During the first weeks of October, Provost’s Office Chief of Staff Melody Munson-McGee and I traveled across the state to meet with faculty and receive their input on the new general education model being developed by the General Education Statewide Steering Committee. The eight stops on our tour of the state were: San Juan Community College; New Mexico Highlands University; Santa Fe Community College; University of New Mexico; NMSU Carlsbad; Eastern New Mexico University; NMSU Las Cruces; and, Western New Mexico University.
Attendance at the meetings was good, and the discussions were cordial and spirited. There was general agreement that the committee was spot-on in its choice of essential skills and content areas to be covered in the general education curriculum. The essential skills are: communication; critical thinking; quantitative reasoning; personal and social responsibility; and, information and digital literacy. The content areas are: communications; mathematics; science; social and behavioral sciences; humanities; and, creative and fine arts.
Although each meeting had its own dynamic, some common concerns emerged. One was the nuances of transferring general education credits. In short, all general education courses will transfer and completion of the general education curriculum at one institution will be honored by all institutions. A second concern related to assessment of learning outcomes and the difficulty of assessing both content and essential skill learning outcomes in a single course. As noted in the discussions of this concern, the key to assessment is to avoid trying to do too much at once and to focus on only one or two learning outcomes each time a course is taught. It was also noted that the state will not collect these assessments; they are carried out by faculty members for their benefit in a process of continuous improvement. The state does, however, have an interest in programmatic assessment of general education and each institution of higher education will need to develop such a program.
Other concerns were voiced over the number of courses in communication being required (two is too few was a common refrain), and how the work on general education reform would meld with the work on common course numbering and alignment. With regard to communication courses, each institution will have the flexibility to add a third communication course to its general education curriculum, if the faculty of the institution so desire. Nevertheless, it is likely that the steering committee will revisit the issue of requiring a third communication course. As for the melding of the work on general education and the work on course alignment, the general education learning outcomes are sufficiently high level and general that we do not anticipate conflicts between these outcomes and those developed during the course alignment process. The steering committee will work with the Higher Education Department to ensure that the results of these two initiatives do, in fact, combine well.
I am grateful to faculty across the state for attending the meetings and for the good discussions. If you want to further ensure that your voice is heard, please visit the website of the Statewide General Education Steering Committee at https://provost.nmsu.edu/state-wide-gen-ed/ and submit a comment.
With all best wishes,