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 anticipated 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 will be 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 sections, as follows:

I: Fundamental Skills - Six Objectives

Rationale: Students benefit from developing these skills as early as possible in their college careers. We teach and learn the fundamental skills of reasoning, inquiry, and communication in courses dedicated to that purpose, in courses targeted for skill development in the context of a specific content, and in a wide range of other courses across the general education curriculum. These courses are fundamental within the general education program because of: (1) their general usefulness for a wide range of academic, personal, civic, and career purposes, and (2) their importance for success in higher level study in various disciplines.

1) Mathematical Reasoning: Students completing 60 credits at MU will be able to:

  1. formulate problems from the real world in the symbolic language of mathematics;
  2. select and perform mathematical procedures appropriate for solving such problems;
  3. explain mathematical concepts and procedures appropriate for further learning.

2.) Critical Reasoning: Students completing 60 credits at MU will be able to:

  1. recognize, analyze, and appreciate arguments supporting theories and perspectives other than one's own;
  2. provide reasoned support for their own beliefs;
  3. compare and evaluate competing arguments.

3) Inquiry/Information Literacy: Students completing 60 credits at MU will be able to:

  1. generate research questions/pose problems;
  2. recognize when they have a need for information;
  3. find reliable sources;
  4. evaluate information found and select relevant information; 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 60 credits at MU will be able to:

  1. generate, express, and revise ideas;
  2. take into account others' critiques of their ideas;
  3. present ideas publicly in both -spoken and written form;
  4. reflect on their ability to work through these processes.

5) Communicating within different contexts: Students completing 60 credits at MU will be able to:

  1. use speaking and writing for a variety of purposes;
  2. target different audiences according to those purposes;
  3. select appropriate strategies for both writing and speaking for those audiences and purposes;
  4. demonstrate awareness of their decisions.

6) Communications Technology Literacy: Students completing 60 credits at MU will be able to:

  1. make use of appropriate communications technology;
  2. explain the way new technologies alter the processes of inquiry and communication.

II: Disciplines-based Skills, Knowledge - Six Objectives

Rationale: The academic disciplines represent the best of what human beings have known and done." We seek to ensure understanding in a sampling of fields of study in order to provide students with a basis for making an informed choice of academic major and career possibilities, as well as to enable a breadth of disciplines-based knowledge to complement the depth of the academic major.

Students are required to select courses in each of the three academic divisions (arts/humanities, social sciences, and mathematics/sciences) because each division represents a type of knowledge with its own characteristic modes of communication and its own distinctive methods of critical reasoning and critical inquiry. The fundamental skills of reasoning, inquiry, and communication are continually developed through the courses selected, but always in the context of the discipline itself.

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

7) Identify and discuss (in a way that demonstrates 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

  1. intelligently analyze, critique, and defend their reasoned opinions concerning works of theater, literature, art, philosophy or music (American or international, contemporary or historical) and
  2. create and/or appreciate works of art and/or literature

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

9) articulate connections between mathematical and 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:

  1. scientific reasoning;
  2. laboratory methods;
  3. mathematics to solve scientific problems; and
  4. appropriate technology

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

11) demonstrate an understanding of:

  1. the relationships among people, culture, environment, institutions and systems across history and geography and
  2. the cultural, institutional, and environmental interdependence of countries 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:

  1. study human behavior and social institutions;
  2. communicate the results using appropriate language; and
  3. ascertain and evaluate -the results obtained by others.

III: Connections -Four Objectives

Rationale: Some capacities are acquired by students throughout their college careers, both inside and outside the classroom; 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.

13) 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.

14) Diversity: At completion of degree requirements, MU students will be able to demonstrate knowledge, attitudes, and skills essential for communicating with, working with, and making decisions with people of diverse backgrounds

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.

16 ) Personal, Ethical, and Civic Values and Decision-making: At completion of degree requirements, MU students will be able to:

  1. articulate and defend with reasons their own personal, moral, and civic values;
  2. understand and respect the differing perspectives of others;
  3. use this knowledge of self and others to resolve conflicts and make responsible decisions in "real life"; and
  4. manifest a commitment to core values such as wellness, academic honesty, and civic responsibility

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 Theater
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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