STANDARD 12: GENERAL EDUCATION
General Education, the part of the curriculum shared by all students, is particularly vital to the College and its students.Courses or competencies in General Education enable students to develop the intellectual skills necessary for success at baccalaureate institutions and in a changing marketplace that requires intellectual flexibility.General Education at the College needs to satisfy several constituencies-transfer institutions, local employers, students-and to respond to conditions such as the entering student in need of basic skill development. General Education needs to be pragmatic, apparently useful to students in an array of degree and transfer programs, as well as intellectually rigorous. It needs to be flexible as well as consistent, with demonstrable outcomes for students. General Education also provides an important academic connection among the faculty. General Education is the set of skills, or courses, or experiences that all faculty work together to provide for all students. Consistent with its mission, a quality institution of higher education offers students the opportunity to achieve college–level proficiency in oral and written communication, scientific and quantitative reasoning, critical analysis and reasoning, technological competency, and information literacy.
According to the current College Catalog, there are three distinct degree requirements common to all students: an 18‑credit distribution requirement (six credits in each of three categories-Humanities, Social Sciences, Math/Science‑with English 101 and 102 sufficient to satisfy the Humanities requirement), an American Diversity requirement, and Dimensions requirements. Each curriculum and program also lists a General Education section in the grid of courses/credits required. The number of courses listed under the heading General Education varies widely from program to program‑from Education which lists only two courses under General Education to the Liberal Arts Women’s Studies/Gender Studies Option which lists 17 General Education courses.
The Committee was charged with analyzing reforms to date and the effectiveness of General Education currently at the College. In order to complete its charge, the Committee reviewed ten years of institutional documents and research reports related to these reforms; interviewed faculty, administrators, and students; conducted several focus groups of faculty and students; analyzed results of student and faculty surveys; reviewed course and program documents; and analyzed the College Catalog and selected program audits.
Since the last Self Study, the College has been engaged in a significant effort of General Education reform. This effort brought about a new way of conceptualizing the delivery of General Education requirements through a Dimension schema, while maintaining an 18-credit General Education course distribution requirement. This schema was created to ensure that all students in the College would have experiences in seven well-articulated and conceived Dimensions: Written Expression, Interpretive Studies, Artistic/Oral Expression, Quantitative Reasoning, Scientific Reasoning, Cultural Studies, and Cross-Cultural Studies. Students were also required to take multi‑dimensional courses, designed to create a rich educational experience that would connect several of the Dimensions. Courses were approved as meeting a particular dimension by presentation of material to a faculty committee. In addition, an American Diversity requirement was instituted. Other initiatives resulted in the replacement of the Associate in General Studies degree program with two new degree programs, Liberal Arts and Culture, Science and Technology. Computer and library resources have been significantly upgraded, enabling several initiatives to improve students' technological competence and information literacy skills. An analysis of each of the major General Education reforms follows.
The Dimensions Plan
Developed out of previous curriculum reform projects at the College such as the General Studies initiative and the Critical Thinking and Writing project, the Dimensions Plan attempted to deal with specific academic problems identified by faculty, counselors and institutional research. The main concerns were incoherent course taking patterns by students, avoidance by students of second‑level courses, and the need to have more writing and critical thinking in classes. While the earlier Critical Thinking and Writing initiative developed or revised many courses, it did not create a coherent curriculum, nor were students required to take Critical Thinking and Writing courses; therefore, a Task Force was created to offer a plan for curricular reform.
The original 1992 Task Force to Review Degree Requirements was succeeded by a Dimensions Steering Committee that created guidelines and a mechanism for certifying courses through Dimensional committees. The Dimensions, originally designed as a basis for a revised General Studies degree, were adapted as College-wide requirements. These initiatives were supported by the administration and faculty. There were a significant number of College‑wide conversations‑in Standing Committees, specific Dimensions meetings, and open hearings‑about this project. From 1992 to 2001, at least 70 faculty participated on Dimensional or steering committees and at least another 100 participated in developing or revising courses under the Dimensions model. The Dimensions Guidelines were approved by the College’s Institution-wide Committee in 1994.
The Dimensions schema was amended several times, last in 1998, in order to be more flexible for A.A.S. programs that require many courses specific to careers. This schema has appeared under Degree Requirements in the College Catalog every year since 1998. As of February 2001, 118 courses were certified for at least one dimension, as well as a number of courses certified as multi-dimensional.
Over the past ten years, largely because of the proposed Dimension requirements, there was much College-wide discussion of General Education, both in large forums and in the Dimensional committees. Many faculty were involved and engaged in the project. A number of courses were developed, revised, and improved to include writing and other Dimensional experiences. There was more attention on student learning outcomes and the sequencing of courses to create depth and coherence in coursetaking. Within the Dimensional structure, there was a basis and goal for discussions of good teaching among faculty across different disciplines. There was a focus on intellectual processes, rather than on course content, in curricular reform. The Dimensional schema also provided means for assessing student learning. By creating specific criteria that courses had to meet for Dimensional certification, the Dimensional committees offered a means of evaluating student classroom experiences and learning. The Dimensions represented a significant effort by the College to reform General Education and focus on student learning outcomes.
Reform of General Studies into Liberal Arts and Culture, Science and Technology Curricula
The 1992 Task Force to Review Degree Requirements determined that the General Studies curriculum lacked coherence and depth. The Liberal Arts and Culture, Science and Technology curricula were created to offer a balanced General Education experience which was both directive and flexible, stressing critical thinking and writing (an expansion of the earlier Critical Thinking and Writing project which only designated courses), the use of primary texts and collaborative learning. The Liberal Arts (LA) Curriculum was completed in 1995 (with three options: General, Humanities and Social/Behavioral Sciences) followed by the Culture, Science and Technology (CST) Curriculum in 1996.
The Liberal Arts Curriculum grew out of the involvement and participation of a cross-section of faculty from various divisions within the College. Many faculty participated in work groups and committees (these activities date as far back as 1991 but began to acquire more widespread organization within the College in 1993 and 1994). The work groups and committees initially examined four subject areas: concentration electives, discipline requirements, American Diversity requirements, and foreign language requirements. Considerations having to do with Dimensions and American Diversity were present from the beginning and were formulated as the curriculum evolved. The CST curriculum was developed in a parallel process to meet the needs of students with interests in technology, science, and allied health.
In both curricula (LA and CST) approximately 6,000 FTE students were enrolled as of Spring 2002. In the Liberal Arts Program, there are now six options: General, Humanities, International Studies, Leadership Studies, Social/Behavioral Science, and Women’s/Gender Studies. In the Culture, Science and Technology Program, there are two concentrations: Science/Technology and Health Careers.
Although there has never been a formal audit of either curriculum, faculty and advisors indicated that these curricula have fulfilled their purpose to some degree: students’ coursetaking patterns are more coherent; the requirements of advanced and sequential courses, as well as concentrations of courses, have ensured more depth in coursetaking. Educational values (in writing and diversity and critical thinking) are built into the curricula that were not explicit in the earlier General Studies degree.
Growing out of the component of the College’s Mission Statement that addresses students’ necessary appreciation of a diverse world, this requirement seeks to foster student understanding of differences among human cultures and experiences-such as those ascribed to ethnicity, religion and beliefs, cultural norms and values, languages and communication, class, gender, and sexuality-and also of the human commonalities that make communication and community possible.
The requirement, initiated by the then College President as an addendum to the Dimensions requirement and approved by the Institution-Wide Committee, was first developed for the Liberal Arts (LA) curriculum but is now a College-wide requirement. The Curriculum Facilitation Team developed guidelines to help faculty describe how they will engage students in a consideration of American Diversity. The guidelines offer flexibility so that the unique nature of each program can be reflected in how it addresses the requirement. Individual approved courses may be included in a program or faculty may choose to infuse consideration of American Diversity in planned curricular experiences throughout a program. Whether approval sought is for a course or infusion of content through curricula, course or program documents must clearly identify the justification for approval. The Coordinator of Curriculum Development is responsible for approving that proposals meet the American Diversity requirement.
Because oversight for courses and programs is maintained at the department level, faculty are responsible for assuring that the American Diversity requirements are applied to approved courses. According to the tabulations of surveys returned by 18 sections of American Diversity courses in Spring 1997, students seemed positive about these courses, reporting a more informed and reasoned understanding of cultural ideas and practices different from their own.
Technological Competence and Information Literacy
Based on significant improvements in the Library and computer resources, there have been several College-wide initiatives in the important General Education areas of technological competence and information literacy. Many programs require coursework or other experiences to help students develop technological competence and information literacy skills.
Several important task forces worked on ensuring that all students had necessary and basic computer skills. The Task Force on Computer Competency (1996) defined three areas of computer competency (students should be able to use computer hardware, use a word processor and retrieve information from computerized databases) and planned a course that would address each of the areas. The course, CIS 100 (Introduction to Computer Use), was created and serves a particularly underprepared student constituency. Most programs currently require CIS 103 (PC Applications), an equivalent course or competency test. The subsequent Task Force on Teaching and Technology (1998) was created to develop an effective structure for communication, planning and decision-making about the use of technology across divisions. This Task Force created a College-wide Standing Committee for overseeing technology use by students and faculty.
Library facilities have improved dramatically since the last Self Study and have greatly facilitated the delivery of information literacy skills. The Library facilities renovation and automation projects in 1996 increased the actual floor space available and improved access to services. In 1999, the Library made the transition from bibliographic instruction to library instruction, the latter emphasizing not just the resources of a particular library but more general information literacy and research. Formal instruction takes place through Library Instruction sessions scheduled in conjunction with English 101/102 classes, which are universal General Education requirements.
Since the previous Middle States Study, the Library has provided a steadily increasing number of instruction classes with a corresponding rise in the number of students served. In academic year 1994-1995, 220 classes were taught, serving about 5,500 students; in the past three years, Library records show that more than 250 classes, on average, were taught each year, serving over 6,250 students. This number represents about sixty percent of the new credit students enrolling each year.
Assessment of General Education
There are currently several forms of oversight with relevance to General Education: department evaluation of courses (e.g., there is a current Subcommittee in the English Department devoted to the improvement of English 101 and 102); a consistent and rigorous course development/revision process (aided by the Curriculum Development Team); contractual Standing Committees that consider but are not responsible for initiating and maintaining curricula (Curriculum Subcommittee of the Academic Affairs Committee, Institution‑Wide Committee); and approval of American Diversity courses by the Coordinator of Curriculum Development.
As part of the Faculty/Staff Survey, faculty were asked if they teach written expression, critical analysis, and diverse perspectives in their own courses; the majority of respondents said yes. In a commensurate survey, students were asked to indicate the level of improvement they felt that they made in a number of areas, including General Education experiences such as oral and written communication skills, as well as to indicate in which course(s) they developed these skills. The results were positive, with the majority of students reporting some or considerable improvement in all areas; students most often listed English 101/102, Math 118, Sociology 101, as responsible for helping develop these experiences. The results reflect a sense of student satisfaction and accomplishment similar to that measured by annual instruments and by the Committee student focus groups.
The Catalog reflects inconsistency in the College conception of General Education: Dimension requirements are included, but not implemented; General Education seems to be defined within programs, not across the College. The Catalog, under the heading Degree Requirements, also fails to mention explicitly some General Education requirements, particularly English 101 and 102 (or 112). While all curricula currently require English 101 and 102 (or 112), these courses are not listed specifically under the Catalog description of General Education. While currently de facto requirements for all curricula, they are absent from the Degree Requirements section of the Catalog. The Catalog represents the primacy of programs and curricula, rather than General Education, in prescribing students’ educational experiences at the College.
The College Catalog has included, since 1998, Dimension requirements that were never implemented or required for graduation. Few students notice or ask advisors about this section of the Catalog; the Transcript Evaluator is instructed each semester to disregard these requirements. At least one transfer agreement includes Dimension requirements that were never implemented.
Since the de facto disbanding of Dimensions committees, there has been no structured College‑wide discussion of any of the listed experiences, except for individual initiatives, such as attempts at College‑wide discussions of writing. The Dimensions project did produce written criteria for ensuring student proficiency in written expression, quantitative and scientific reasoning, interpretive analysis, and other areas, such as cultural studies. However, the status of the Dimensions project is uncertain and there is no written College‑wide agreement on several other experiences, such as information literacy.
The many explanations for the lack of progress in implementing Dimensions include: lack of administrative support (during several changes in top administration); lack of faculty support; and insufficient representation of a number of constituencies (student services, students, part-time instructors) in the design. Issues in the College’s computer system, especially the inability to access the student data needed to implement Dimensions, also presented obstacles. Over a period of several years, various difficulties dissipated the momentum of the Dimensions project and efforts gradually stopped, though there was never a particular directive or event that signaled the end of the project.
The Dimensional schema, anticipatory of General Education reforms going on at baccalaureate institutions across the country, is an ambitious core curriculum. In 2001, there was an attempt, initiated by the Vice President for Academic Affairs, to revise and implement a more modest version of the Dimensions-preserving the writing, interpretive, and diversity experiences. While introduced to the College and discussed in several meetings of administrative and governance committees, the proposal has not been acted on and has been in the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs awaiting further action.
Although the College does require 18 credits of General Education (or the equivalent), there is no College-wide agreement that the current General Education requirements are of sufficient scope to enhance students’ intellectual growth nor is there ongoing discussion of General Education.
The College’s various means of assessing student learning are described in the Assessment Plan and include pre‑entry characteristics, education experiences, and outcomes. Most of these measures, however, are not designed specifically to gauge either student satisfaction with, or academic performance in, General Education courses. Creating such assessment instruments is complicated by the current inchoate state of degree requirements and by the apparently different function of, and percentage of, General Education courses listed in various programs.
Although students in surveys, interviews and focus groups, indicated satisfaction with the courses they take and the intellectual skills they acquire outside their major (a broad sense of General Education), there is currently no method of assessment that would confirm students’ perception of and satisfaction with their own abilities, and there is no measure of whether the skills and abilities developed in General Education are applied in their major.
While the current College General Education requirements incorporate diverse perspectives through the American Diversity requirement, there is no explicit incorporation of values and ethics. Within the context of recent College conversations and diversity initiatives, concerns have been raised that the current narrow definition of diversity excludes international issues.
Although a General Education program should be developed,
owned, and reviewed by the faculty, at
the College, there is no central place of responsibility and no faculty body
specifically responsible for the design, implementation and assessment of
General Education. While there has been
much work done in General Education in the past ten years, there has not been
the necessary continuity and coordination of these efforts. As a result, many important academic
initiatives are not carried out or disseminated across the College. Faculty, furthermore, have few College‑wide
venues in which to discuss academic issues and policies, outside of department
meetings and intermittent faculty development series. The
· Develop and implement an effective governance and/or administrative structure to oversee General Education. Possibilities for this include:
(a) a Standing Committee perhaps constituted differently than the current contractual Standing Committees with faculty representatives from each Division,
(b) a renewed charge to the Academic Affairs Curriculum Subcommittee,
(c) a Faculty Senate with sufficient authority over academic matters,
(d) an Office of General Education, or
(e) an otherwise constituted committee.
· Building on General Education reform efforts over the past ten years, fully implement a College-wide General Education requirement.
A. Institutional Research Reports Related to Standard 12:
· IR Report #68 – Potential Administrative Barriers to Student Retentions (1/96)
· IR Report #69 – Middle States Self Study Survey Results – A Summary of Reponses (5/93)
IR Report #128 - The Progress of 2001 Graduates of
· IR Report #129 -Institutional Effectiveness 2002 - A College Report Card (1/03)
· IR Report #130A - Responses to Middle States Self Study Current Student Questionnaire (4/03)
· IR Report #130B - Responses to Middle States Self Study Faculty/Staff Questionnaire (4/03)
B. General Education Task Force, Appendix B: Outcomes for Students (1985)
C. Task Force to Review Degree Requirements, Final Report (4/92)
D. Office of Institutional Research, Middle States Self Study Student Questionnaire Responses (Fall 92)
Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs,
Community College of
· Major Issues -Where Significant Progress Has Been Made
· Major Issues- Somewhat Unresolved
· Document I – Chapter XI: Conclusion Chapter from 1993 MSA Self Study Report
· Document II-Summary of Major Recommendations Made By MSA Evaluation team
III-Extract from Periodic Review Report
Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs,
Memorandum, Actions of the IWC
Office of the President, Memorandum, Actions of the IWC
I. Dimensions Committee, Guidelines for Course Certification (9/94)
Culture, Science and Technology Faculty Steering
Committee, Curriculum Proposal: Culture,
Science and Technology – DRAFT (
K. Office of Institutional Research, Liberal Arts Program Data from 1995-2001
Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs,
Curriculum Facilitating Team, Integrations
of American Diversity Issues into Programs and Courses at
M. Division of Liberal Studies, Liberal Arts Curriculum: An Associate in Arts Degree Program (1/96)
Culture, Science and Technology Faculty Steering
Committee, Grant Summary, NSF: Culture,
Science and Technology Grant –
O. Task Force on Computer Competency, Report of the Task Force (12/96)
P. Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs, Goals 1996-97
Q. Office of Institutional Research, Culture, Science and Technology Program Data from FL 96– SP 01
R. See the following materials related to American Diversity Courses:
· Student Survey for American Diversity Courses
· Context and Goals of the American Diversity Requirement
· Guidelines for American Diversity Courses – DRAFT
for American Diversity Courses – DRAFT (
Diversity Courses (
· Memorandum, American Diversity (1128/94)
S. Task Force on Teaching and Technology, Final Report (8/98)
T. Dimensions Committee. See the following documents issued by the Committee:
on Dimensional Requirements (
· Dimension Committees and Requirements (FL 00)
· Summary of Issues Raised Regarding the General Education Proposal
V. Office of the Vice President for Planning and Finance, 2000-2004 Strategic Plan: Second Year Progress Report (8/02)
Dimensional Review Committee, Report of the Dimensional Review Committee (
X. Office of Communications, College Catalog (2002-2003)
Office of the Vice President for Planning and Finance, Assessment Plan: An Overview of Efforts to
Understand Institutional Effectiveness at the