Call for Proposals: Creating a 21st-Century General Education

The deadline for proposal submission has passed:  Wednesday, July 11, 2018

AAC&U strongly encourages proposals that balance conceptual and theoretical frameworks with concrete, pragmatic examples; that highlight the “hows” and “whys” of a practice, strategy, or twenty-first-century models for achieving integrated and intentional designs for general education; and that showcase mature evidence of quality learning through general education programs. Proposals should address how the work can be adapted in a wide range of other institutional types, including community colleges, research-extensive institutions, and minority-serving institutions.

All session presenters are responsible for conference registration fees, travel, and hotel expenses.  Presentations will take place from Friday, February 15, at 8:00 a.m. through Saturday, February 16, at 12:00 p.m. Presenters should plan to be available at the time their session appears in the conference program.

Developing and Submitting a Proposal
Proposal Review Criteria
Conference Themes
LEAP Featured Sessions
Session Formats
Additional Information

Developing and Submitting a Proposal

The online proposal form includes the following fields:

  • Name, title, discipline, institution name (and Carnegie Classification), and email address of each facilitator
  • Session theme and format
  • Session title (100-character limit including spaces)
  • Background and evidence of effectiveness of work being presented (250-word limit)
  • Plan for participant engagement (150-word limit, workshops and facilitated discussions only)
  • Brief description to be used in conference program if accepted. Anticipated participant learning outcomes should be included in the brief description. (examples follow each description) 
  • Level of work: beginner, intermediate, advanced

Proposal Review Criteria
AAC&U strives to offer a balanced, informative, and thought-provoking conference focused on frameworks for undergraduate liberal education. It seeks to empower and embolden all campus educators to provide a coherent, purposeful undergraduate experience for all students, with emphasis on effective pathways from cornerstone to capstone at and among two- and four-year institutions. 

The proposal selection committee will include experienced academic professionals of a diverse range of backgrounds and areas of expertise. Successful proposals will represent evidence-based theory-to-practice models that have proven effective in creating coherent, purposeful undergraduate experiences for all students and that involve practitioners across a campus or institution. The following elements serve as proposal selection criteria:

  • Potential for the proposed session/presentation to advance new equity-focused approaches to integrating general education with the major, demonstrating the centrality of general education in connecting student learning with critical social issues that matter to students and to society
  • Inclusion of evidence-based theory-to-practice models that connect research and scholarship with effective approaches to developing courses, curricula, pedagogies, assessment practices, and campus cultures that engage all students in high-quality learning experiences.
  • Extent to which the session/presentation offers creative, novel, and transformative mechanisms for designing general education and assessment
  • Extent to which the proposed session/presentation provides evidence of effectiveness, lessons learned, challenges overcome, and applicability across a range of institutional types
  • Explicit plans for involving participants in reflection, discussion, exercises, and other activities that will help them understand and apply the material

Priority will be given to proposals that reflect diverse perspectives, innovations, disciplines, and programmatic areas. We particularly welcome student perspectives.

Conference Themes
The five conference themes and suggested topics reflect the Principles of General Education Maps and Markers (GEMs) developed as part of a nationwide study of foundational purposes of general education programs to advance student learning and preparation. The suggested topics serve as points of departure and should not be limiting.  

I. Proficiency
II. Agency and Self-Direction
III. Integrative Learning and Problem-Based Inquiry
IV. Equity
Intentionality, Transparency, and Assessment

I. Proficiency: General education should provide programs, curricula, and experiences leading to demonstrable, transferable learning proficiencies and outcomes that are portable across contexts and disciplines.

  1. How are campus sectors building intentional, coherent structures that support purposeful learning throughout the undergraduate curriculum and cocurriculum? How are educators communicating across departments/programs/colleges to design pathways and maps that connect general education and the majors in new and creative ways, transcending traditional boundaries?
  2. How are faculty and student affairs educators collaborating to foster a sense of purpose for students, and to connect student learning to real-world issues?
  3. How are faculty scaffolding and connecting student learning outcomes across general education and the majors in ways that are transparent and useful to students?
  4. How are campuses integrating general education and the major to fulfill higher education’s promised role in sustaining our democracy and educating for citizenship (local, national, and global)? How are campuses designing general education in the model of the commons—as places of integration across disciplines and cocurricular experiences—to prepare students for problem solving related to real-world issues?
  5. How are two- and four-year institutions working together to ensure transferable, high-quality learning that prepares students to move between institutions, minimizes loss of credit, and reduces time-to-graduation?
  6. How are accrediting agencies helping to align general education learning outcomes across institutions and within systems to facilitate ease and efficiency of transfer?

II. Agency and Self Direction: Undergraduate education should empower students to develop the intellectual and personal capacities to achieve their educational and professional goals, enrich their lives, and act in principled and constructive ways, both in their personal lives and in society.

  1. How do students learn? How can evidence drawn from student learning assessments inform assignment designs?
  2. How are faculty and institutions structuring general education to ensure all students participate in a program of study built on equity-focused and equity-practiced curriculum?  
  3. How are faculty connecting teaching and learning in the majors and in general education to develop students’ ownership of and interest in general education?
  4. How are students, with guidance from faculty, taking the lead in framing questions that are important to them and whose significance to others they are prepared to explain?  
  5. How are educators helping students develop capacities—investigative skills, evidence-based reasoning, social imagination, collaborative competence, and the capacity for dialogue across difference—to grapple with problems where the “right answer” is unknown and where any answer may be actively contested?
  6. How are campus leaders fostering programmatic, integrative, and scaffolded guided learning pathways to advance students’ ownership of their learning?

III. Integrative Learning and Problem-Based Inquiry: Students should demonstrate proficiency through an integration of curricular, cocurricular, community-based, and prior learning experiences, all of which can include digital communities of learning and practice. Students will achieve proficiencies most effectively through consistent engagement in problem-centered work on significant issues that are relevant to students’ interests and that require students to draw upon insights from multiple areas of study.

  1. How are design thinking principles guiding assessment of student learning outcomes and of whole-program assessment?
  2. How are faculty using the LEAP VALUE Rubrics to create a sense of coherence and shared expectations in the undergraduate experience?
  3. How are faculty assessing the quality of student outcomes in general education and the majors in ways that are transparent and useful to students?
  4. How are educators collecting and analyzing data and using it to improve student learning? 
  5. How are faculty communicating about the role of assessment in improving student learning and equity with each other, across disciplines, and with students?
  6. How are educators connecting course-based assessment findings to overall campus assessments in meaningful ways?

IV. Equity: General education programs should be equity-focused in design and implementation. General education programs should advance practices and policies aimed at achieving the full spectrum of learning outcomes for all students regardless of their backgrounds.

  1. How are faculty thinking freshly about and engaging in general education in the context of their work in the disciplines? How are they working with all campus sectors to create one big picture for the undergraduate experience—where coherence and purpose are preeminent?
  2. How are faculty designing in-class assignments and assessments that connect to student learning outcomes across general education and the majors? How are faculty working across disciplines to foster signature assignments and integrative learning?
  3. How are faculty sharing their ideas and resources for pedagogical design?
  4.  How might integrating student learning outcomes across general education and the majors help faculty and administrators bridge structural divides and achieve purposeful campus change? 
  5. How are contingent faculty included in general education design conversations?
  6. How are teaching and learning centers connecting learning outcomes assessment with faculty development?
  7. How is intentional design informing faculty workshops on assessment, calibration, and the practice of disconnecting assessment from grades?

V. Intentionality, Transparency, and Assessment: Students and institutions should be able to point to student work, especially problem- and project-based inquiry (signature work), as demonstrations of proficiency worthy of credit across institutional settings and as a body of evidence associated with earning a degree or credential.

  1. How can assessment of learning be an essential part of constructing general education programs around stated learning outcomes?
  2. How can faculty transform general education models based on distribution requirements into models involving intentional inquiry into big questions—overarching topics that illustrate the importance of multiple ways of knowing and studying needed to understand and act in the face of complex problems?
  3. How can other educational professionals at our institutions be meaningfully engaged in helping students see connections between learning inside and outside the classroom?
  4. What are the rationales for assessing learning outcomes across general education courses?
  5. What purpose(s) does signature work play in general education programs and pathways?
  6. Can traditional models of general education adequately provide the scaffolded development needed for essential cross-cutting learning outcomes if they are restricted solely to lower-level courses in the first two years of study?

LEAP Featured Sessions

Conference sessions designated as “LEAP Featured Sessions” make explicit the links between campus-based educational reform and the LEAP Essential Learning Outcomes, Principles of Excellence, and High-Impact Practices developed as part of AAC&U’s Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) initiative.

Session Formats

Poster Session (90 minutes; 1–2 presenters; 6’x3’ table)
Poster presenters share visual models of research findings; general education course, program, and curricular or cocurricular designs; concept maps; assessment rubrics and feedback loops; faculty development, support, and reward programs and policies; frameworks for design thinking and strategic planning; and high-impact practices. The poster session provides an opportunity for presenters to talk with attendees about how to apply findings to their own work. AAC&U provides a 3’x4’ trifold poster board and 6’x3’ table for the poster board and other resources.

Example of a Poster Session Brief Description
Energizing Faculty: Outcomes Assessment as a Wicked Problem (Advanced)
This poster will define assessment not just as a bureaucratic system or a curricular design but as an ongoing research problem in which faculty can and should—and will want to—be involved. It will provide a range of useful information drawn from one institution’s cross-curricular assessments and engagement in the VALUE project (focused on written communication skills). Participants will learn strategies for (and confront crucial questions about) divining salient information from the reams of learning outcomes data that they collect and will see a replicable model (method and process) that can be used to address their respective institutional needs.

Facilitated Discussions (60 minutes; 1–4 facilitators; room set in roundtables; no audiovisuals)
Facilitated Discussions provide time for colleagues to examine topics of similar interest through iterative sharing of expertise and experiences. They provide an opportunity to work through issues, ideas, and challenges from multiple perspectives. Proposals for a discussion should briefly set the context for the conversation related to one of the conference themes, and should articulate clearly the intended audience in terms of institutional type, position, or particular area of practice. Facilitators assist the group in examining new ways of thinking about the topic and strategies for moving forward given the the professional reality and expertise of each individual in the room. This session should allow for questions from all participants to stimulate and focus the conversation so the discussion is meaningful to all involved.

Example of a Facilitated Discussion Brief Description 
Achieving Academic Equity: Moving from Challenges to Opportunities (Advanced)
Session facilitators will utilize small-group discussions to explore three issues central to achieving academic equity for all students. They will invite participants to consider (1) how to identify equity gaps among underserved student populations and strategies for eliminating these gaps; (2) how to accommodate first-year students with heterogeneous academic preparation, particularly in a mid-to-large public institution; and (3) how to develop an equity-minded campus culture that embraces diversity and actively shares responsibility for student success.  Participants will consider and develop concrete strategies for achieving outcomes related to these three interconnected areas of work.

Workshops—Theory to Practice (75 minutes each; 2–4 facilitators; rooms set in roundtables; audiovisuals available upon request)
Workshops provide opportunities for participants to bridge theory with practice. Facilitators should guide participants in examining critical theories and scholarly evidence that support the mechanics of how to develop purposeful general education courses, curricula, pedagogies, practices, pathways, or strategies that integrate learning with the majors in the context of real-world issues. Facilitators should provide scholarship and evidence related to the topic and engage participants in reflection, discussion, and design work. Reviewers will give priority to proposals that model high-impact practices such as collaborative and hands-on activities, those that include a diversity of facilitators, and those that explain how the work applies to other institutional types.

Example of a Workshop Brief Description
Expanding the Scope: A Campus-Wide Movement Towards Intentional Integrative Learning (Beginner)
This session will provide tips, tools, and strategies for developing a campus-wide integrative learning program.  Using their own institution as a case study, presenters will discuss ways in which the college progressed from thinking about integration as a core curriculum outcome to developing a campus-wide framework for intentional integrative learning. Participants will evaluate, align, and document their own values and guiding principles as they identify potential strategies for building a sustainable framework for integrative learning at their respective institutions, including developing an integrative learning council, designing and facilitating an institutional audit, preparing an executive proposal, and creating a supportive and rewarding faculty program. 

Engaged Digital Learning Sessions (25 minutes; 1–2 presenters; room set in roundtables; internet access and other supports available upon request)
Engaged Digital Learning sessions feature and examine an innovative use of technology to enhance general education teaching, learning, scholarship, and assessment practices. Sessions might feature multimodal designs for programs, courses, and/or pedagogical practices that support learning in creative ways (e.g., through social media and new forms of technology-assisted community-based learning) and foster new outcomes (e.g., collaborative discovery across time and place). Presenters should describe the technology, including its applications, outcomes, and evidence of achievement of goals. Please allow time for participants to question and discuss implications for their own work. 

Example of an Engaged Digital Learning Session Brief Description
Improving Student Outcomes through Cross-Curricular Collaboration and Adaptive Learning (Beginner)
One university’s creation of online undergraduate degree programs in 2015 posed a unique challenge in addressing how to provide a rigorous, engaging general education structure in a new learning format. To address this challenge, the university developed the General Education Academy, a community of faculty and instructional designers charged with transforming the liberal arts experience for returning adult learners. Over the past year, the academy has transformed ideas surrounding common course themes that transcend disciplines, providing connectivity and applicability outside the classroom while also incorporating new multimedia discussion-based programming to foster robust sharing among diverse learners. Participants will explore strategies for (1) building a curated set of classes that intersect to create an immersive educational experience, (2) faculty collaboration across course pairings, and (3) using digital tools to institute effective practices for adaptive learning in a variety of general education settings.

Innovation/Ideation Sessions (25 minutes; 1–2 presenters; room set in roundtables; audiovisuals available upon request)
These sessions feature cutting-edge advances in general education; integrative and equity-focused curricular and cocurricular designs that connect general education and the majors; faculty development, support, and reward approaches; teaching and learning research; and assessment models and feedback loops. Sessions should describe the institutional context, guiding theories, evidence of effectiveness, lessons learned, and applicability to other types of institutions. Please allow time for audience questions.

Example of an Innovation/Ideation Session Brief Description
Ensuring Alignment: Transparent Approaches to Faculty Development, High-Impact Practices, and Assessment (Intermediate)
Transparent approaches to faculty development can contribute to consistent implementation of high-impact practices (HIPs). Institutional protocols for HIPs assessment can help inform faculty development programming. Session facilitators will explore the alignment of interdepartmental efforts to promote greater efficiency, efficacy, and student success. Participants will focus on the principles of intentionality and transparency as they discuss elements of three distinct, yet related models of faculty development, problem-centered high-impact instruction, and programmatic assessment and identify the benefits—for faculty, students, and administrators—of aligning the efforts of multiple departments to promote student success.

Pecha Kucha (6 minutes; 1 presenter recommended; internet and other supports as available upon request)
Pecha Kucha (chit chat in Japanese) is combination of visual and oral presentation organized to convey a creative endeavor, research finding, or other interesting activity related to a particular conference theme.  The Pecha Kucha presentation consists of 20 slides each running for 20 seconds.  The talk is carefully orchestrated to articulate key elements featured in each slide.  Three Pecha Kucha presentations will be combined with 30 minutes of discussion time to create one 60 minute session.  The following link provides an overview and guidelines for designing a Pecha Kucha presentation:

Example of a Pecha Kucha Brief Description
Reframing Faculty Buy-In: Assessment as Academic Hospitality 
This Pecha Kucha will address moving the needle from faculty buy-in, with its marketing connotations, to meaningful faculty engagement with assessment as a pedagogical innovation through the lens of academic hospitality. Drawing on work from such humanities heavyweights as Derrida, the metaphor of academic hospitality provides guiding principles for a scholarly, faculty-driven approach to assessment that reminds educators that any form of inquiry— assessment included—“can be a way of life and not simply a system of methods and concepts” (Bennett, 2003). The presenter will connect philosophy to pragmatic concerns, providing strategies for promoting faculty engagement through academic hospitality.

Additional Information

The deadline for proposal submission is Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Upon submission of a proposal, the primary session contact should receive an automatic message confirming receipt. If the contact does not receive this message (and it is has not been captured by contact’s spam filter), please email

The primary session contact will receive an email message indicating the decision on the proposal by mid September.

Early Career Participants
AAC&U encourages sessions that include early career participants, providing them the opportunity to engage and share with the AAC&U membership.  We welcome innovative research, fresh perspectives, and creative, compelling ideas and approaches in any of the existing conference tracks.  AAC&U considers early career participants to be:

  • Recent graduates who are no more than five years beyond degree completion, including post-doctoral researchers/scholars, who are working inside or outside the academy
  • Graduate students who are within one year of degree completion

Expenses and Fees

All session presenters are responsible for conference registration fees, travel, and hotel expenses. Please ensure that all individuals listed in the proposal have this information and can be available at the appropriate time during the event. Presentation times take place Friday, February 15, at 8:00 a.m. through Saturday, February 16, at 12:00 p.m.   

AAC&U Sponsorship Program
AAC&U invites those submitting proposals that promote products or services available for purchase to consider sponsorship.   

More information about sponsorships can be obtained by writing to the AAC&U Office of Outreach and Member Engagement at