Institute Pedagogical and Curricular Approach: 2021 Institute on General Education and Assessment

General education and assessment change is, at heart, pedagogical innovation. The 2021 Institute continues to promote “design thinking,” an intentional, creative approach to problem solving well suited to complex, dynamic environments like college and university campuses. Pragmatic and solution-focused, design thinking employs both divergent and convergent thinking, moving from brainstorming and “outside the box” idea generation to a focus on creating strategies best suited to the unique dynamics and needs of your campus.

Leveraging the design thinking process, the Institute curriculum is organized around a set of principles for re-imagining general education developed as part of AAC&U’s General Education Maps and Markers (GEMs) initiative. Drawing on the potential of these principles to guide general education reform to empower students and increase achievement, participants engage in both shorter information and discussion-based sessions intended to foster dialogue and spark new ideas, and longer workshops intended to provide opportunities for deeper analysis and application of ideas to campus-based reform efforts. AAC&U’s GEMs principles allow participants to engage with Institute faculty and colleagues from other institutions around a set of principles and questions that illuminate the power of general education models and pathways to foster academic proficiencies and success in life and work.

From Planning to Campus Action

In addition to participation-based sessions, a significant portion of the Institute curriculum is reserved for teams to work independently to advance their own general education reform missions. Initially shared as illustrative posters on the first day, “team time” periods allow participants to share ideas, map strategies, and consult with Institute faculty on specific obstacles or issues. Through iterative refinement, this time offers teams the ability to create an “action plan” to share with their home institution. The plan typically includes initial and continuing actions of the team, including implementation and advancement steps for enacting the plan, key persons to engage during the change process, and a realistic timeline for accomplishing goals. Action plans are shared at the Institute in small groups of campus teams to receive helpful feedback and guidance from fellow Institute participants and Institute faculty.