Call for Proposals - 2018 General Education and Assessment: Foundations for Democracy

Deadline for proposal submission:  Friday, July 14, 2017

The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) invite proposals for concurrent sessions and poster presentations at the 2018 conference “General Education and Assessment: Foundations for Democracy”.

AAC&U strongly encourages proposals that balance conceptual and theoretical frameworks with concrete, pragmatic examples; that highlight the mechanics and how-to pieces of a practice, strategy, or model; and that showcase mature evidence-based programs. Proposals should address how the work can be adapted in a wide range of institutional types, including community colleges and minority-serving institutions.

All session presenters are responsible for conference registration fees, travel, and hotel expenses.  Presentations will take place from Thursday, February 15, at 3:30 p.m. through Saturday, February 17, at 11:00 a.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

Proposals are accepted through an online form and must include:

  • 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)
  • Anticipated participant learning outcomes (100-word limit)
  • 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 (examples follow each description) 
  • Level of work: beginner, intermediate, advanced
  • Key search words that connect the session content to one of the conference themes.  Examples include: “purposeful designs”; “academic and student affairs partnerships”; “transfer pathways”; “student learning outcomes”; “assessment models.” 

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-minded 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 evidenced-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

Four conference themes and suggested topics within each theme follow. The suggested topics serve as points of departure and should not be limiting. 
I. Intentional Approaches to Curricular and Cocurricular Integration
II. Assignment Designs that Support Student Agency
III. Design Thinking to Assess Student Learning
IV. Practices that Build Faculty Capacity to Lead Change

I. Intentional Approaches to Curricular and Cocurricular Integration
   a. How are campus sectors using design thinking and assessment findings to build coherent structures that advance student learning outcomes such as critical thinking, evidence-based problem-solving, civil discourse, and community engagement, 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?

   b. How are faculty and student affairs educators collaborating to connect student learning to real-world issues and to foster a sense of agency for equity, justice, and the common good?

   c. How are faculty scaffolding and connecting student learning outcomes across general education and the majors in ways that are transparent and useful to students?

   d. 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?

   e. 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?

   f. How are accrediting agencies helping to align general education learning outcomes across institutions and within systems to facilitate ease and efficiency of transfer?

II. Assignment Designs that Support Student Agency
   a. How do students learn? How can knowledge about student learning inform assignment designs? 

   b. How are faculty connecting teaching and learning in the majors and in general education to develop students’ ownership of and interest in general education? 

   c. 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?

   d. 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?   

   e. How are campus leaders fostering programmatic, integrative, and scaffolded guided learning pathways to advance students’ ownership of their learning?

III. Design Thinking to Assess Student Learning
   a. How are design thinking principles guiding assessment of student learning outcomes and of whole-program assessment? 

   b. How are faculty design using the LEAP VALUE Rubrics to create a sense of coherence in the undergraduate experience?

   c. How are faculty assessing student outcomes in general education and the majors in ways that are transparent and useful to students? 

   d. How are educators collecting and analyzing data and using it to improve student learning?

   e. How are faculty communicating about assessment with each other, across disciplines, and with students? 

   f. How are educators connecting course-based assessment findings to overall campus assessments in meaningful ways?

IV. Practices that Build Faculty Capacity to Lead Change
   a. 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?

   b. How are faculty designing in-class assignments and assessment 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?  

   c. How are faculty sharing their ideas and resources for pedagogical design? 

   d. How might integrating student learning outcomes across general education and the majors help faculty and administrators bridge structural divides and achieve campus-wide change?

   e. How are adjunct faculty included in general education design conversations?

   f. How are teaching and learning centers connecting learning outcomes assessment with faculty development?

   g. How is design thinking informing faculty workshops on assessment, calibration, and the practice of disconnecting assessment from grades?

LEAP Featured Sessions

Conference sessions designated as “LEAP Featured Sessions” highlight the innovative work of colleges and universities that are members of AAC&U’s LEAP Campus Action Network (CAN). 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.

For more information on applying to have your conference session designated as a LEAP Featured Session, visit

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 4’x3’ bifold 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.

Additional Information

The deadline for proposal submission is Friday, July 14, 2017.

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 early September.

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 Thursday, February 15, at 3:30 p.m. through Saturday, February 17, at 11:00 a.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