooperation and creativity that will allow for improvement while controlling cost. This requires agreed upon measures of cost and quality,
Many factors contribute to the cost of a college education and all need to be considered. The most significant of these is salaries for faculty, administration and staff. The largest contributor to cost is faculty, because of the nature of education. Measuring the true impact of faculty salary is complex but one way is to use student faculty ratio.
Quality is another complex issue. Measuring the results of a college education is a difficult task, partly because even those who provide it do not agree on its purpose. At Millersville, even the portion of that education which we hold in common, general education, is reason for considerable debate. The attempt to increase efficiency has revealed the lack of clear definition of what the general education curriculum is designed to achieve. An important first step is to restate the goals of general educ ation in measurable form. Currently, the best indication of what outcomes are intended are the labels required on certain general education courses. Unfortunately, these labels create a complex system of distribution requirements. These requirements complicate the advisement process and, more importantly, they limit a student's choices in ways that may reduce the value of their education.
Using clear definitions of the expectations for general education, the faculty can design courses which will allow for the measurement of the general education goals. Rather than a system which places greater value on some general education course (by means of assigning special labels), any course that is approved for general education should make a significant contribution to the general education of students. To achieve this goal the faculty must first restate the goals of general education in clear and measurable form.
A criticism leveled at the current general education curriculum is that it is too prescriptive, too inflexible, and too complex. It presents difficulties for students and advisors who are trying to negotiate it and it presents difficult staffing and sched uling problems in a time when resources are scarce.
Members of this task force have extensive teaching experience and they have participated in the course approval process at several stages in hundreds of cases. We came to the realization that any general education course is likely to have its own unique combination of W, C, and Q components, As an alternative to designating courses as either W, C, or Q, courses may possess these components in some combination.
The steps recommended below are not intended as major changes in the overall purpose of general education. They are intended to make approval of gen. ed. courses easier.
PROPOSED CURRICULUM STRUCTURE:
|12 credits||12 credits||12 credits||18 credits|
|G1 - Hum & Fine Arts||G2 - Science/Math||G3 - Social Sciences||G4 - Fundamentals and Electives|
|Comm. & Theatre||Chemistry||Business||COMM 100|
|Foreign Language||Earth Science||Geography||1 Perspective|
|Music||Nursing||History||1 Elective (may be a P or any G1, G2, G3 course)|
Task Force on General Education Curriculum