Progress Report Fall 2020

Since its inception, the twelve members of the General Education Taskforce (GET), along with various campus liaisons, have been hard at work. A concise summary of the tasks GET has completed so far can be found in the progress reports below and here. To efficiently reach our end goal – a comprehensive plan for general education at UA – we sought assistance from the greater campus community.

To that end, we formed sub-committees of subject-matter experts passionate about undergraduate education to help us define student learning outcomes (SLOs) pertaining to the GET-defined Capacities:

  • Effective Communicators
  • Critical Thinkers
  • Problem Solvers
  • Ethical Reasoners
  • Individually and Socially Responsible Citizens
  • Interculturally Competent and Knowledgeable Individuals

These SLO’s would be used to refine GET’s initial GE models (now called Curricular Concepts), generated in the Spring of 2020.

In relation to their respective capacities, each sub-committee was charged with determining:

  1. a definition
  2. a set of related essential questions
  3. student learning outcomes

The definitions and student learning outcomes for each Capacity can be found here:

The definitions and student learning outcomes for each Capacity can be found here:

From:

  • the research gathered from 2018-2020
  • the Mission Statement, Guiding Principles, and Learning Capacities generated by GET and their liaison members
  • the 3 models built by GET
  • the Sub-Committee definitions of Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs)
We refined GET’s original models (now called Curricular Concepts), all of which include 4 High-Impact Practices (HIPs).

The 4 HIPs on which GET has focused are:
First-Year Experience (FYE)

Many schools now build into their curriculum FYE’s or other programs that regularly bring small groups of students together with faculty or staff. The highest-quality FYE’s place a strong emphasis on critical inquiry, frequent writing, information literacy, collaborative learning, and other skills that develop students’ intellectual and practical competencies. FYE’s can also involve students with cutting-edge questions in scholarship and with faculty members’ own research.

Research on FYE’s has found an estimated 5 to 15 percentage-point increase in retention and 4-year graduation rates for participating students. Several studies show that students who participate in FYE’s have more frequent and meaningful interactions with faculty and with other students. Other studies show that participants become more involved in cocurricular activities, while still others show an increased level of satisfaction with the college experience. Academically, students who participate in FYE’s have more positive perceptions of themselves as learners and achieve higher grades in college.

Community Engagement (CE)
The Carnegie Foundation defines community engagement as the “collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity.” Carnegie further defines the purpose of CE as “the partnership of college and university knowledge and resources with those of the public and private sectors to enrich scholarship, research, and creative activity; enhance curriculum, teaching and learning; prepare educated, engaged citizens; strengthen democratic values and civic responsibility; address critical societal issues; and contribute to the public good.”

Capstone Courses and Projects
The Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) defines Capstone Courses and Projects as “culminating experiences that require students nearing the end of their college years to create a project of some sort that integrates and applies what they’ve learned. The project might be a research paper, a performance, a portfolio of ’best work’ or an exhibit of artwork.” Clinical experiences, practicums, internships, etc. that are required as part of a degree program would also fit the criteria for a Capstone. 

GET is seeking to identify the ways in which Capstones occur within the undergraduate degree programs currently offered by UA. We have reached out to every college and asked for the following information:

  1. A listing of the undergraduate degrees each college confers and whether or not each degree incorporates a Capstone course / project / experience
  2. For the undergraduate degrees identified as having a Capstone course / project / experience, information on what the requirements are for students (credit hours, practicum hours, project requirements, etc.)
This work is ongoing.

Diversity / Global Learning
The call to integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion into the heart of education is an imperative borne of seeing ourselves as members of a world community, knowing that we share the future with others. Beyond mere exposure to culturally different others, the campus community requires the capacity to:

  • meaningfully engage those others
  • place social justice in historical and political context
  • put culture at the core of transformative learning

The intercultural knowledge and competence rubric suggests a systematic way to measure our capacity to:

  • identify our own cultural patterns
  • compare and contrast them with others
  • And adapt empathically and flexibly to unfamiliar ways of being

Projection for 2021
Using the Student Learning Outcomes generated by the Fall 2020’ sub-committees, the GET co-chairs will be working with campus partners to refine the GET-generated models (Curricular Concepts). With the help of Faculty Senate, we will rank the Concepts, passing off the top 2 to a 3rd-party feasibility study (Summer, 2021). We will also be attending AAC&U Summer Institutes. In the Fall of 2021, we will be convening sub-committees in the areas of Assessment, Implementation, and Oversight. A full report for 2020/2021 Academic Year will be available on this site mid-March 2021.

Progress Report 2019/2020

In the 2019/2020 Academic Year, we worked with our liaison members, OIRA, and with various student groups to determine several facets of GE and the taskforce’s work:

  • A GET Mission Statement
  • A Set of GET Guiding Principles
  • Student Learning Objectives (prefatory to defining Student Learning Outcomes)
  • Current UA Course Offerings (academic and experiential)
  • Student Opinion of GE at UA

Working with our Liaison members, we wrote a working version of our Mission Statement, Guiding Principles, and a set of Learning Objectives:

Mission Statement:

The University of Alabama’s General Education program empowers undergraduate students to be socially conscious, ethical, and well-rounded leaders with the knowledge and skills to live productive, responsible, and rewarding lives in a diverse and rapidly-changing world.  

The program challenges students to develop their logical and creative capacities by providing transformational and integrative learning experiences that complement the undergraduate major.

Guiding Principles:

  • Be learner-centered, accessible, inclusive, and equitable
  • Span the undergraduate experience
  • Focus on shared student-learning outcomes
  • Include curricular and co-curricular experiences
  • Encourage involvement and participation throughout the faculty and staff
  • Employ best practices in teaching and learning
  • Encourage exploration and student ownership of general education
  • Accommodate non-traditional, transfer, and high-credit entry students
  • Meet all accreditation requirements

Learning Objectives:

In completing the requirements of The University of Alabama General Education program, all undergraduates should demonstrate the fundamental skills, abilities, and behaviors that readily identify them as: 

  • Critical and Ethical Thinkers
  • Effective Communicators
  • Problem Solvers
  • Individually and Socially Responsible Citizens
  • Culturally Competent Individuals

The Mission Statement, Guiding Principles and Learning Objectives were validated by a Spring 2020 Faculty Senate Vote, with 67 respondents: 65/67 ‘Yes’ Votes and 2/67 ‘No’ Votes.

In the Spring of 2020, Dr. Johnny Tice stepped down and was replaced by Dr. Haley Townsend.  

Over the course of the spring semester, we worked with OIRA to determine current UA course offerings, both academic and experiential.  We worked with consultants (AAC&U) to understand various General Education models from around the country.  And we gathered information on student opinion of GE from the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE – OIRA), 4 Focus Groups, and a GBA300 class (see GBA300-001 report_SP2020).  A synthesis of wider community opinion (UA faculty, staff, and students along with UA Employer Reporting) showed the desire for students who demonstrate:

  • Improved citizenship, including an ability to work well with others
  • Greater cultural awareness
  • Better communication skills (written and oral)
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving skills

Finally, GET worked in teams to build three different possible models for GE at UA (see PPT: 6.2.2020).

Projection for 2020/2021

Using the research gathered from 2018-2020, the Mission Statement, Guiding Principles, and Learning Objectives generated by GET and their liaison members, and the three models built by GET, in the Fall of 2020, we will be working with sub-committees to define Student Learning Outcomes.  We will then refine the models against the newly-defined SLO’s.

A full report on the 2020-2021 Academic Year will be posted to the Presentations and Reports tab mid March.

Progress Report Spring/Summer 2019

This is the second semester report from the General Education Taskforce (GET).  Dr. Fred Whiting (Blount) stepped down as co-chair.  He was replaced by Dr. Richard Richards (Philosophy).  Dr. Frankie Lanaan (Education) stepped down from the committee.  He was replaced by Dr. Lane McLelland (Crossroads).  GET met nine times during the Spring 2019 semester, for a total of 27 hours.  Committee work at these meetings consisted of discussions that centered around:

  • benchmarking other institutions that have undergone core curriculum revision
  • administering a campus-wide survey
  • holding listening session
  • generating a preliminary vision statement and a list of Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs)

During the Spring 2019 semester, we met with:

  • The Deans and Department Chairs of all undergraduate degree-granting programs to solicit their feedback and expectations for the University’s general education curriculum
  • The Council of Assistant and Associate Deans (CAAD) to update them on our progress
  • The Core Curriculum Oversight Committee to discuss the initiative
  • A taskforce looking into UA foreign language learning / study abroad (all members of CAAD)

We also held two public listening sessions:

  • March 19, 2019 3-4 Heritage Room, Ferguson Center
  • March 29, 2019 3-4 205 Gorgas Library

In February, three members of the GET Taskforce (Chapman Greer, Lane McLelland, and Kristin Maki) attended an AAC&U Conference on General Education reform, held in San Francisco. In June, five members of the initiative (Chapman Greer, Richard Richards, Kristin Maki, Ginger Bishop, and Louheng Han) attended an AAC&U Institute (VT), where we worked to refine our understanding of Gen Ed Reform.  Five of us (Chapman Greer, Richard Richards, and Ginger Bishop, along with Adam Sterritt and Roger Sidje) also attended an AAC&U High-Impact Practices (HIPs) Institute (PA), where we learned best practices for meshing HIPs with Gen Ed Reform.

In the Fall of 2019, Dr. Richard Richards stepped down as co-chair.  Dr. André Denham (College of Education) and Dr. Erik Peterson (College of Arts & Sciences) became co-chairs with Dr. Chapman Greer (Culverhouse College of Business).  During the Fall, we will be working with our liaison members to refine the SLOs at the committee level, after which we will disseminate our product to the Faculty Senate, UA Faculty, and UA Community at large, for input and revision.  We will be working with students, to determine their understanding of GE.  And we will be examining what’s currently happening on campus vis a vis core classes offered / # of students per core class / high-impact practices, etc.

Please check back regularly for future progress reports and announcements.

Progress Report Fall 2018

  • Identified the Taskforce operations requisite to fulfilling its charge and established an outline and a timeline for the committee’s operations
  • Compiled and reviewed a comprehensive general education bibliography
  • Generated a framework for identifying the relevant UA constituencies and stakeholders.
  • Designed preliminary poll to solicit feedback from UA faculty, staff, and students

This is the first in what will be semesterly reports from the General Education Taskforce (GET) to keep the University of Alabama community apprised of Taskforce operations.  The GET was constituted in September of 2018 and met six times during the Fall 2018 semester, for a total of twelve hours.  Committee work at these meetings consisted in the following activities.

We will be contacting the various UA constituencies throughout the spring semester of 2019 to solicit feedback about their experiences of and expectations for the University’s general education curriculum.  Please check back regularly for future progress reports and announcements.