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Practical Insights on Improving General Education Learning Outcomes Assessment

Disconnects in general education are common in higher education. One disconnect is between the value many students place on general education outcomes (which is high) and the interest in taking courses where they learn about general education topics (which is low). Another disconnect are our assumptions about student interest in and knowledge about general education, which is assumed to be low.

We delved into this disconnect and other topics at our recent Assessment Advisory Council meeting. Council members were provided a list of discussion topics. This post summarizes some of the council’s ideas. The goal of this exercise was to improve general education assessment processes and gain ideas about how to engage students, faculty and administrators in improving general education and assessment.

Ideas for increasing academic administrator engagement with general education learning outcomes assessment

  • Integrate evaluations of general education learning into departmental or college-level meetings and planning sessions.
  • Ensure general education learning outcomes are factored into decision-making processes and curriculum development and reference consistent data sources.
  • Address practical concerns students have about general education, like time and tuition.
  • Create forums for discussing general education and assessment results on a regular basis, like general education summits.
  • Develop a consistent terminology regarding general education outcomes.
  • Establish a process for gaining feedback from general education faculty about what students learn in general education and how the curriculum can be improved.
  • Layer belonging on top of general education courses. Belonging is associated with student success at ISU.

Ideas for encouraging student engagement with general education learning outcomes assessment

  • Emphasize the value of general education courses in the major.
  • Clarify how general education courses provide a foundation for disciplinary learning.
  • Create video testimonials by students and alumni emphasizing the value of general education.
  • Communicate expectations for learning in general education and students’ role in assessment.
  • Students general education ambassadors or peer consultants could advocate for the value of general education among their peers.

Ideas for cultivating faculty engagement with general education learning outcomes assessment

  • Encourage the assessment of learning as a scholarly or research activity.
  • Emphasize the scholarship of teaching in general education.
  • Encourage graduate student research in assessing learning in general education.
  • Engaging faculty through faculty learning communities, encouraging collaboration, cross-discipline dialog and mutual learning.*
  • Involving faculty in the assessment process, from updating outcomes, norming rubrics or creating cross-disciplinary assignments.*

*Ideas from Generally Speaking: The Impact of General Education on Student Learning in the 21st Century (linked to Milner Library)

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