Call for Proposals - 2017 General Education and Assessment: Design Thinking for Student Learning

Deadline for proposal submission:  Monday, August 1, 2016

AAC&U invites proposals for concurrent sessions at the 2017 Network for Academic Renewal conference, GENERAL EDUCATION AND ASSESSMENT: Design Thinking for Student Learning. 

Proposals are invited and encouraged to showcase evidence-based practices that reflect the themes below, and that are poised for adaptation in a wide range of institutional types, including community colleges and minority-serving institutions. 

Please note that all session facilitators are responsible for conference registration fees, travel, and hotel expenses. Presentation times range from Thursday, February 23 at 3:00 p.m. through Saturday, February 25 at 12:00 p.m. Presenters are expected to be available at the time they are scheduled to present by the conference organizers.

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

Conference Themes

This program is designed to engage participants in learning about how to envision, adapt, and begin to implement new general education designs that are equity-minded and that engender a shared responsibility for creating guided learning pathways that help all students make meaning out of their learning as it occurs across general education and all disciplines, throughout all campus sectors, and from cornerstone to capstone.

The program will follow four major themes:

1. Collecting Evidence for Student Learning: Assessment Models, Tools, and Feedback Loops

  1. How are assessment models being designed and used by faculty members to determine what students are learning, as well as what changes are needed for students to achieve their goals? How can faculty support those goals by assessing what is working and what is not?
  2. What does assessment of high-impact practices tell us about how these practices advance general education learning outcomes? Who has access to high-impact-rich general education programs and courses? Who benefits most from high-impact practices within general education?
  3. As accreditation evolves, how can educators and accreditors work together to foster the learning environments that are most effective for preparing students for the complex challenges of our global society? How can accreditors and educators collaborate to ensure that students develop the civic engagement and agency required to support our democratic ideals and the common good?
  4. How is assessment being designed and used and how are data being disaggregated, to more effectively communicate to all higher education stakeholders the value of general education as a framework for essential student learning outcomes?

2. Prioritizing Assignment Design: Student Agency, Signature Assignments

  1. What does the latest research on student learning tell us about student motivation and agency? What do students’ different ways of knowing require of educators and other campus practitioners in order to engage all students in learning? What are the implications of varied ways of knowing for general education redesign that allows students to construct meaning through this central component of their educations?
  2. What practices are effective—and why—in closing achievement gaps? What does the latest research on high-impact practices tell us about how specific practices are closing achievement gaps for different groups of students? How can scaffolded and iterative pedagogies span individual general education and disciplinary courses and programs?
  3. How can we use evidence about student learning to design assignments and learning environments that lead to essential learning outcomes? How are faculty members and campus educators translating pedagogical theory into practice?
  4. How are faculty members engaging students in signature work, where students use their cumulative learning to pursue significant projects related to problems they define and that are important to society?

3. Implementing New Approaches to General Education: Design Thinking and Acting 

  1. What does moving to a focus on meaning-making in and across general education look like?
  2. What is the public purpose of higher education, and how are campus stakeholders working together to advance inclusive frameworks that help students make meaning through and of general education in ways that will contribute to the common good? How are the voices and experiences of students being included in conversations about these educational goals? Who is responsible for coordinating and leading change in these areas? 
  3. What is the effect of campus climate and attention to equity on student learning, agency, and success? How are campuses identifying achievement gaps in college readiness and in student learning across the undergraduate curriculum? What are the implications of these gaps for general education?  What does an equity-minded framework for general education look like? 
  4. How does the type of institution shape the infrastructure and design thinking for general education, and what can different kinds of institutions learn from each other?

4. Supporting, Recognizing and Rewarding Faculty Creativity and Leadership Across All Campus Domains: 

  1. What kinds of support are needed to advance integrative, equity-minded frameworks for general education? How are campus leaders encouraging and supporting integrative teaching and learning? 
  2. How are campus programs providing time and resources for faculty members to rethink and redesign their approaches to teaching and learning, both individually and collaboratively with cross-campus colleagues? How are teaching and learning centers providing guidance and opportunities for faculty to learn about the latest advances in student learning and effective high-impact practices in general education?
  3. How can an approach grounded in design thinking improve an institution’s ability to recognize and reward faculty for innovative leadership in general education design, assessment, and pedagogy? 
  4. What policies have proved effective in creating structures for recognizing and rewarding faculty members’ and student affairs educators’ innovative and collaborative work in teaching and in assessing student learning? How are campuses recognizing and rewarding civic engagement and community-based research activities as essential components of general education? 

LEAP Featured Sessions

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

There are six session formats available through the call for proposals:

Design Thinking in Real Time Sessions

This is an exploratory effort to design a space for participants to share their iterative thinking and learning. The facilitators will be provided with a six-foot table (and other resources or supports as requested) that will enable participants to share ideas and theories throughout the conference, collectively developing new approaches to any and all aspects of general education and assessment designs; faculty development, support, and rewards; or assessment models. One meeting room will be dedicated to this effort and will be open for participants to stop by at their convenience. Please clearly describe the concept, theory, or practice that you would like to explore with participants and how you will present the idea as a point of departure for participants to discuss, explore, and develop. It is important that you describe how you would like to engage participants in this exploratory conversation. For example, you might create a large template (paper, white board, or electronic) for participants to fill in ideas and build on each other’s ideas. The session room will be open Friday morning to Saturday morning. Outcomes will be shared on the conference website following the conference.

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; design thinking and strategic planning frameworks; and high-impact practices. The poster session provides an opportunity for presenters to reach a broad audience and initiate conversations with colleagues with similar interests. Posters are displayed on a 6’x3’ table, which can also be used to display models, a laptop, or other resources for learning. 

Facilitated Discussions (60 minutes; 1–4 facilitators; room set in roundtables, no audiovisuals)
Facilitated Discussions provide time for colleagues to more deeply 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. Contexts may reflect institutional type, position, or a particular area of practice; please clearly state any defining contexts in order to clarify your intended audience. Facilitators assist the group in examining new ways of thinking about the topic and strategies for moving forward given the complications associated with 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 that the issues discussed are meaningful to all involved. Please indicate where in the process of change your work falls to help participants determine its relevance to their own place in their respective change processes

Workshops -- Theory to Practice  (75 minutes each; 2–4 facilitators; rooms set in roundtables; audiovisuals available upon request)
Workshops are designed to examine and bridge theory with practice. They should examine critical theories that are grounded in scholarly evidence related to developing general education courses, curricula, pedagogies, practices, or strategies for change. Workshops should be designed to engage participants in considering how theories are aligned with conference themes and how they are ideally suited to help participants develop models and practices that advance student learning outcomes and/or institutional transformation. Facilitators should provide scholarship and evidence related to the topic and should engage participants in reflection, discussion, and design work. Sessions that model high-impact practices, such as collaboration and hands-on activities, and that include a diversity of facilitators will be given priority. Please note that the session should offer an analysis of proven theories and practices that are adaptable to other institutional types. Show-and-tell of what was implemented will not be accepted.
Engaged Digital Learning Sessions (25 minutes; 1–4 presenters; room set in roundtables; internet access and other supports as available upon request)
Engaged Digital Learning sessions feature and examine an innovative use of technology and the ways that the tool or approach is being integrated into general education teaching, learning, scholarship, and assessment practices. Sessions might feature a multimodal design for programs, courses, and/or pedagogical practices that support learning in creative ways (e.g., social media and new forms of technology-assisted community-based learning) and foster new outcomes (e.g., collaborative discovery across time and place) that might not otherwise occur. Presenters should describe the technology, including its applications and outcomes, and allow time for participants to question and discuss implications for their own work. Two proposals will be paired with others of similar themes to fill a one-hour time slot.

Innovation/Ideation Sessions (15 minutes; 1–4 presenters; room set in roundtables; audiovisuals available upon request)
These sessions will feature cutting-edge advances in general education; equity-focused, design-thinking frameworks; courses, programs, curricula, and/or high-impact practices; faculty development, support, and reward approaches; teaching and learning research; and assessment models and feedback loops that are still exploratory in nature. Presentations with promising, yet minimal, outcomes data are encouraged. Sessions should describe the institutional context and guiding theories, and should offer the opportunity for audience questions and discussion. Three proposals will be included in each one-hour time slot

Developing and Submitting a Proposal

Proposals are accepted through an online form and must include:

  • Name, title, institution, discipline and email address of each facilitator
  • Session theme to be addressed and format
  • Session title (100-character limit including spaces)
  • Anticipated participant learning outcomes (100-word limit, beginning with "Participants will")
  • Statement of intended audience (50-word limit)
  • Background and evidence of effectiveness of work being presented (250-word limit)
  • Plan for participant engagement (150-word limit, not required for posters)
  • Brief description to explain what your session will address if accepted (150-word limit, to appear in the final conference program)

Proposal Review Criteria

AAC&U strives to offer a balanced, informative, and thought-provoking conference within the framework of undergraduate liberal education. We seek to empower and embolden academicians and all campus educators to dramatically affect the quality of undergraduate education in the US. The conference proposal selection committee will include experienced, diverse academic professionals. In evaluating conference proposals, reviewers will be asked to consider both the technical aspects of the proposal and the way in which the presentation/session will contribute to reframing general education. The following elements will be considered in the review of conference proposals:

  •  potential for the proposed session/presentation to advance new equity-minded approaches to general education and assessment from a research, theoretical, practical, or institutional change perspective;
  • extent to which the session/presentation offers creative, novel, and transformative mechanisms for promoting and enhancing the quality of learning for all students, with special attention to first-generation students, underserved groups, and adult learners;
  • extent to which the proposed session/presentation provides evidence of effectiveness and applicability across a range of institution types; and
  • plans to model engaged learning and involve participants in reflection, discussion, exercises, and other activities that will help them understand and apply the material to their work.  

Additional Information

The deadline for proposal submission is Monday, August 1, 2016.

Upon submission of a proposal, the primary session contact should receive an automatic message indicating that AAC&U has received the proposal.  If the contact does not receive this message (and it is not in his/her spam filter), please e-mail


The primary session contact will be notified via email of 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 range from Thursday, February 23 at 3:00 p.m. through Saturday, February 25 at 11:00 a.m. 

AAC&U Sponsorship Program

Proposals that promote products or services available for purchase will not be considered through the regular proposal process, but will be referred to AAC&U’s Sponsorship Program. 

More information about sponsorships is available by writing to the AAC&U Office of Development at