Comments on General Education Models

July 8, 2:40 PM, Regina Carlow, University of New Mexico

Dear All,
I too have learned a lot in reading comments, concerns and sidebars from the various sources in this email thread. The faculty and administrators that I spoke with about these proposals uniformly noted that  that the models themselves were difficult to digest at sight (and even after discussion)  yet  it was overwhelmingly noted  that in our attempts to simplify and make the CORE transferable, relevant, comprehensive beyond the narrow confines of most majors  AND efficient; we could very easily end up making the courses far less relevant or comprehensive in at the expense of efficiency and transferability. Here are a few general comments that I’m certain are not unique to my institution.

A university should strive to graduate students who are armed with the knowledge necessary to be engaged members of the community.
Students receive plenty of focused education in their majors and having a broad core helps to maintain some balance in their education. The more we remove from the core, the less it actually reflects the “core” of what it means to be educated.

The overwhelming comment  regarding the models was that  4 out of 5 of the proposed models give  options for students to choose a course in humanities or the arts.  One faculty commented:
It is sad reality that if students do not get exposed to this “core” of knowledge in college, they never will. From this standpoint the core should be as broad as possible. Eliminating an arts requirement will lessen opportunities for students to practice a unique form of critical thinking.

What is unique about the arts curriculum and most particularly studio courses in the arts is that they offer hands-on experience in a craft while integrating that experience with essential skills (noted in the proposed models) such as written and oral communication and in particular critical thinking and problem solving.

Another faculty member noted:
Question – are they modeling this after any other university system? University of Arizona has a tier approach http://archive.catalog.arizona.edu/2010-11/gened_tiers.html#tier2 And in that tiered system courses in both  humanities and the arts are required
.One course for both the arts and humanities combined flies in the face of a liberal arts education to create a broadly educated populace

A faculty member actually polled some of her students because she felt strongly that
the voices of students should not be left out of this process.  She included  quotes from her core class as a way to illustrate how studying the arts could be a way to give them a voice.  She noted –  “Keep in mind that my class does not count for music majors, so these quotes are all from non-music students who are being introduced to new ways to think about music and art”.

We have to actually experience music, and pay enough attention to it to let it in, let it affect us. If it’s always in the background, we won’t give it a chance to do that.
There are always very strong emotions throughout a community, and having music allows people to express and most importantly connect on an emotional level

The power that music has over all of us is that it is like a form of energy, and this energy that music has can really influence our actions, thoughts, and emotions when we listen to it

Many students and families will  choose to opt out of a fine arts class rationalizing that they should devote themselves to the practical aspects of their future lifes/jobs.  We know well that in NM many students are the first in  their families to attend college, they attend college to get a better job. If the administration decides ,to give only the OPTION for arts classes as one way to fulfill a requirement  many of our students  will look into what they believe is an answer to their immediate needs.

Mash Up Critique of the Models by the number:

Model 1 is too undeveloped to know exactly what it means, but it appears that they took the current core and mapped the “essential skills” onto it. This could be the easiest way to align our current core with the essential skills.  BUT again, is it the “best” way for our students.  There was strong disagreement that the core has been shrunk to 29 credits in this version, but it appears that the arts were spared and the reduction came from other areas (namely math and humanities) if and only if  Creative Expressionism means the arts. If the idea is to combine the arts with the humanities, this model fails to meet the true meaning of the “core.”

Model 2 is far too complicated and will result in students having more trouble graduating. The complicated set of rules that determine whether a student has successfully completed the core will confuse students, faculty, and advisors and our graduation rates will suffer.

Models 3 and 4 are very close to each other; the main difference being the rules about transferring courses are clearer in model 4. Both of these are very problematic in that they keep referring to the “five current disciplines” contained in the core. When was it determined that there are five disciplines in the core? At UNM there are 7 disciplines in the core and discarding/ ignoring this is unacceptable. It is also unacceptable to combine the arts and the humanities into one discipline; they are no more the same discipline than math and science.

Model 5 is the strongest model presented. This is not only due to the fact that the arts are included as a stand-alone part of the core, but also because the way that the core is structured and what classes are included are decided by the faculty. The more that the faculty controls the content of classes, the better the classes will be and the better prepared our students will be when they graduate. This model helps to maintain the purpose of the core of providing students with a broad background that helps to inform their study in their major.

I look forward to our meeting next Thursday – and I am eager to move beyond what we have — to an educational program of study centered on 21st century skills  that will indeed be comprehensive,  yet, still efficient as it transforms  the lives of the citizens of New Mexico

Regina Carlow, Ph.D.
Associate Dean, Student Affairs, CFA
Professor, Dept. of Music
Artistic Director UNM Children’s Choirs
The University of New Mexico

July 6, 3:45 PM, Michaelann Nelson, Western New Mexico University

Hello Committee Members,

I have had the opportunity to read through all of the comments, responses, and ideas put forward by all. I really appreciate the time and attention detail that many of you have included in your comments and in your counter-models. I don’t have the same detail in my response, but would like to reiterate some points others have made and offer my take to be tallied in the conversation of the models. At Western, we have been having discussions regarding overhauling general education for almost three years. Model Five appears more in-line with some of the conversations we’ve been having. Rather than just reiterating the same five content areas that we’ve been doing for a long time, I see this an opportunity to really rethink general education. Model Five may be more in line with the LEAP Model, which I think will be effective. However, there should be a matrix designed with model five to help understanding, advising, and ease of transferability. It does allow institutions to have some more flexibility to design a curriculum that may meet the needs of their student populations with more flexibility, but transferability should be kept in mind. Models one and two seem like basically the same thing we’re doing now. We should keep the LEAP model in mind.

To echo some other folks’ observations, we need to do a better job blending skills and content. Information literacy is important, but should not be a standalone class and should be reinforced in other classes. Likewise, as someone else mentioned, writing and communication classes may be a place to blend social responsibility with writing and communication skills, for example. If we do adopt something like model 1 or 2, there is a definite need to separate social sciences from humanities and humanities from creative arts. There does seem to be some confusion still about the skills and how they are defined in our discussions.

Dr Michaelann Nelson
Assistant Professor of English
Writing Center Director
Western New Mexico University

July 5, 9:42 PM, Pamela Cheek, University of New Mexico

Dear Committee Members,
I appreciate the opportunity that I had to learn from all of you when I was invited to join discussions at the June meeting for the first time.  I was impressed by the good will and thoughtfulness of the discussions. As someone who has not been part of the committee from the very beginning, I was struck by the pedagogical and institutional dedication individuals demonstrated when they expressed concerns that a statewide redesign of general education requirements might: 1) privilege some academic disciplines at the expense of others; 2) be too monolithic and top-down to respond to the differing needs, preparedness and interests of students at the state’s varied institutions; 3) be difficult to implement without a fuller understanding of the resources for general education available at each institution.  It seems to me that faculty, staff, students, and administrators will find it easier to invest in a new statewide general education curriculum if the process incorporates opportunities to describe, address and allay concerns about how disciplines, students or institutions may suffer a penalty or may benefit as a result of change.  I have found it difficult to list a personal order of preference for the models, in part because each offers a high level of detail in some areas and little detail in others.  So, I have tried to summarize the major choices that appear to be emerging in the models and in the discussion and to suggest my response with respect to these.

The decision points seem to involve interdependent choices in the following areas:
A. 1)    overlaying essential skills requirements onto an existing core curriculum framework
a)    by mapping one or two essential skills to each of five to seven content areas, or
b)    by creating a process whereby existing core courses (regardless of content area) may become qualified or flagged as meeting essential skill requirements; or
2)    designing a set of courses in which each course prioritizes and is built around teaching an essential skill.

B. 1)    offering a general education curriculum that addresses essential skills; or
2)    offering a general education curriculum with a foundation level in essential skills followed by a slightly more advanced secondary level in which essential skills may be developed and applied (through courses that are designated as gen ed or through courses that are flagged for providing essential skills but are not necessarily designated gen. ed. or core).

C. 1)    inventing our own new model, including names for essential skills, content areas and distribution of credits; or
2)    adopting/imitating a national model.

D. 1)    adopting a mandatory, top-down rubric before January 2017; or
2)    piloting and testing.

My colleagues in the College of Arts & Sciences are dispersed for the summer and so I have not been able to consult with them about which models they prefer. My personal thoughts are that:
a)    it will not benefit students and will alienate faculty if we insist on one-to-one (or one-to-two) mapping between essential skills and content areas;
b)    the short time frame and lack of clarity about resources for implementation are stifling creativity and militating that we opt for overlaying onto an existing core curriculum framework;
c)    we need to find a way of distinguishing New Mexico higher education from the pack while also demonstrating that we are in line with cutting edge educational ideas. Can we find a language to describe the skills with which we hope to endow our graduates that embraces New Mexican commitments and histories and stimulates pedagogical experimentation (ex. communication across communities; creativity and enchantment; cultures and languages in contact; natural worlds; numbers, symbols and relationships; scientific revolutions; contemplative engagement ….?);
d)    it is difficult to make decisions as long as the essential skills remain incompletely defined and uncallibrated to levels of achievement.  Some of us will want to interpret essential skills as entry-level office assistant capabilities.  Others of us will want to interpret these as baseline qualifications for advancement to a career in astrophysics. Might we either find time to collect or design courses built around essential skills so that we can see what these might look like on a more practical level or, would it be possible to create a publicized and rewarded statewide competition for innovative course design around teaching essential skills? In other words, in the interest of stimulating creativity rather than promoting risk aversion, can we incorporate examples, testing and pilots?

Thank you for your patience with this rather long response from someone who only just walked into the important work that you are doing as a committee. I appreciate the opportunity to think with you about hard and crucial questions.

Best,
Pamela

Dr. Pamela Cheek
Chair, Dept. of Foreign Languages and Literatures
Associate Professor of French
University of New Mexico

July 5, 8:07 PM, Joel Dykstra, New Mexico Military Institute

All, 

I am really enjoying reading the comments. I think that two things are coming through. The first is that we are not completely sure about the five skills we have and the second is that we are not completely sure what the problem with gen ed is.

I think that the transfer issue is real and we all agree that students need to be able to transfer gen ed credits, losing as few as possible along the way. For the past 100 years, the credit hour has been the most common currency in higher education. The credit hour came about a long time ago as an accounting mechanism to figure out who qualified for medical and retirement benefits. It was never really intended as a good way to assess or account for learning but it became a handy way to do so. As I type this, I am on my way to a WICHE 2-year college meeting as a fill-in for my boss. For preparation, he gave me some literature on the WICHE passport. It seems to me that the passport is an honest attempt to create a new type of common currency for transfer and in fact, the literature uses those exact words. In that sense, I do not think that we are out of line in trying to include skills in our gen ed program and hoping that they can transfer. Perhaps it would be worthwhile for us to consider more seriously, the passport and some of the other models that have been proposed such as the LEAP model. One of the things I heard at a recent state meeting on international programs was that New Mexico was somewhat behind a lot of other states in the region and has a hard time attracting international students because they don’t naturally think about coming to New Mexico. Maybe, if we join some of our sister institutions in WICHE by adopting the passport, we can position ourselves more on the cutting edge of a potential national change in gen ed with respect to transfer. If we are indeed at a disadvantage in attracting outside students, this might help us somewhat.

It seems to me that in the January meeting, it was also suggested that our college students are not graduating with the skills that employers need. I have heard rumors that a list of those skills might exist or that they have been spoken about informally. However, we have never seen a list of them on paper. We essentially derived our list of skills by looking at some other models and having faculty give input. Clearly employers would want the usual suspect skills such as the ability to read, write and speak. They most likely also want employees who have some knowledge such as knowing multiplication tables, the scientific method, and how the government works. These are the kinds of things that we have looked at so far with our skills and distributions. However, if you look at the literature on this topic, there is some indication that in addition to the list of skills and knowledge that employers say they want, some other things emerge when the rubber hits the road, in other words when employees actually start to work. Things like being able to answer a telephone, being able to interact with customers and office colleagues and being able to do research that may involve walking down the street to thumb through a card catalog rather than looking things up on-line are important and can be missing in recent graduates. It seems to me that these kinds of “skills” or real-world strategies are not necessarily something that can be taught from a checklist of requirements. They sound more like the result of active learning. So I would say that those on the committee that have advocated in favor of using the gen ed reform process to review pedagogy are on to something. As Annemarie suggested in her message, shuffling the requirements may not move us much further ahead if we are trying to engage students and convince them of the real-world utility of a gen program.

One of my recent doctoral classes was on program evaluation. I became interested in theory-driven program evaluation. A couple of months ago it struck me that what our steering committee is trying to do is essentially conduct a formative program evaluation for gen ed. After one of our meetings, I attempted to sketch out a rough logic model for what I understood our program to be. I don’t know if it is of any use here or not but I am including it. It seems to me that assuming we can muster enough resources and accomplish the outputs (have students take our courses) the theory suggests that we will achieve our outcomes (students transfer and graduate, have employable skills, etc.). The open question is what the mechanism is that accomplishes this phenomenon. Is it a prescribed set of courses that can be followed on a matrix? Is it a teaching philosophy? Is it some combination of both? On the one hand there seems to be some concern that we won’t have the resources or the buy in to properly administer the program, especially if it becomes complex, and this could lead to degraded outcomes. On the other hand, there is some concern that a faulty theory could lead to diminished outcomes. In other words, even if taught perfectly according to the matrix, would our courses lead to what we are looking for?

Anyway, sorry about the random ramblings. I am sitting here with a nice view of the mountains in Trinidad and a folder next to me with articles I need to read for my dissertation, so of course I am writing e-mail messages as a procrastination mechanism!  I look forward to our meeting next week. I agree that we probably can’t go back to square one on this issue at this point, but I think a lot of worthwhile things have come out in the discussions so far and I am optimistic that we can find a way to respect the tradition of our popular distribution model while also incorporating some cutting edge ideas about skills and pedagogy that may bring us in line with current trends in higher education.

Joel

 

July 5, 5:19 PM, Annemarie Oldfield, ENMU-Roswell

I have been becoming increasingly concerned about what all these models will mean for smaller schools and community colleges and how they might complicate scheduling and the efficient completion of the gen ed core.

I was unaware our goal was to absolutely transform general education in NM, especially when so many of the respondents are still wondering what is “wrong” with the old model. I and the faculty here believe firmly that students should have a strong background in the Common Core areas we have been using in New Mexico and do not believe any such total transformation was ever suggested, much less required. So I went back to my notes from the meeting at UNM in January during which Dr. Damron introduced our charge, and I am adding them here, bolding the portions of which we many have lost sight:

Dr. Damron wants to create a taskforce to create a Common Course numbering system as requested by the legislature. As long as we are doing that much work, she asked us to consider revisiting the General Education Core in an effort to make it “better suited to the 21st Century.”  She assured attendees this was not a move to either standardize curriculum or take away academic freedom but to help the focus change from student attitudes of having to “get through” the Gen Eds to one in which students can see the applications of taking general education courses on their futures.”

In addition to the knowledge general education courses provide, the 21st century will require the addition of skills like critical thinking, problem solving, ethical reasoning, artistic appreciation, etc. Since knowledge is growing and changing so rapidly, employers are requesting we teach students how to apply knowledge along with the information itself.

The general education core plus the 4 year degree should create lifetime learners, critical thinkers, in short, leaders for the 21st century.

The HED’s goal is to set up a statewide Task Force to engage faculty at the 32 institutions in participating in the creation of a general education that is both streamlined from the current one and emphasizes transferable skills through which students can see how what they are learning applies forever instead of something to be memorized for a particular class grade.

The task force’s commission is three-fold

  • Discuss and determine the learning outcomes essential for general education
  • Design a general education curriculum that teaches and reinforces those outcomes
  • Design a method for implementing those curriculum changes at the 32 institutions of higher learning across the state to make transferability of coursework between institutions a smooth, consistent practice.

While ENMU-R agrees with the fear that simply suggesting skills outcomes might result in something that is listed on a syllabus but not really included in the class, we don’t think a prescriptive total transformation is necessary to change general education focus from strict content to application of content.  We also reject the idea that those outcomes should be so narrowly focused or tiered to be checked off on a degree plan. What we should be looking for is pedagogical change in the way we teach rather than structural change in the way we count transferable credits. I and others at my institution have no problem keeping the current Areas and overlaying them to include an emphasis on assessable skills outcomes. An English or communications class would be a great place to emphasize social responsibility if that is how an institution chooses to integrate that skill. To say the skill of communication should be taught in an English or communication course, as the models suggest, seems the exact opposite of what we were charged to do: show students how what they are learning in their courses is applicable outside of their coursework.

We agree the taskforce needs to go back and clearly define what is meant by each of the skills (I like adding the skill of creative expression, dumping information literacy as its own skill, and adding it to communication as was suggested). Based on the clearer definitions, all courses should reapply to be listed in the transferable general education core. Part of the reapplication process would be to demonstrate exactly how the course will implement two or three of the essential skills and how those skills will be assessed. Surely a student taking 30 hours of general education courses will hit all of the skills in a meaningful way. To try to prescribe it as specifically as some of the models do will create far more problems for students and their advisors, not to mention faculty, than it was meant to fix and, quite frankly, still not ensure anything.

The reapplication will encourage faculty to consider how to improve their curriculum delivery to emphasize transferable skills, which seems to have been the original intent of our charge, and the required assessments will see that it gets done. Individual institutions can do their own curriculum mapping to see that all the skills get covered somewhere.

It seems to me that trying to transform general education by putting together portions of separate models, assigning skills outcomes to specific courses, and then creating a required tier of those skills to create a well-rounded student is similar to Victor Frankenstein’s experiment of cobbling together body parts to create a human being.

If I am wrong and we ARE looking to transform general education completely, I agree with Colleen that we should look at an established program that has already worked out its kinks and has data to support it—LEAP or Passport or some other. If we do not choose to accept an established, proven model and continue on this path, I strongly suggest we PILOT our ideas to work out the inevitable issues.

Annemarie Oldfield, B.A., M.A.
AVP of Arts and Sciences Education
ENMU-Roswell

 

July 5, 1:45 PM, Steve Simpson, New Mexico Tech

Dear Committee:

Thank you, first of all, for the extra time to discuss these models with our campus. At New Mexico Tech, we were able to host a feedback meeting that had representatives from all but one campus department, two deans, and associate VP, and representatives from the Registrar and various student support services. The feedback from our campus was mixed, but extremely valuable. In the end, as with some of the other replies to this email thread, people identified elements from the various models that they supported or didn’t support rather than agreeing with any one model. We’d like to share some of the concerns and recommendations in addition to noting some traits of the 5 proposed models that seem to have potential.

1.  Purpose. One student success staff member observed that we were “using a sledgehammer to kill a mosquito.” Other faculty members echoed some concerns that those of us serving on this committee share—that we have not spent a lot of time defining the specific problems with the current system that we are trying to solve, and—more importantly—identifying the problems that New Mexico institutions share and how we think they could be solved.

We think this lack of a shared sense of the problem is why we came up with so many fundamentally different approaches at the last meeting.  At Tech, we certainly have some concerns about the current Gen Ed model, but I do not think that we have experienced the same problems in the same ways as other universities. Many of us would like more discussion of what the state-wide problems are and more strategic, focused plans for attending to them.

2. Complexity. We are all concerned that the models we are proposing are adding complexity to the process that ultimately works against our objective to ease transferability and makes Gen Ed more confusing for students. Also, when you consider that it appears that the common numbering will require state-level committees for approving and numbering new courses at our state institutions (some of the news coming from the other committee), it looks as if we are putting together a system that will require even more state-level maintenance than the current system (which has been an issue in the past).

3. Tiers. Across the board, we do not support the plans to “tier” the Gen Ed requirements at the state level. In and of itself, we believe that a state-proscribed tier structure (even just differentiating between 100- and 200-level classes) will have a negligible effect on improving student experiences in these classes. Really, the real change in this regard will need to happen at the institutional level. Further, as a small school, we are concerned that the tiers will add to the already difficult task of scheduling enough classes at the right levels to satisfy what students need when they need them to keep on path to graduation.

4. Essential Skills. We believe the essential skills need further work and clarification. In particular, while we understand why some institutions would see “information literacy” as an essential skill, we do not see this as warranting its own area. We’d see this, rather, as being a subset of another skills such as “Communication” or “Critical Thinking.” Further, we believe that there are some skills that aren’t being considered — “Creative Expression” (from model 1) seems particularly important. This would open up room in the Gen Ed core for courses such as “Theater” and “Music” which are extremely popular with our students and from which they report very valuable experiences. (Our engineers, in particular, report receiving some very critical job skills from theater, and many students come to Tech instead of other schools because of its music program, which would not survive outside of the Gen Ed core).

5. Block transfer. Overwhelmingly, our school is concerned with the total block transfer idea suggested in model 4. We agree that we must simplify transfer for students, but we do not think it is feasible to guarantee complete block transfer across such different institutions. Rather, we support starting by setting up the meta majors and using them to guide which combination of Gen Ed skills should count for which majors/fields. It is potentially very confusing to students to say that they have “completed” their Gen Ed requirements but still need to take Gen Ed math courses if switching to a STEM major.

6. Capstone. Faculty at our school are not in favor of a required state-wide capstone in the major. We feel individual institutions should use capstones (or not) in ways that support their own institutional and programmatic missions.

Some positive directions:

  1. The intent of model 5 was to avoid prescriptive structures at the state level
  2. and rather create simple sets of rules that help Gen Eds at different institutions speak to each other better. We support this approach over what we see as a more prescriptive approach as model 2.
  3. Several of the models opened up the “humanities” and “social sciences” categories
  4. a little more, which we feel is very much needed. Right now, we have too many subjects categorized (and miscategorized) under these labels, and assessing them with the current outcomes are extremely problematic. The LEAP categories used in Model 5 or even
  5. the “creative expression” category in model 1 helps with this.
  6. We support using the essential skills more for assessment purposes than as categories.
  7. It seems to be a better way of assessing the distributions areas that what we currently have.
  8. We have been encouraged by discussions of meta majors and feel that discussion
  9. of the models and of meta majors need to happen together. We support the idea of drawing up Gen Ed pathways from meta majors and developing the rest of the Gen Ed model around them. The meta majors are an excellent step toward ensuring better transferability
  10. between two-year and four-year institutions in our state.

We understand the timeline we are working with, but we’d recommend more discussion time defining the specific problems that we are addressing before coming up with a definitive model.

 

July 5, 10:44 AM, Bridgette Noonen, New Mexico Higher Education Department

I was part of the group that came up with model 5. Model 5 was developed under the assumption that we would create a new gen ed matrix, the courses in this matrix would be identified based on the SLOs tied to each of the skills. Students would be required to fulfill these skills by taking courses within 4 of 6 content areas: sciences & math, social sciences, humanities, histories, languages, and the arts. (based on LEAP).  

  • We proposed having a group of faculty define learning outcomes for each skill.
    • The advantage to this is that the entire state is speaking a common language. So if a student takes a “communications” course at institution A, it could transfer as fulfilling “communications” at institution B even if institution B does not offer that course.  If the course is offered at multiple institutions, it would transfer as that exact course (thanks to common course numbering) and as fulfilling “communications”.
  • Faculty would apply to have their course included in the gen ed. Any course could (potentially) fulfill any skill as long as it is demonstrated that the course meets the defined SLOs.
  • The applications would be evaluated by a committee of faculty to determine if they should be included in the gen ed.
  • There needs to be an assessment piece but we didn’t get very far on that. The current assessment model doesn’t seem very effective (this is partly the fault of HED).

Bridgette

 

July 5, 10:00 AM, Colleen Lynch, Santa Fe Community College

Hello all, 

I am glad we are having this email discussion. Like others, Julia and I saw valuable ideas in many of the models that might be part of a combined proposal. We were most drawn to Models 2 and 4, but our discussion of the models kept leading us to the WICHE Passport model, which we urge the committee to consider.  Our Model 4 looked to us like a NM version of Passport.

Passport includes many of the ideas we have been discussing, and it seems that a modified version could work for us and connect us to general education reform efforts in other states.

Passport is based on a set of Passport Learning Outcomes, developed by faculty, in nine knowledge and skills areas, which connect with the LEAP essential outcomes and overlap considerably with the essential skills and subcategories developed by this group, as well as with the five general education discipline areas we currently use. Here are the nine knowledge and skills areas:

Oral Communication

Written Communication

Quantitative Literacy

Natural Sciences

Human Cultures

Creative Expression

Human Society and the Individual

Critical Thinking

Teamwork and Value Systems

Faculty at each institution create a passport block for each of the nine areas which includes a course, or a menu of courses, that meet all the objectives in that area. When a student completes the courses in the nine passport blocks with a grade of C or better, the passport is complete.  Once a student completes the passport at any school, the student can transfer the courses to any other passport school to meet all general education requirements. If necessary, the receiving institution can require students to complete courses needed for a major that overlap with general education (like prerequisite math or science courses). WICHE has created a Passport Review Board as a policy–making body for Passport, and the PRB will organize faculty committees to update the Passport Learning Outcomes as needed.

Advantages

  • Preserves institutional individuality
  • Facilitates transfer both in-state and out-of-state
  • Includes faculty-developed learning outcomes for Communication, Critical Thinking, and Quantitative Literacy
  • Provides data on transfer student persistence and success through National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) and the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC), as well as analysis from Rutgers University
  • First-year seminars could be included in general education, if an institution chooses
  • Includes studio arts, theater, and creative writing
  • Each institution provides a clear menu of courses students can take to fulfil general education requirements
  • WICHE is already working with registrars in several states to create models for how the passport will be documented on transcripts and transferred

Challenges

  • Does not require courses to introduce and reinforce
  • Does not have a separate knowledge and skill area for Personal and Social Responsibility, but outcomes related to Personal and Social Responsibility are included in Human Cultures, Human Society and the Individual, Creative Expression, and Teamwork and Value Systems
  • Does not have a separate knowledge and skill area for Information Literacy, but outcomes related to Information Literacy are included in Written Communication, Quantitative Literacy, Natural Sciences, Human Cultures, Human Society and the Individual, and Critical Thinking

 Full Disclosure

SFCC (along with NMSU and colleges in Colorado and Montana) is involved with the Passport Mapping Project, in which we are mapping assignments to the Passport Leaning Outcomes and assessing student work to see if the outcomes are met.

I’ve attached a couple of documents from WICHE about the passport.

Thanks!

Colleen

Attachments: FAQ and Learning Outcomes

July 5, 10:00 AM, Suzanne Balch-Lindsay, Eastern New Mexico University

I agree for the most part with the comments thus far.  I do have to say that I cannot rank one model over another in its entirety, and do think that we need to revisit this issue before we move forward.  Bits of each model have a lot of merit to forward our goals, but no one model as presented meets my institution’s concerns about a gen ed that is 1) focused on the skills and knowledge that our students need; 2) on the alignment and accountability that our accreditation bodies and stakeholders require;  and 3) reflect and reinforce the missions in our diverse institutions and the students that we serve.  

Much as I would like to worry later–if ever–about the administrative and political realities of our work, I am enough of a utilitarian to remember that all of this will come to naught if we do not consider those factors as  at least co-equal to the ideals that we hope to reinforce as we evaluate our students’ preparation for the workplace and lives as global citizens.  Updates from the other taskforce groups on their progress to date might help us clarify where we need to focus our attention from here on out.

See you all next week.  

Suzanne

Dr. Suzanne Balch-Lindsay
Professor of History
Chair, Department of History, Social Sciences and Religion
Eastern New Mexico University

 

July 5, 2016, 9:27 AM, Robin Jones, Clovis Community College

I agree with the comments as presented.  I am a bit concerned from Bridgette’s updates from the other group—I am not sure I understood correctly, and maybe someone can provide clarification—maybe Bridgette?   Is the other group looking at simply revamping the current Gen Ed Matrix system?

Robin

 

July 4, 2016, Joel Dykstra, New Mexico Military Institute

Greetings all,

I shared the five models with out local NMMI Gen Ed Reform Task Force. Unfortunately, because it is summer, nobody is around and I did not receive any responses. The responses I give will be based on my opinions although I hope that I have a decent take on what the faculty members of my college think. Let me begin by mentioning that NMMI has gone through a fairly lengthy process of mapping student learning outcomes to the courses, most of which are also gen ed courses, given the fact that we are a two-year college. We did this as part of our participation in the HLC Assessment Academy. Many of the NMMI student learning outcomes are similar to the general skills we, as a steering committee, hope to adopt as gen ed outcomes for the state. In that respect, the NMMI faculty is not in the mood to go too far in the direction of starting from scratch. Second, I should probably mention that I was in group 2 at the last meeting and we produced models three and four.

First, I would like to make some general comments about the models:

  • Models 1 & 3 (and to a degree 2) appear to be more prescriptive in their approach. They would map skills to content areas at the state level. While this might make it easier to determine transfer rules, I think the downside of this is that you lock faculty into a way of doing things. Might we possibly get either a “teach to the test” mentality or lip service as to skills a course addresses? I originally found model two to be potentially confusing and complex, something we had mentioned that we wanted to avoid. With the addition of the checklist, it becomes more manageable. I think the checklist for model two is something worth pursuing further. In my mind, models one, two and three are all variations on a basic theme.
  • Models 4 & 5 attempt to allow some freedom for institutions to determine how to map skills to content areas. I think this would be the most palatable approach for faculty and the easiest to sell. I think it might also have the best chance of avoiding a situation in which things appear on a syllabus because the state says they have to but are not really an integral part of the course. The problem I see with model four, and possibly model five, is that if a student does not complete the gen ed block before transferring, we may be back in the same situation where there is a potential loss of gen ed credit or the accumulation of extra credits.

Other observations:

  • I think there is still some confusion about some of the basic skills, especially four and five. If some members of the steering committee are still unclear about them after a half a year of meetings, where will that leave faculty members and curriculum committees? At some point, I think we need to make sure we are clear about what the skills are and how they might relate to the content areas.
  • Although everyone is concerned about additional complexity that would arise with the requirement to have two levels of skill acquisition in the gen ed program, I think that it is a worthwhile feature and if we are serious about fixing the perceived lack of skills among our graduates, I think this is something that could begin to address the problem.
  • I am happy to see the balance between skills and content. Over the summer, I had the opportunity to read some books about expertise and grit. The researchers who wrote these books seem pretty clear about the fact that deliberate practice of skills is necessary for mastery and I think that should be one of the goals of our new gen ed program. At the same time, you can’t do things like critical thinking if you don’t have anything to think about, so I think that content provides an important context for the practice of skills. I hope that our final model insists on skills but also insists on a wide range of content.
  • So here is what I would like to see:
  • I think a program that has a checklist like the one provided for model 2 would be ideal. It is easy to navigate for students and counselors. However, I would like to see the narrative explanation be a bit less complex.
  • I would like to see a system in which individual colleges have some freedom in determining which skills are taught in which courses and which courses fit the gen ed program. This would be something akin to models 4 and 5. I don’t think we should be as prescriptive as models 1 and 3 in saying which skills have to be taught in which classes.
  • I think think the observations that area V (Humanities) is too broad have merit. Perhaps we should consider a sixth area for content. I don’t know how this would affect the number of credits we are asking for. Also, some smaller colleges like NMMI have limited faculty. If we were to require that every student take a language course or an art course, it might overload our ability to offer enough sections.
  • Rather than picking one of the models, I wonder if we might not be able to combine some of the best features of a few of them. I would say we could take the matrix idea from models 1-3 by using the checklist from model 2. We could combine that with some of the ideas from models 4 and 5 about allowing institutional flexibility in determining which courses meet the line items in the checklist.

I look forward to seeing everyone else’s comments on the matter and meeting with you in a couple of weeks.

Joel 

 

July 2, 2016, Pedro Martinez, Northern New Mexico College

This is an excellent model, simple, concise and it  provides the opportunity for students to become proficient with more in-depth courses that are measurable with a set of rubrics.

 

June 21, Mark Peceny, University of New Mexico

Dear colleagues,

I want to thank everyone for allowing me to participate in the session on the state-wide core curriculum a couple of weeks ago.  Allow me to make some observations that I hope will be helpful to those who have been engaged in this process for a longer period of time.  These should only be taken as my personal suggestions because it is, of course, very difficult to consult systematically with faculty during the summer months.

I find some combination of models 3 and 4 to be the most useful starting point.  Building on the existing framework of the core increases the likelihood that reform would be accepted by a wide-ranging set of institutions that are already organized to deliver the present core. Reducing the number of credit hours in the core will spur inevitable conversation about which disciplines are more or less important to a broad liberal arts education, a conversation that could easily scuttle the whole reform project. Building on the existing framework would also simplify implementation because it would mean adapting existing courses and frameworks rather than starting from scratch.  Finding a way to link the skills we hope to build among our students to existing courses and disciplines strikes me as the most practical way of moving forward. The attached table should be considered an elaboration on the ideas in model 3.

In the conversations in my group, the two skill sets that seemed to be the most complicated fit with existing courses were personal and social responsibility and information literacy.  It may prove useful to encourage institutions across the state to include these as the central goals of any transition to college course offered by their institution because this course can help build a basic foundation for these skills in the first semester that could be elaborated on in different ways in subsequent courses depending on the relevant discipline.  Information literacy will mean different things to Historians and Chemists, but if there is an entry-level course that, among other things, examines these differences, variation in follow-on courses is appropriate.

One great opportunity in this process is the possibility of distributing the responsibility for building skills in quantitative reasoning more broadly.  Now all courses that fulfill this category reside in departments of mathematics and statistics.  If we trim the number of math courses that meet the core to math for non-majors, introduction to statistics, and calculus, this may reduce the heavy burden placed on math departments across the state.  Similar opportunities may emerge in the area of communication.

One thing I appreciate about model 4 is the holistic and decentralized implementation model.  Institutions are asked to think comprehensively about how their delivery of the core addresses the skills all universities are supposed to share with their students and HED is required to review these comprehensive plans and certify that institutions are delivering the required skills.

I hope people find these comments helpful and I wish the committee all the best in this important work.

Mark Peceny
Dean, College of Arts and Sciences
UNM