GE Minutes 4-01-2011

Snow College Ad Hoc General Education Assessment Committee
April 1, 2011
In attendance: Lisa Anderson, Mel Jacobsen, Melanie Jenkins,
Clinton King, Joseph Papenfuss, Lynn Poulson, Jeff Carney
(chair), Beckie Hermansen (ex officio), Rick White (ex officio)


This committee is composed of one member representing each academic division, three at-large members, and several exofficio members who bring special expertise to the discussions:
Lisa Anderson: Business and Technology
Jeff Carney: Humanities
Kim Christison: Fine Arts
Joseph Papenfuss: Natural Science and Mathematics
Lynn Poulson: Social and Behavioral Science
Mel Jacobsen: at large
Melanie Jenkins: at large
Clinton King: at large
Beckie Hermansen: Institutional Research (ex officio)
Rick White: Accreditation (ex officio)
The Career and Technical Division does not have a member at this time.


As this was the first meeting of the committee, introductions were made, and the committee's purpose was reviewed. (The official proposal that created this committee is appended to these minutes.) Copies of the college's current GE Outcomes were distributed, as well as copies of the newly adopted Regents Policy R470, which governs General Education in the Utah System of Higher Education.


At the request of Mel Jacobsen, the general outline of outcomes assessment was discussed:
• Determination of outcomes;
• Identifying appropriate outcome indicators;
• Identifying/creating instruments to measure those indicators;
• Action taken to improve instruction based on the results of assessment. The committee recognized that there is some disparity between the college's current GE Outcomes and those mandated by R470. Despite this, it was determined that the first year of GE Assessment should focus on the existing outcomes. If changes should be made to the college's GE Outcomes, they should be made in the future.


The committee agreed to visit with their divisions to determine what kinds of assessment instruments are already collecting data with respect to the GE Outcomes. Committee members were expected to report back next week with their findings. Becky Hermansen indicated that the Office of Institutional Research was already collecting data and that she was more than willing to coordinate efforts with this committee.


Ad hoc General Education Assessment Committee Vice President Smith and the Curriculum Committee are proposing the creation of an ad hoc committee whose mission is to begin the process of assessing General Education at Snow College.


Accreditation is upon us. We have been assured that a significant part of the evaluation will focus on our GE program. Unfortunately, we do not have a true GE program. We have a list of GE outcomes and a worksheet from which students may select GE courses. What we do not have is a document that defines a central vision for a GE program. We also lack a set of instruments for assessing the success of a GE program in part or in whole. It is true that some courses on the worksheet are being assessed by individual departments. What we need is a cohesive effort. The Curriculum Committee is overwhelmed with other tasks. Considering the growth the college has experienced in the last 20 years, including the merger with the Richfield campus, this is hardly surprising. Indeed, we are the only college in Utah that does not have a separate General Education committee. Aside from accreditation, providing our transfer students with a General Education is central to our mission. The creation of some sort of oversight body is long overdue. For the good of the college, we need to know if our students are learning what we think they are learning.


Rather than create another standing committee at this time, the proposal calls for an ad hoc committee to address a limited number of issues. One issue to be addressed is whether the committee turns out to be useful. If it does, the Curriculum Committee and the Faculty Senate may wish to transform the committee into a standing committee. If it does not, the ad hoc committee may be dissolved. It is anticipated that the committee will do some initial planning and data gathering during the rest of this semester, do more focused work during May and summer, and finish its assignment by the end of Fall Semester, 2011.


The first task will be to assess the GE outcomes themselves. Do they define what General Education means to Snow College? Are they reasonable? Can they in fact be assessed? The larger task is to identify a variety of instruments for assessing the GE outcomes and to generate plans for implementing them. This process will be carried out in consultation with anyone who has any stake in GE, as well as Rick White in his new position. The Curriculum Committee and the Faculty Senate have already recognized that a onesize-fits-all solution will not work for Snow College. Individual outcomes will likely require unique instruments. Individual departments or courses may likewise require a specialized instrument. It is not the job of the ad hoc committee to determine which instrument is right for any circumstance. Rather, the committee will assist individual divisions, departments, and faculty to determine what works best for them in the context of the program as a whole. There is virtually no limit to the kinds of assessment instruments that might be used. Possibilities include standardized tests, departmental exams, portfolios, audio or video recordings, capstone projects, pre- and post-tests, and so on. Where cost is a factor, final decisions will be made in consultation with the Vice President for Academic Affairs. When appropriate instruments have been selected, the committee will provide guidance in their use, as well as guidance in using the results of assessment to improve individual courses and the program as a whole. The ad hoc committee will remember at all times that assessment is not an end in itself. Rather, it is a tool to help Snow College maintain and improve (where necessary) the quality of our programs.


The ad hoc committee is an advisory body only. Where policies have to be made, the committee is limited to making proposals to the Curriculum Committee, the Faculty Senate, or the Vice President for Academic Affairs.


Each academic dean is invited to appoint one representative from the faculty of his or her division to be a voting member of the ad hoc committee. Three additional voting members will be selected from the faculty at large. Faculty who wish to participate in this capacity are invited to contact the curriculum committee as soon as possible. When a sufficient pool of candidates has accrued, the entire faculty will be asked to vote. The three candidates with the most votes will join the committee. At least one member will also sit on the Curriculum Committee to facilitate active communication between these two bodies. Staff as well as faculty are welcome to participate in the process.


An ideal member of the committee will have the following qualities:
• creativity;
• an interest in General Education and the assessment process;
• a conviction that assessment can be used to improve student learning;
• a willingness to set aside departmental partisanship and think about education from a general perspective; familiarity with the content, methods, and habits of mind that characterize at least one discipline outside one's own;
• the ability to think about GE as a program, not merely a set of requirements;
• a keen understanding of students who may not value, or even be aware of, the intellectual traditions that professional academics take for granted. The ability to invest a few days during May and Summer 2011 is highly desirable but not strictly required.