From Mission to Action to Evidence: Empowering and Inclusive General Education Programs
2015 Network for Academic Renewal General Education and Assessment Conference
As AAC&U celebrates its centennial anniversary, we look back at where we have been and forward to where we need to go. General education remains a central element of the higher education landscape for most of us. It is a place where faculty members and student affairs educators have the primary opportunity to reach the largest number of students, engaging them with important skills and knowledge beyond their major. When higher education institutions examine their general education programs, a logical place to begin is the mission of the institution. Why do we exist? What are we committed to providing for our students and our communities? Are there things we can do to enhance our attainment of the mission? How can we make it clear to ourselves and to others how well we are achieving the goals we have set for ourselves and our students?
If your community is engaged in a mission-driven reexamination of general education and its assessment, we invite you to join colleagues to learn about the latest research and practice in Kansas City in February.
General education is also at the center of conversations related to student success. Often, these conversations focus on guaranteeing that students who move from one institution to another do not lose credits and that credits earned count in meaningful ways toward degrees. However, faculty members, students, and academic affairs professionals, as well as employers, are asking tough questions about the quality of the learning represented by credits and degrees. We need more robust ways to demonstrate through students' own signature work that they are achieving the learning outcomes needed for the credits awarded. This is true especially as higher education strives to educate more students from less traditional and more diverse backgrounds, and often with a faculty that is increasingly contingent and often excluded from curricular, pedagogical, and student success planning. The challenges of communicating the purposes and goals of general education as a coherent whole that is something more than a collection of discrete experiences have become daunting. How do we and our students make meaning out of general education? How can the sum of these experiences and courses be made more clear so that students see them as necessary pieces of meaningful achievement, rather than as tokens to be cashed in for a piece of paper?
If you and colleagues are working to communicate more effectively about the value and outcomes of general education, attending this meeting can help you achieve this important institutional goal.
The good news is that we now have many new examples of general education designs where learning experiences have been both horizontally and vertically integrated to provide students a fuller sense of the purpose of these programs. An important feature of these more intentional general education designs is the use of high-impact practices and serious efforts to engage all students. AAC&U—through its GEMS/VALUE initiative—is gathering examples of general education programs designed to result more clearly and demonstrably in improved student success rates.
If you are working to increase levels of student success and want to learn more about digital and equity-minded innovations in general education, join your colleagues in Kansas City.
Toward Meaningful Cultures of Assessment
A growing body of evidence emerging from more authentic measurement of students' best work is challenging the standard metrics of learning success and influencing a much-needed reexamination of the credit hour. Educators are devoting increased attention to whether the return on such investments in redesigned general education models and practices is enhancing students' success in the majors and preparing students well for work, life, and citizenship in a democratic nation and a global society—a nation and a society in which the challenges of the present are multi-faceted and the challenges of the future promise to be increasingly complex.
If your campus continues to work to create an effective campus culture of assessment, come to Kansas City to learn more about the latest resources and advances in authentic assessment— including using rubrics to assess students' best work.
AAC&U invites participants to join us at the 2015 General Education and Assessment Network for Academic Renewal conference regardless of where they may be in the process of re-envisioning general education. We welcome all members of the campus community to share and to explore the strategies, opportunities, experiences, and achievements of creating and communicating about general education programs that position our students for success.
Please join AAC&U to share and discuss this ambitious vision of a quality general education program for a global 21st century.