Assessing General Education
The General Education Assessment Plan (GEAP) compares diverse samples of student coursework from the beginning, middle, and end of the students’ undergraduate education to generate an overview of Gen Ed program's effectiveness.
General Education Assessment Plan
As stated in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Board of Governors Policy 1993-01,
“Within General Education, student learning outcomes consist less in mastery of disciplinary content than in the acquisition of the skills, values, awareness, understanding, perspective and appreciation that are the foundation for informed citizenship in a democratic society, innovation, and career readiness.”
This General Education Assessment Plan (GEAP) focuses on student growth over the course of the entire undergraduate experience. Rather than assessing individual courses or individual menu goals, this plan compares diverse samples of student coursework from the beginning, middle, and end of the students’ undergraduate education to generate an overview of General Education program effectiveness.
Students achieve the foundational goals of the General Education program as they gain familiarity with a broad range of academic disciplines and knowledge in the process of fulfilling their Gen Ed requirements. The desired outcomes of the Gen Ed program, as stated in BoG Policy 1993-01, can be assessed as measurable improvement in:
- examining unique problems through quantitative and qualitative analysis.
- executing solutions through critical and creative thinking.
- assembling effective communication materials using appropriate norms and focus (i.e. audience and community).
The General Education Assessment Plan documents growth in these areas using three sets of rubrics that integrate elements of the Association of American Colleges & Universities’ VALUE rubrics for assessing “essential learning outcomes” identified by the LEAP (Liberal Education and America’s Promise) initiative. These three sets of rubrics are used to evaluate and compare student work at three stages of their education.
These overall outcomes are linked to the following General Education menu goals. (The menu goals are listed in the General Education Program document.)
For assessment area I. Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis, coursework samples at the introductory level are taken from multiple sections of 100-level courses in Natural Sciences and Social Sciences.
Coursework samples at the intermediate level are taken from a variety of 200- and 300-level courses on the Gen Ed Laboratory menu. Coursework samples at the advanced level are taken from a variety of Special Experience courses, distributed as evenly as possible among the three Colleges.
For assessment area II. Critical and Creative Thinking, coursework samples at the introductory level are taken from multiple sections of 100-level courses in Humanities and Fine Arts. Coursework samples at the intermediate level are taken from a variety of 200- and 300-level courses on the Gen Ed Writing Intensive menu. Coursework samples at the advanced level are taken from a variety of Special Experience courses, distributed as evenly as possible among the three Colleges.
For assessment area III. Communication and Community, coursework samples at the introductory level are taken from multiple sections of UNI 100 and/or ENG 101. Coursework samples at the intermediate level are taken from a variety of 200- and 300-level courses on the Gen Ed Ethics and Multicultural Emphasis List. Coursework samples at the advanced level are taken from a variety of Special Experience courses, distributed as evenly as possible among the three Colleges.
The General Education Assessment Plan is overseen by an Assessment Coordinator who
- gathers student work from a variety of disciplines,
- prepares the student work for assessment review,
- facilitates the Assessment Retreat,
- tabulates the assessment data, and
- prepares the Assessment Report.
The General Education Assessment Committee is composed of faculty members who may or may not be members of the General Education Committee. The Assessment Retreat is an annual or twice-annual event at which members of the Assessment Committee evaluate student work according to the rubrics for the three assessment areas identified above.
Assessment rotates on a four-year cycle, measuring one of the three assessment outcomes each year for three years in rotation with a gap year for adjustments. In each assessment year, the Assessment Coordinator gathers samples of student work to be evaluated using one of the three rubric sets. The samples of student work are, in most cases, culminating assignments from a variety of courses at each level (introductory, intermediate, and advanced). At the advanced level, samples may also include undergraduate research and submissions for publication or competition.
The Assessment Coordinator removes and permanently discards all identifying information from the student work (e.g. student names, instructor names, and course numbers) and assigns a tracking number to each item. Metadata about the level of each item (beginner, intermediate, or advanced) is retained under the tracking number but not displayed on the item itself.
At the advanced level, the metadata also includes the College (Science and Technology, Liberal Arts, or Education and Human Services) within which the student work was completed. Tracking advanced coursework by College enables the Assessment Coordinator to compare scores among groups of disciplines that traditionally emphasize elements of one assessment area (e.g. data analysis in STEM disciplines or communication in Humanities disciplines) with those that may place less emphasis on those elements.
At the end of each semester, or the beginning of the following semester, the Assessment Coordinator convenes the Assessment Retreat. At the Retreat, the Assessment Coordinator distributes randomized subsets of the coursework samples to members of the Assessment Committee, who evaluate the work according to the rubric for that year’s assessment area (I, II, or III). Each assignment is scored on a scale of 1-4 for each item on the rubric.
After the Retreat, the Assessment Coordinator tabulates the data and presents it to the Gen Ed Committee. Following the model of the LEAP VALUE rubric system, the scores for each assessment area would ideally fall into ranges of 1-2 at the beginner level, 2-3 at the intermediate level, and 3-4 at the advanced level. Whether or not these targets are met, examination and comparison of scores for individual rubric items gives the Gen Ed Committee, and the University, important information about the General Education Program’s existing strengths, as well as the areas in which it can be strengthened.