Ad Hoc General Education Committee

Final Report of the Ad Hoc Committee

Written By: Robert Wolff - Mar• 07•12

The Ad Hoc General Education Committee’s final report has been forwarded to the Curriculum Committee and Faculty Senate. For a copy, please download the following:

Final Ad Hoc Gen Ed Committee Report

Ad Hoc General Education Committee Timeline

 

Transfer and Articulation Proposal Approved by the BOR

Written By: Thomas Burkholder - Mar• 22•12

The Transfer and Articulation Policy (pdf) was approved by the BOR on March 15, 2012.  Of particular interest is this section

The general education curricula at all ConnSCU institutions should be competency based and for transferability, students should “demonstrate competence in

  • written and oral communication in English;
  • the ability for scientific and quantitative reasoning,
  • for critical analysis and logical thinking;
  • and the capability for continuing learning, including the skills of information literacy.

They will also demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • scientific,
  • historical and
  • social phenomena, and a knowledge and appreciation of the
  • aesthetic and ethical dimensions of humankind.” (NEASC ACCREDITATION STANDARD 4)
The timeline is quite tight on this aspect, agreement on common general education competency outcomes is supposed to be accomplished by September 30, 2012

More Thoughts on General Education

Written By: Robert Wolff - Feb• 21•12

Posted for David Blitz, Department of Philosophy (blitz@ccsu.edu)

The following issues seem to be unresolved in our discussion of General Education, and I want to contribute my perspective on this:

1/ What is General Education:
While the mandate of the current committee did not include a definition of General Education, this is essential in order to be clear on what we should, and should not include under it. There are, it seems to me, two aspects of GenEd as currently instantiated at CCSU:
  1. General Education aims at producing the “well-rounded” individual who can converse and intervene on many topics. I’ll term this the “well-rounded” criterion.
  2. General Education aims at providing the student with the skills needed to be successful in their academics and in life. I’ll term this the “needed skills” criterion.

Our current General Education program combines both in the “study” and “skill” areas. I believe, however, that these are both utopian and regressive goals: utopian because no selection of 40 credits in various areas can achieve goals (1) and (2), and regressive because it places a heavy burden on students to perform well, not only in their major, but in an uncoordinated selection of courses in areas in which they may or may not be interested. Instead, I’d propose a more modest definition of what Gen Ed could be that would be more beneficial both to faculty and students:

  1. General Education is a distribution requirement in the Liberal Arts that permits a student, based on choices within a number of knowledge areas, to broaden their learning in a reasonable way beyond their major and minor.

Currently, CCSU has 4 skill areas and 4 study areas, as well as the “I” designation for International courses. This should be reduced to 4, at most 5 knowledge areas. This is what the DHE and legislature intended in its regulations that specify a selection of courses in the  “humanities, arts, natural and physical sciences, mathematics, and social sciences” [section 10a-34-15(c)]. This is what was proposed by a previous GenEd reform committee headed by Tim Craine (retired chair of the math department) – which had 4 general areas. Four areas (combining math and natural sciences, with “personal development” as a fourth area) are also what is proposed by Eric Bergenn, President of the SGA in his recent, and most welcome initiative to have a student voice in this process.

I should add a critique of the following misconception: General Education is not a program, rather it is a distribution requirement. A program, such as a major or minor, is a connected sequence of courses including introductory courses, prerequisites courses, and often a capstone experience, mostly within a discipline but possibly including co-requisites in another related discipline, or an interdisciplinary focus on a specific area (such as Peace Studies). This is not what General Education can or should be. The courses offered are a selection from the various disciplines, but they are not correlated or sequenced, nor can they be, given that faculty are not trained as specialists in General Education, and do not and cannot meet in the intensive way they do to determine their major and minor disciplinary (and interdisciplinary) programs. General education is at once too vast and too vague to allow this in any meaningful way, despite utopian wishes to the contrary. Perhaps this could be accomplished at the more elementary level of high school, but at the more advanced level of the university this is not possible, and therefore, on my view, to be avoided.

2/ What we should do
What we should do is summed up in what I term the “3 C’s” of General Education – container, compartments and content: (1) decide the size of the container; (2) decide the compartments of the container; and (3) provide the content.
  1. Decide the size of the “container”: State regulations used to require a minimum 1/4 of 120 credits in Gen Ed; this was raised to 1/3 in 1987. We now require 1/3 of 130 (based on requirements for Education majors); this should be reduced to 40 and we should consider the advisability, given the increasing demands of the disciplines, to request a reduction back to the pre-1987 number of 30.
  2. Determine the “compartments”: As suggested above this should be 4 or at most 5. Four would include (1) humanities and the arts; (2) social and behavioral sciences; (3) natural sciences; (4) mathematics and computer sciences. A fifth might well be the “personal development” area proposed by Eric.
  3. Provide appropriate “content”: Departments and programs should allow students to take a sampling of courses at the introductory level, which helps some students in choosing their major; as well as “mini-sequences” of 3 courses, with two above the introductory level (200 level or beyond).
3/Transfer Credits

An additional desideratum of General Education reform is to facilitate complete transfer of credit earned at community colleges and other CSU universities, as well as other institutions of higher education. At the present time courses must be matched with “equivalent” CCSU courses. The burden for this falls on the limited staff at the Registrar’s Office; when they cannot find an obvious equivalent, a course is transferred as 1xx, 2xx or even 3xx, not counting for satisfaction of a student’s major, minor or Gen Ed, but simply present as a credit towards graduation. This is a major reason that CCSU students graduate, on average, with more than 122 credits, and indeed, according to a recent statement by a senior administrator, with 9 credits more, on average, than graduates from other CSU universities. Students can have this modified, but only at the price of going from department to department beseeching department chairs to sign equivalents forms.

What happens, in the general case, is that students “repeat” a course in a discipline they have already studied, in order to satisfy the CCSU Gen Ed requirement. I have seen transcripts of students who had a 300 level course in Philosophy, not the same or similar to any we happen to offer at CCSU, take a 100 level General Education course in Philosophy. This wastes the student’s time, and constitutes a surcharge we impose of them in terms of added tuition cost. It also wastes our limited resources and takes up a seat that another student needs for graduation.
The simplest solution is to have courses earned elsewhere, particularly elsewhere in public higher education in Connecticut, transferred based on the course designator, not the course number, where each “compartment” (or sector) of General Education has a specified number of program designators which satisfy it for purposes of transfer. For example, “social and behavior science” could be satisfied by Political Science, Economics, Anthropology, to name just three. A student with a course in Anthropology, even if that exact or equivalent course is not offered at CCSU, would nonetheless have the course count as satisfying that sector. There would be no need for the Registrar’s Office to scour our catalog looking for the exact or equivalent course, nor for the student to waste their time going around looking for signatures for equivalents.

4/ Avoid Errors of the Past
The experience of the last 20 years inclines me to the following “don’ts”:
1. Avoid too much of a good thing: Not every “good” area or skill can be included in General Education. Otherwise, we could readily fill a student’s 120 credits with courses that would be good for them, but would leave no room for their major and, where appropriate, minor. What we should not do is to repeat the tragedy of the commons. As we know from our colleagues in economics, this involves a “commons” shared by a number of individuals – say, common grazing land shared by a number of farmers in the classical case. If each farmer only uses the common land occasionally, all is well; but if each uses it extensively, the commons will be overgrazed and useless to all. Put another way: Some of a good thing is good, and more may be better; but too much of a good thing can boomerang and be a bad thing. Think pizza slices: one is good, two is better; a dozen at a time gives a stomach ache.
By overloading General Education, we recreate the tragedy of the commons. We strain the resources of the university, particularly in the School of Arts and Sciences, where in practice most demand for multi-section 100-level General Education courses is met by part time faculty; and we force students to take requirements not linked to their major, minor, or for that matter, their personal interests. Rather than a reasonable “broadening”, we burden students in areas where they perform poorly, thereby decreasing their GPA and placing some in jeopardy of not graduating at all.

2. Avoid special pleadings, special interests, and in particular requirements satisfied by a single department or program: This may lead to bottlenecks, delaying graduation for students. We can’t have every student dependent on a single department, which may face unforeseen difficulties such as retirements or modified strategic goals. This applies to issues such as the physical education requirement and the foreign language requirement, which are dependent on a single department for fulfillment. Take the example of the physed requirement, which originally accounted for 2 credits (explaining why students need 122 credits to graduate from CCSU). When for internal reasons related to other departmental activities the department could not provide this full amount, the university had to substitute a university requirement (in part in library skills), adding to the complexity of the program.
As a general rule, each sector of General Education should have a number of departments offering courses that satisfy that sector, facilitating student choice and avoiding bottlenecks to graduation. I would go so far as to say that there should be no additional “requirements” beyond the satisfaction of the 4 or 5 sectors, including mathematics, modern language, physical education, etc. All of these are “good” ideas, the sum of which, in practice, falls under the caveat of point (1) above of too much of a good thing. Individual programs could well specify (and currently do) co-requisites for their major. For example, the English department might wish to have their majors display competency at the 112 or even 125 level in a modern language, and we should allow them to do so; but to impose that on all students, irrespective of major, is an error. The same, it seems to me, applies to even to mathematics. (I am not sure about English composition, though I think that most of what is done in English 110 should be done in high schools, or as part of the writing component within major courses.)

Suggestions from the Dept. of Psychology

Written By: Thomas Burkholder - Feb• 13•12

Posted for the Dept. of Psychology

Call for discussion on suggested general education core areas
Date:  2/13/2012

The Department of Psychology is responding to the Faculty Senate Ad-hoc General Education Committee’s call for discussion on their suggested general education core course requirements and further guidelines. As we understand the suggested core areas they are:

Arts & Culture, because they explore expressions of human imagination and belief.

Self and Society, to examine the relationship between individuals and the communities in which they live.

Physical and Natural Worlds, because methods of scientific inquiry are essential for understanding the world around us.

Mathematics and Statistics, because concepts beyond basic algebra allow for the construction and interpretation of mathematical models to reach quantitative conclusions.

We believe that these general education areas could more clearly be labeled and understood with one of the two options below:

Option 1:

Arts and Humanities, because they explore expressions of human imagination and belief.  (6 credits)

Social and Behavioral Sciences, because methods of rigorous scientific inquiry, systematic analysis and application are essential for understanding individuals and their social and cultural context. (6 credits)

Physical Sciences, because methods of scientific inquiry are essential for understanding the natural world. (6 credits)

Quantitative Reasoning, because concepts beyond basic algebra allow for the construction and interpretation of mathematical models to reach quantitative conclusions. (6 credits)

Option 2:

Arts and Humanities, because they explore expressions of human imagination and belief. (6 credits)

Scientific Inquiry, because the methods of science are essential for understanding individuals, our social and cultural context and the natural world. (12 credits) (This would include natural, social and behavioral sciences and could have expanded credit hours, or require a minimum number of credit hours in the natural, social and behavioral sciences, such as “requirement includes a minimum of 6 hours of physical sciences.”)

Quantitative Reasoning, because concepts beyond basic algebra allow for the construction and interpretation of mathematical models to reach quantitative conclusions.

Reasons for the changes:

These changes would more clearly demonstrate to students the content areas associated with the general education program and values. The above models would achieve the following:

1.     Use of the term Arts and Humanities as a core area instead of Arts & Culture—the term ‘culture’ has a variety of interpretations as a function of discipline that is not apparent when paired with the term ‘Arts’.  Arts & Culture connotes an aesthetic rather than a field subject to scientific inquiry. The term humanities is more broadly used to describe fields such as literature and philosophy, which are not bound by scientific method.

2.    Use of the term Social and Behavioral Sciences as a core area (option 1) rather than Self & Society recognizes that behavioral and social phenomena are subject to scientific inquiry at the individual as well as the group and cultural level.

3.     Use of the term “Scientific Inquiry” (option 2) as a core area recognizes that the methods of science are essential for understanding individuals, our social and cultural context as well as the natural and physical world. Care can be taken to ensure that a minimum number of credit hours in a particular domain (e.g., physical sciences) is required.

4. Physical Sciences is more succinct.

5.     Quantitative rather than Math and Statistics—to avoid identifying specific disciplines.

II. In “Further Guidelines” we make the following suggestions relating to “Tagged Courses”

Students are required to take one course in each of the “tagged” areas, which are D(iversity)-designated, Community Engagement (CE) and  International (INTL) and Fitness and Wellness (FW).

Reasons: We want to make sure that students will be exposed to courses that a) develop skills to understand people from diverse backgrounds, b) emphasize a community orientation, and c) promote life-long health.  Without these “tagged” requirements, students could leave CCSU without opportunities to develop necessary skills that would allow them to be successful in a diverse workforce and in life.

 

 

 

Student Survey about General Education

Written By: Thomas Burkholder - Jan• 31•12

Please take a few minutes to participate in the survey that SGA recently sent about General Education requirements: http://survey.ccsu.edu/TakeSurvey.aspx?SurveyID=m8KKmo81

A General Education Proposal from SGA

Written By: Robert Wolff - Jan• 26•12

Posted for Eric Bergenn, Student Government Association President, eric.bergenn@my.ccsu.edu

A PROPOSAL FOR GENERAL EDUCATION

Goals

-To provide a well-balanced, quality education to all undergraduate students who attend CCSU.

-To further the mission of the university:

Central Connecticut State University is a community of learners dedicated to teaching and scholarship that emphasizes development and application of knowledge and ideas through research and outreach activities, and prepares students to be thoughtful, responsible and successful citizens

Requirements by Law:

40 (39.6) Credits of restricted electives. [120 minimum semester hours * 33% = 39.6]

Section 10a-34-15. Curriculum and Instruction.

-(b) General education. The general education component of associate and baccalaureate degree programs shall include a balanced distribution of required courses or restricted electives in the humanities, arts, natural and physical sciences, mathematics, and social sciences comprisingat least 25 percent of the minimum requirements for the degree and, by September 1987, at least 33 percent of the minimum requirements for the baccalaureate degree, as prescribed in subsection (e) of Section 10a-34-17 of these regulations… (Education, 1999)

Section 10a-34-17. Graduation Requirements.

(e) Minimum total credit requirements for each degree level shall conform with the following guidelines: associate degrees – completion of at least 60 semester hours of college-level work; bachelor’s degrees – 120 semester hours;… (1999)

Current System:

The Study Areas are:

I.      Arts and Humanities (9 credits)

II.     Social Sciences (9 credits)

III.    Behavioral Sciences (6 credits)

IV.   Natural Sciences (6-7 credits)

The Skill Areas are:

I.      Communication Skills (6 credits)

II.     Mathematics (6 credits)

III.   Foreign Language Proficiency (0-6)

IV.   University Requirement (2-3 credits)

Other requirements: PE 144, one course in MATH, STAT, CS, or FYS 106, totaling 6 credits, Foreign Language Proficiency, Students who have not completed ENG 110 prior to earning 61 credits are required to take both ENG 110 and ENG 202, A laboratory experience is required, At least 3 credits required in history, At least 3 credits required in 200-level literature…

Why are our 4 & 6 year graduation rates low? It’s not incompetent students.

The problem: Breadth of education is a major benefit to any individual; however, the most important factor is the value gained of education.  Having 8 required fields takes away from a student’s academic freedom, requiring them to take more courses in which they have a lack of interest.  This has a multitude of effects including an immediate and aggregate negative economic impact on the individuals attending the university, higher cost of education, lower grade point averages, lower 4 & 6 year graduation rates, and less education in the fields students wish to pursue, which will demonstrate more value to the individual over the course of her or his career.  There are also many possible residual effects, but for the purpose of refraining from speculation, those won’t be listed.

The Solution: Follow CT law and allow for the most courses possible in the general education program. (See reverse)

General education is divided into 4 areas (minimum of 40 credits):

  1. Arts & Humanities (Minimum 6 credits, Maximum 12): Literature, Writing, Law, History, Languages, Performing/Visual Arts, Philosophy, Religion, etc.
  2. Natural, Physical & Computer Sciences (Minimum 6 credits, Maximum 12): classes in Chemistry, Biology, Earth Science, Computer Technology, Engineering, Environmental Sciences, Psychology, Physics, Mathematics, etc.
  3. Social Sciences (Minimum 6 credits, Maximum 12): Political Science, Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, Economics, Geography, History, etc.
  4. Personal Development (Minimum 6 credits, Maximum 12): Health and Wellness, Financial or Personal Accounting, Financial Literacy, Construction Management, Logic, Languages, Graphic Arts, Reading Efficiency, Moral & Ethics classes from any field, Social Justice, Economics of the household, Regional Economics, Technology Systems, etc.

Some of these subjects of study repeat.  This is due to the various methodologies within particularly broader fields where there may be some quantitative analysis in some subfields, and more qualitative in others, such as Psychology (e.g. neuropsychology vs. cognitive psychology), and in other cases where they can be considered both a science and a reflective analysis. This doesn’t include the CIS course, but it can exist within this plan. It should be a 1 credit course taken first 2 semesters for freshmen, first semester for transfers.

Notes & Graduation Requirements:

Any Classes in the Personal Development category may not be from within a student’s major area of study.  No class can count towards more than one study area. A student cannot graduate without either passing (with a c- or above) or “testing-out” of a college level math and composition course. Up to 6 credits from areas 1-3 can be “double-counted” towards a student’s program, or as an elective there within.

Keep in mind before suggesting mandating any particular classes:

-Do you teach that class? (Let’s be objective/ethical)

-Can you confidently say that you can go through every other class and explain why that class is not as important? If you can, can you get a majority to agree?

-Do you honestly think that a student can get through this Gen Ed program without the skill they would learn in the mandated class? (e.g. Could a student get through a Philosophy or Law class without the necessary proficiency to get through Literature?)

 


CT Department of Higher Education (1999, December ). Regulations for Licensure and Accreditation of Institution of Programs of Higher Learning. Retrieved from State of Connecticut Department of Higher Education: http://www.ctdhe.org/regs/RegsAcad.htm