REPORT OF THE FACULTY SENATE AD HOC COMMITTEE ON GENERAL
In 1996 the Faculty Senate appointed an Ad Hoc Committee on General Education charged to consider the academic goals that define a University of Delaware education and to propose ways that these goals might be realized throughout the University's undergraduate curriculum. Made up of faculty from every college and from representative programs and departments throughout the University, the Committee has sought to fulfill its charge in light of the University of Delaware's mission and in consideration of contemporary national movements and innovations in higher education. Although we are called the Ad Hoc Committee on General Education we quickly realized that our purpose transcended what is generally thought to encompass general education, namely, distribution requirements and universally mandated courses. Our purpose has been, rather, to consider undergraduate education as a total, coherent experience and to organize the academic resources of the University of Delaware to provide a learning environment that will educate our students to best fulfill their potential throughout their lives and careers.
During the two years that the Committee has been at work, other important learning initiatives have been underway at Delaware. With the assistance of the Center for Teaching Effectiveness and grants from the National Science Foundation the University has expanded Problem Based Learning (PBL) and has made active learning a significant part of the undergraduate curriculum, especially in the sciences. A Teaching, Learning, and Technology Roundtable, established by the provost, has reported on how the University can use technology to advance its teaching mission. An initiative is underway to expand the teaching of writing beyond the English Department and the current Arts and Science second writing requirement to encompass writing across the curriculum. A campus-wide committee has been formed to encourage the development of undergraduate students' leadership skills through a variety of means that include credit-bearing courses. These teaching initiatives have informed the work of the Ad Hoc Committee. All are important components of a unified concept for University of Delaware undergraduate education.
The Ad Hoc Committee began its task by asking two related questions: (1) what are the strengths and weaknesses of the University's present undergraduate programs and (2) what are comparable institutions doing to renew and improve educational experiences for their students? In 1997 the University was awarded a planning grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation that assisted us in answering both questions. The Hewlett grant permitted several of us to attend national conferences on general education issues and funded a speakers' series to inform Committee members and the campus community about initiatives elsewhere. The grant also funded a series of professionally run focus groups that studied faculty, student, and alumni perceptions of the University's present general education program.
The focus groups revealed that University of Delaware students are generally pleased with the education they receive in their major fields and that they benefit from the diversity requirement. Students have a less positive view of the University's general education program, especially during their first year of study. Most felt lost during their first year and had difficulty mastering the skills necessary to make the most of college. First-year students often do not take advantage of the resources available to them and fail to get good advisement. For some this leads to years without a major or to changing majors one or more times. Students caught in these problems are unable to graduate in four years. Even those who move quickly to adopt a major complain about the big, passive and impersonal classes that comprise much of their experience of general education and they fail to see connections between what is taught in these classes and the major that they choose. University alumni also found no intellectual integration to link courses required for general education to their majors. Some alumni said that their education would have benefited from a stronger first-year program that emphasized skills and from better preparation for the real world. These comments were the starting point from which the committee has developed a vision of what our undergraduate programs might aim to achieve.
The Committee also examined innovative general education programs at numerous institutions. In the fall of 1997 we invited representatives of the College of New Jersey to Newark to describe that institution's widely acclaimed core course entitled AAthens to New York@ to a UD audience. One week later Carol Schneider, now President of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, addressed a campus audience at Delaware. She focussed on the problem that large research universities face in trying to bring coherence into their curricula. She noted that the core course solution works well in liberal arts colleges but is impractical in large research universities such as the University of Delaware. Research universities can, however, offer effective alternatives to the core course. The University of Washington, for example, has successfully introduced clusters of thematically related courses for freshmen, who are divided into Freshmen Interest Groups depending on the cluster they select. The University of Rochester has a similar plan built around Quest Courses. These plans place students in learning communities and emphasize student involvement in faculty research. Her remarks are further borne out in a publication of the Carnegie Commission entitled Reinventing Undergraduate Education: A Blueprint for America's Research Universities (also known as the Boyer Report) which stresses the introduction of inquiry-based instruction in the freshman year, the removal of barriers to interdisciplinary education, linking skills development to content courses, and a culminating capstone experience to Autilize to the fullest the research and communication skills learned in the previous semesters.@
Everywhere the message of curricular renewal has been similar: the loosely structured, cafeteria-style distribution system of general education that universities embraced in the early 1970s in reaction to student cries for relevance is no longer relevant. In its place, universities are adopting structures designed to better integrate and connect knowledge, and to engage learners more directly in research and in the application of what they learn beyond the classroom. Today universities aim to prepare students for life in the technologically sophisticated, diverse, and globally integrated world in which they will live and work. Although the Committee has taken a number of ideas from other institutions, the program that we are recommending for the University of Delaware is uniquely designed to build upon this University's existing strengths. Students receive an outstanding education at Delaware in their various majors. It is the reputation of our major fields that attract many of our best students to the University. We do less well, however, when we present our first-year and general education curriculum to well qualified high school seniors and their families. If the University can better demonstrate its commitment to the needs of first-year learners, unite the freshman class in similar learning experiences, integrate the breadth and skills associated with general education into the undergraduate experience, and provide a clear set of academic goals, we believe that the institution will be better able to attract the most motivated students.
In the course of our work we also consulted with many campus groups and individuals who provided informative perspectives about the University's educational mission. These included Provost Melvyn Schiavelli, the academic deans, several Senate committees, faculty units, the department chairpersons, directors of academic programs, the University registrar, and directors of Residence Life and the Honors Program.. Through this process we learned the curricular needs, aspirations, and constraints of the academic units that make up the University of Delaware. These varied needs have informed our proposals. We have taken seriously requests to simplify what has become an overly cumbersome and disconnected set of individual college and departmental criteria for graduation. In developing our plan we have tried where possible to reduce, but never to increase, the number of credit hours needed for graduation and to make advisement and mentoring more central to undergraduate education. The report that follows represents the Ad Hoc Committee on General Education's recommendations on how the University of Delaware can restructure its undergraduate curriculum to meet the educational challenges of our times.
In early 1998 the Committee wrestled with the questions, what do our students need to know and what must they be able to do? From that perspective we drafted a statement of goals to define the hallmarks of the University of Delaware baccalaureate degree. The statement was presented to the Faculty Senate in April 1998 and later appeared in Update. Senators were asked to disseminate the statement among their department members, and faculty, administrators, and students were encouraged to send their reactions to the Committee. Most responses were favorable. The Committee members have been their own harshest critics and have continued to edit the statement to enhance its clarity of purpose. The final version is:
Undergraduate Education at the University of Delaware aims to ensure that every student will:
3. Be able to work and learn both independently and collaboratively.
5. Understand the diverse ways of thinking that underlie the search for knowledge in the arts, humanities, sciences and social sciences.
6. Develop the intellectual curiosity, confidence, and engagement that will lead to lifelong learning.
7. Develop the ability to integrate academic knowledge with experiences that extend the boundaries of the classroom.
8. Expand understanding and appreciation of human creativity and diverse forms of aesthetic and intellectual expression.
9. Understand the foundations of United States society including the significance of its cultural diversity.
10. Develop an international perspective in order to live and work
effectively in an increasingly global society.
To fulfill these goals we recommend that the University of Delaware adopt an undergraduate program that includes four major elements (1) a FIRST YEAR EXPERIENCE to be called PATHWAYS TO DISCOVERY, (2) acquisition of specific SKILLS, (3) a DISCOVERY LEARNING EXPERIENCE to be fulfilled during any part of the student's years at the university, and (4) a CAPSTONE COURSE in the student's major to be taken in the senior year.
1. PATHWAYS TO DISCOVERY will be interdisciplinary thematic courses especially designed to introduce first-year students to college study and to the academic resources of the University of Delaware. They will be designed to excite student interest in learning and to teach basic intellectual skills. They will combine emphasis on content in lecture/presentations comparable to existing 3-credit introductory-style courses with small section meetings that build competencies and skills through active student learning. These courses will also provide a setting where freshmen can participate in a shared intellectual enterprize. The Pathways Program's thematic approach will also introduce greater coherence into the undergraduate program and will be designed to give first-year students the skills, motivation, and engagement necessary to succeed academically.
Several (three to five) general Pathways themes will be offerred each semester from which students may choose a particular course. The themes will be defined by the University Senate Committee on General Education (to be described later) based on faculty and student interests. Courses relating to these themes will be proposed and taught by individual faculty members from any discipline or college. The courses will enroll no more than 100 students, but 80 or fewer will be preferred. Large classes will divide into sections of 20 each for one or two meetings a week. Section meetings will emphasize writing, public speaking, mathematics, and group work. They may be led by faculty, teaching assistants, or peer tutors, but peer tutors may not assign final grades. Pathways courses will carry four credits. The faculty will determine the format for their courses, including the responsibilities of teaching assistants and peer tutors. Faculty will receive a stipend of $2000 to attend a workshop to develop a Pathways course and will also receive 4 credits toward their teaching load for offering a Pathways course. The faculty member's home department will be credited with the enrollment in her or his Pathways course.
Honors students will enroll in special Pathways sections that will take the place of the current Honors Colloquia. Parallel Program faculty will adapt their specialities to provide thematic, skills-rich courses that fulfill the purpose of Pathways. First year students will be required to enroll in a Pathways course, preferably during their first semester, but as soon as possible thereafter depending on the circumstances of an individual's undergraduate program. Individual colleges may choose to require their students to take a second Pathways course. The enrollment of transfer students in Pathways will be determined by the college to which the student is admitted on the basis of that college's curricular plan.
Pathway themes will be developed by inter-disciplinary teams of faculty. They will assist one another in the planning and execution of these courses by participating in interdisciplinary seminars and colloquia; suggesting appropriate readings from their various disciplinary perspectives; developing joint course objectives; planning teaching strategies; crafting syllabi and testing instruments; and appearing as guest lecturers in one another's classes. The themes for Pathways courses will be chosen for their ability to engage the interests of first-year students, introduce the intellectual resources and research interests of the University of Delaware faculty, demonstrate the connections that integrate the various academic disciplines, assist in the development of skills, and provide direction for students' future study and choice of major. Concepts such as Oceans, Justice and Equality, Food, Money, Bio-Ethics, Death and Dying, and the Future are suggestive examples of inter-disciplinary or cross-disciplinary themes that focus on expertise found in more than one college of the University, that offer engaging problems, and that introduce beginning students to potential areas in which they might seek a major and a career. Themes may be altered from semester to semester to keep the program fresh and to make it as inclusive as possible.
Portability of requirements among majors throughout the University and flexibility to accommodate differences among academic curricula are important elements in the structure of the proposed program. All Pathways courses will address goals one, two, three, and six. The courses will also fulfill, or at least address, one or more other goals, particularly goals nine and ten. This emphasis on Pathways to fulfill goals is especially necessary to meet the needs of those students who are enrolled in highly structured majors that allow for few electives. Each year several Pathways courses will be specifically designated to address goals nine and ten to allow students to meet all or part of the diversity requirement through their Pathways courses. Wherever possible, however, the committee recommends that colleges require their students to take additional course work beyond Pathways in those areas covered by goals 9 and 10.
Pathways courses will develop key skills in written and oral communication and in quantitative reasoning. In section meetings students will work both individually and in groups to solve problems just as researchers do. They will learn to use library, computer, and/or laboratory resources as research tools. They will engage in critical thinking. They will use basic mathematics to solve problems, will write several reports that will be graded for both content and writing, and will give at least two oral presentations that will be critiqued for effectiveness.
Good planning is essential to insure the success of the Pathways program. In its initial phase the University will use its Hewlett grant to provide for a weeklong symposium in early summer or winter in which participating faculty will learn about useful teaching techniques and will receive assistance in the creation of their courses. A compensated training period of three to five days will also be required for the program's teaching assistants in late summer. Participating faculty, teaching assistants and peer tutors will also meet periodically for discussions, seminars, and colloquia. In later years the cost of these training and planning programs will fall upon the University's own budget. Support for Pathways is, therefore, a worthy target for the University's current capital campaign.
To encourage active student participation in the program, develop learning communities among first-year students, and expand the boundaries of learning beyond the classroom, some Pathways courses may forge ties with the residence halls. A course that develops such a tie will adopt a particular residence hall to serve as its home base for out-of-class activities. Students enrolled in the course need not live in that hall, but they will be encouraged to take part in the planning and execution of programs related to the course that is sponsored through that hall. These activities might include an evening speakers' series or planning and executing field trips. Our objective is not to interfere with the students' out-of-class life, but rather to use all University facilities as partners in the institution's educational mission and to provide opportunities for student initiatives to develop leadership skills.
The Pathways Program can best fulfill its mission to integrate knowledge and to lead students toward greater discoveries if it is crafted to fit individual student needs. This will require two additional elements: quality advisement and sequencing from Pathways into appropriate next steps in the University curriculum. Advisors will be responsible for steering first-year students into the Pathways courses that best meet the needs of their projected major fields, and, especially in the case of students who are undeclared, into courses that can provide direction into an area that interests them. For many students, especially those who enroll in a college like Arts and Science that mandates additional distributive courses, the faculty responsible for each Pathways course will create a list of courses that constitute likely next steps in learning in the disciplines associated with their Pathways course.
The model of the Pathways Program that we propose involves the use of existing and, perhaps, of new teaching assistants. Departments that have no graduate programs can participate, however, by teaching small enrollment courses or by receiving compensation from a common resource pool to allow them to use TA-equivalent funds for other support purposes, such as to cover staffing loss. We recognize that faculty who choose to propose and teach Pathways courses are taking on a substantial task. The effects of their participation on workload, evaluation, merit, and other aspects of performance should be fully understood by the faculty member, the faculty member's chairperson, and any other individual or body that will assess the faculty member's yearly performance and progress toward promotion.
Pathways can provide a model for the inclusion of basic skills that will encourage faculty to include them, and students to expect them, in a broad range of courses throughout the curriculum. In the Committee's judgement students need more exposure to the mastery of skills in writing, mathematics, computer use, and oral communication than can be contained in Pathways courses. At the University level, the Committee recommends that first-year students be required to take Engl 110 and fulfill the mathematics requirement of their college or major. Although Engl 110 and Math 114 (the most commonly selected course to fulfill the mathematics requirement) will be taught separately from Pathways, the themes of Pathways courses will provide opportunities for writing assignments and analytical problems that can be defined in consultation with Pathways faculty. If possible, these skills courses should be scheduled in tandem with Pathways courses so that students enrolled in particular Pathways courses are also enrolled in sections of Engl 110 and Mathematics that utilize connected content themes. In addition to these first year requirements, the curriculum in every major should be designed to insure that all students receive additional experience in using these basic skills. The committee also recommends that students take at least one course beyond Pathways that emphasizes and evaluates their skill in oral communication and one course in which they use computers as tools for research and analysis.
3. DISCOVERY LEARNING EXPERIENCE
This aspect of the program is designed to address goal 7, which calls for students to Adevelop the ability to apply academic knowledge to experiences beyond the classroom.@ These experiences will be structured to link classroom and textbook learning to the real world and they may be a part of the Capstone course. Examples of such experiences are directed research projects, study abroad, professional internships, and service learning. Survey data from the Universsity of Delaware's Office of Institutional Research demonstrate the educational benefits of undergraduate participation in research projects, internships, and foreign study. Some majors already require internships. In addition, the University's mission to provide public service offers many opportunities for meaningful student involvement in service activities. The experiences of other colleges and universities demonstrate that students' participation in courses and activities that include a service learning component enhances their sense of civic responsibility and self-confidence, advances the institution's mission to serve its state and communities, provides experiential learning about diversity, and may lead to lifelong civic engagement.
Discovery Learning should be designed to help students recognize the connections that link what they study in class with what exists outside. That outside may take the form of undiscovered knowledge, or it may be what it feels like to work in the profession toward which one is studying, or how the world looks from a different perspective. Discovery Learning has the additional objective of helping students to become more self-reliant and better able to grasp the relevance of their university education. A project at the University of Michigan has demonstrated that involving the least well-prepared first-year students in faculty research significantly boosted their grades and retention rate.
By our estimates about 54% of University of Delaware students currently participate in one or more of these experiences. We believe that all should do so. We also recommend that, where applicable, participation in these experiences can fulfill more than one goal. Study abroad or a service project could, for example, fulfill goals 9 or 10. One key to the success of the Discovery Experience lies in good advising to link each student to a project that is appropriate to that student's curriculum. Students should be required to write a proposal for their advisor in which they describe how they plan to use their Discovery Experience to advance their education and address one or more of the University's ten academic goals and then document and reflect upon their actual experience.
To be done well Discovery Learning cannot be cost-free. The service learning component, which may involve several hundred students annually, will require a coordinator to assist faculty and students to set up appropriate venues for service and to arrange for transportation. We expect that many students who are not already required to undertake an internship as part of their major will choose to do a research project related to their major field or will study abroad. As many as 800 students already participate in foreign study annually and we would expect that number to grow. Both research and study abroad are, however, costly. We recommend, therefore, that scholarship support for Discovery Learning initiatives be cited as major components in the University's capital campaign.
4. CAPSTONE COURSE
The Capstone is intended to bring together the students' learning from Pathways through studies in their major fields and their Discovery Learning Experience to prepare them to assume the responsibilities of their post-college lives. Many majors already require a senior course, often a seminar, that acts as a capstone to the major and a bridge to link college study to the world of work. We recommend that the capstone experience be extended to all students in all majors. In some instances the capstone course and the Discovery Learning Experience will be part of a single entity that includes an internship, a service project, and/or a research project. While the specific nature of the capstone course will depend upon the major, departments and programs should be responsible for the inclusion of discussion of professional ethics as a component in their course plan. The capstone course also provides one final opportunity to make sure that students have fulfilled the University's 10 goals and that they are ready to take on the responsibilities of educated citizens and professionals in their various fields
IMPLEMENTATION AND ADMINISTRATION
To provide oversight of the program the Ad Hoc Committee recommends that the Faculty Senate create a new committee which might be called the Committee on General Education. The committee should include one faculty representaive from each college, except Arts & Science which should have three. In addition, the Vice Provost for Academic Programs and Planning and the Director of General Education, whose role is described below, should be ex-officio members. This committee will operate independently from, but report to, the Faculty Senate Committee on Undergraduate Studies, which is responsible for decisions that affect the undergraduate curriculum. The chairperson of the Committee on General Education will be a member of the Coordinating Committee on Education. The Committee on General Education will solicit Pathways theme proposals and approve all university-wide general education courses that are described in this document. The committee will also establish a means to evaluate whether or not courses and curricula in the general education program are fulfilling the goals they claim to address.
A Senate committee cannot, however, assume the total responsibility for making the University's General Education program work. The Committee recommends that the University create an Office of General Education to act as facilitator to the implementation of the program and assure that it runs smoothly. We recommend that the office be staffed by four people: a Director who holds faculty rank, two professionals who will be the Coordinator of Faculty and Teaching Assistant Development and the Coordinator of Discovery Learning Experiences, and an Administrative Assistant. The Director will be responsible for working with the Senate Committee on General Education and will coordinate the offering of Pathways courses and administer the program budget. The Coordinator of Faculty and Teaching Assistant Development will arrange for training sessions, seminars, colloquia and other activities designed to assist Pathways instructors. The Coordinator of Discovery Learning Experiences will identify and develop opportunities for discovery and service learning. We also recommend the creation of an Advisory Committee to work with the Director which should be composed of representatives from University offices and units such as the Center for Teaching Effectiveness, Residence Life, the Parallel Program, Instructional Technology, the Writing Program, the Preparatory Mathematics Program and similar organizations whose activities touch on the General Education Program.
The administration of the program must be flexible to accommodate differences in the curricula of the various colleges and major programs. Responsibility for defining the contents of the curriculum beyond the ten goals and four specific elements discussed above will remain with the colleges and departments. The general education program is intended to improve our students' total educational experience. It is not offered with the intention of watering down any area of study. Pathways, Skills, Discovery and Capstone experiences, however successfully undertaken, can only go a short distance toward fulfilling the 10 goals. For this proposed program to be successful faculty must keep the goals in mind in planning every course they teach.
This proposal provides a first step toward meeting the ten goals. College and departmental curricular requirements can advance the process another step, but students and their advisors must complete the job. The advisement system should be less centered on checking off requirements and more concerned with helping students to grow academically. Faculty often complain that their advisees don't bother to see them. Under this proposed program students will be required to consult their advisors regularly and students will have to take more personal responsibility for meeting the requirements for graduation. Because advisement is especially important in the first year, we suggest that freshmen be required to consult with their advisors before accessing drop/add.
We also suggest that students keep a journal in which they record their educational experiences that have addressed the 10 goals. These journals will be the basis for discussions with their advisors and may also be useful in developing students' resumes to be shown to perspective employers. The most important arbiter of whether a student has met the goals will be the advisor or the faculty member who teaches the capstone course. Meeting the ten goals cannot be reduced to a senior check-off sheet, nor should it be the responsibility of assistant and associate deans to determine if each student in their college has met them.
Assessment is vital for the proposed Faculty Senate Committee on General Education to determine how the General Education Program is working and if it needs to be modified. The Ad Hoc Committee suggests a broad approach to assessment that gives the colleges flexibility in its implementation. Data concerning academic departments and programs are already being collected for use in Academic Program Reviews. These data include retention and graduation rates, time to degree, and course consumption patterns. This information can assist the Faculty Senate Committee on General Education to assess the program's impact with respect to factors such as rapidity in selecting a major, retention, and numbers of semesters to graduation.
In addition, students' self-reported measures of progress and satisfaction
will be helpful indicators of the program's effect. The Office of Institutional
Research regularly administers the College Student Experience Questionnaire
(CSEQ) and similar instruments to a sample of students to ascertain their
personal development and their satisfaction with their educational progress.
New questions might be added to the CSEQ to evaluate the affect of the
proposed program and to determine what modifications may be needed. In
another assessment, recent alumni report to the University through the
Career Plans Survey, which asks graduates entering the workforce or post-graduate
programs to judge the quality of the preparation they received at the University.
The Committee recommends that colleges should decide how to implement assessment
procedures in their units. Colleges may decide, for example, to modify
existing course evaluations to address general education and Pathways courses,
and/or require their majors to keep a portfolio or journal of their educational
progress, which can help determine the success of the curriculum in meeting
its goals and objectives.