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Report from a project funded by the Teagle Foundation to Beloit, Knox, Monmouth, Ripon Marion Fass, Kevin Hastings, Frank Gersich, Robin Woods.

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Presentation on theme: "Report from a project funded by the Teagle Foundation to Beloit, Knox, Monmouth, Ripon Marion Fass, Kevin Hastings, Frank Gersich, Robin Woods."— Presentation transcript:

1 Report from a project funded by the Teagle Foundation to Beloit, Knox, Monmouth, Ripon Marion Fass, Kevin Hastings, Frank Gersich, Robin Woods

2  “[R]ather than divide the undergraduate experience into separate camps, general versus specialized education, the curriculum of a college of quality will bring the two together.” Ernest Boyer  We proposed a collaborative project to examine this complementary relationship between general education and the major, and, in particular, to establish methods of assessment that allow us to learn about, improve, and strengthen the achievement of liberal learning goals by all of our students, irrespective of the major they choose.

3  How do departments contribute to students’ achievement of all college goals? Do departments see their contributions in the same way?  Faculty from Beloit, Knox, Monmouth and Ripon are exploring  how departments define and teach critical thinking, quantitative reasoning and civic engagement, and  how they measure the successes of students in reaching their educational goals.

4  As expected, quantitative reasoning in Philosophy differs from that in Mathematics, but what about critical thinking?  We will discuss some of our experiences and findings, and identify issues that are important in our ongoing efforts at assessment.

5  Align learning goals with mission, general education goals and with major ◦ Our institutions varied in amount of structure in general education program  Look at how general education goals are enhanced by the major and by advising  Develop systems for feedback  Share among the participating colleges, at institutional and departmental levels  None of our colleges have Center for Teaching and Learning



8  What do we know about what we do on each campus? ◦ NSSE ◦ Collegiate Learning Assessment  What do we want to share between campuses?

9  Each department developed a plan, but not all the same plan  What are the basic criteria for plans?  Strategies ◦ Focus groups ◦ Review of student work and transcripts ◦ Links to NSSE, CLA ◦ Embedded assessments ◦ Logs of advising

10  Civic engagement  Quantitative reasoning  Critical thinking  How do we measure these?  We let the departments decide, based on their needs and their disciplinary orientations.

11 InstitutionYear OneYear Two BeloitPhilosophy/ Religion Anthropology Biology Psychology KnoxMathematics English Education Economics RiponPhysics Sociology/Anthrop ology French Economics MonmouthArt Biology Communications and Theater Arts Accounting

12  Explore the role of major courses and advising in assuring that students ◦ Achieve depth in a disciplinary or interdisciplinary area ◦ Develop skills of liberally educated individual ◦ Connect with co-curricular and experiential  Identify how to use this information to improve student academic experiences

13 1. Review course structure and content. 2. Examine the sequencing of courses; 3. Identify patterns of elective course selection by majors 4. Survey about co-curricular activities to identify if/how those activities are consistent with discipline and general education goals; 5. Review and devise methods of assessment used in major; 6. Identify actions to strengthen the major and the students’ total educational experiences

14 At the heart of the educational process Critical thinking asks students to engage actively in their own learning

15  As many definitions as departments, but all see it as a central part of what we do: ◦ “This is the area where we found the most assumptions and took the most for granted, given that we believe this concept to be at the very heart of every single thing toward which the English Department strives.” (Knox) ◦ Some see it as rooted in the discipline (Anthropology, Beloit); ◦ Others as more open, usually as process (Sociology, Ripon)  All departments chose to examine critical thinking

16  Eight different departments=eight different definitions  Despite differences, all departments see critical thinking as essential to what they do, and as a constitutive element of their disciplines and of a liberal education  Most definitions include two essential components: ◦ Perception: seeing the subject clearly ◦ Analysis: questioning the subject

17  Beloit: goals statement includes logical thinking and problem-solving  Knox: goals statement includes the critical exchange of ideas and demands for rigorous thinking  Monmouth: one of five educational elements identified in all-college gen ed goals  Ripon: all-campus discipline-based model: all departments required to have plan and assessment procedures in place 

18  Beloit Religion: ◦ students’ ability to think critically about religious thought and practice  Ripon Anthropology: extrapolates from mission statement: ◦ Comparative thinking and analysis; contextual understanding of human behavior; ◦ awareness of the effects of study on object of study  Ripon Physics: from divisional mission: ◦ hypothesis formation and testing ◦ original research

19  Direct measures of student learning: embedded assignments, writing/ portfolio analysis  Indirect measures: student surveys (Beloit Religion:  Students responsible for gauging their own progress),  Course evaluations

20  Monmouth Art: measures over time  Beloit Religion: students responsible for measures of progress  Ripon Physics: specific gains in knowledge  What does the CLA tell us?

21 ◦ “We are committed to the idea that thinking critically involves being able to recapitulate a line of reasoning and engage in dialogue, raising objections and concerns, to see if that reasoning approaches truth.” (Philosophy Department, Beloit) ◦ “Drawing on the work of other scholars….the sociology department defines critical thinking as thinking that requires students to evaluate and interpret evidence, identify and evaluate relevant arguments, develop and defend a position on an issue, and/or consider all sides of a question or issue without bias.” (Sociology Department, Ripon)

22 ◦ ….We are not always conscious of thinking critically, that is, engaging with texts to assess both for their value and their meaning. To assess a text for value and meaning requires marshalling evidence from the text itself, employing logical reasoning, being attentive to emotional and psychological charges of the text, and considering relevant connections between the text and the larger world in which it is produced.” (English Department, Knox)

23  …We believe that by its very nature, anthropology is inherently about critical thinking. Cultural anthropology works to make the strange familiar and the familiar strange. To do this, students must question their basic assumptions and in questioning these assumptions they engage in critical thought.” (Anthropology Department, Beloit)





28  Quantitative literacy ◦ Graphs, charts ◦ Basic life skills math  Logical problem solving ◦ Systematic analysis  Mathematical skills ◦ Statistics ◦ Mathematics  Integration of literacy, problem solving, using appropriate tools correctly

29  NSSE and other surveys ask students to self- report,  This assumes that this is one of the most measurable educational goals.  This project demonstrates, however, that a wide campus discussion is necessary to reinforce the need for this particular liberal education outcome, and to decide what it means. We don’t really agree.

30  Interpret mathematical models such as formulas, graphs, tables, and schematics, and draw inferences from them.  Represent mathematical information symbolically, visually, numerically, and verbally.  Use arithmetical, algebraic, geometric and statistical methods to solve problems.  Estimate and check answers to mathematical problems in order to determine reasonableness, identify alternatives, and select optimal results.  Recognize that mathematical and statistical methods have limits.

31  Out of our discipline, ◦ but value Logical Problem Solving- ◦ But Life Skills are critical to success  Would be nice, not required ◦ (how to measure baseline, success?)  Important to our discipline, require courses ◦ Taught by other departments, like Mathematics ◦ Taught by “our” department, Social Statistics  Central to disciplinary mastery ◦ Physics, Mathematics




35  As long as you abstract from the specific to the general by representing a system or process symbolically (which is abstracting), setting down rules for it and manipulating that symbol system within those rules, it is quantitative. (Chemistry reaction equations? Logic? Language syntax?) ◦ (Kevin Hastings, 2008)

36  Having students approach problems and projects and think of them in quantitative ways (CLA)  Rational/ symbolic analysis  Review writing to diagnose whether students are applying quantitative techniques. ◦ If bold statements are made, are they willing to support with data?(Carleton approach)  Develop disciplinary measures when appropriate


38 Civic Engagement Broadly defined: preparing students to be involved in their community –Formal curriculum –Co-curriculum –Volunteer activities –Student/Faculty research Participating departments “wrestled” with definition for study

39 College Goals Include Beloit  One of seven curricular goals is: “Active, responsible citizenship.” Knox  One of four curricular goals is: “applying classroom learning through hands-on experience.” Monmouth  General Education Capstone course: Citizenship (informed, conscientious action) Ripon  Communicating Plus Program supports engagement in issues confronting citizens of the 21 st century.

40 Civic Engagement Participation and Assessment Level of CE in formal curriculum may be dependent upon resources Departmental commitment to CE may be dependent upon campus priorities Assessment of CE outside of formal curriculum often is student reported participation levels Assessment of CE within formal curriculum may best be through “guided” participant reflections

41 CE in First-round Reports One department in first round included CE as part of departmental mission – focused on community service Six departments discussed role of preparing students to act (generally through ethics/values discussions) Two departments indicated a need to incorporate into future assessments One department collected information about student involvement in activities outside of departmental courses

42 HumanitiesCivic Engagement Knox English “how to respect the opinions, and emotions, the thoughts and articulations of others, thus preparing students for broader engagement at the civic and moral level.” Engage with artists and scholars beyond the classroom, participate in community of scholars in journals, readings, etc. Beloit Philosophy Preparation to act through applied ethics courses Beloit Religious Studies Address directly questions of how communal values are shaped, communicated, and contested. Helping students to cultivate a sense of responsibility as developing global citizens, and a sense of wonder about religious experiences and frames of reference. Evaluate by course evaluations. Monmouth Art Civic engagement student survey given as part of review process, including voting and art-related events on campus

43 Social Sciences Civic Engagement Ripon Sociology Not systematically assessed – will do in Fall 2008 All students reported 2 to 4 activities Ripon Anthropology Used embedded assessments ethical perspectives on anthropology in community – Need to be more explicit in curriculum Beloit Anthropology Couldn’t agree on definition – Exposed to tools and ethical considerations in classes, faculty model engagement, students study abroad, Nicaragua class, “pragmatic solidarity”

44 SciencesCivic Engagement Ripon Physics Part of departmental mission, including Learning about and sharing information about the applications of physics to issues in society (e.g., energy conservation) and Community service in the form of sharing physics activities with others, especially school children and their teachers. Knox Mathematics Outlined civic engagement, through requirement and will verify with NSSE Monmouth Biology Through investigative case-based learning. Will assess when implemented.

45 Conclusions and recommendations

46  We all agree that these are important goals, but we don’t agree on how they are defined  There are legitimate differences between disciplines Someone who thinks critically as a biologist may differ from someone who thinks critically as a philosopher ◦ By giving students “majors” on their diplomas we acknowledge this  These findings can catalyze important all college discussions about shared values, essential skills and disciplinary interpretation

47  Departments are at different levels of readiness to take on review ◦ Personalities, changes in discipline ◦ Departments need periodic retreats to revisit goals and courses articulation ◦ Goals may have been set before working faculty arrived, departments split in programs  Departments that depend on the “kindness of others” to meet skill needs of majors need to sit down and talk about expectations

48  Smallness doesn’t preclude need to discuss and review  “Friendly” departments may not always discuss educational issues  Because of desire for flexibility in departments, students don’t always take courses in sequence-  This increases need for communication about goals and how they are reinforced in curriculum

49 Our college graduate with liberal arts skills framed by disciplinary orientations Student Educational Experience

50  Resources ◦ Assessment committees ◦ Centers for teaching and learning ◦ Administrative  Recognition  Links of course, curriculum and mission

51  Thanks to the Teagle Foundation for supporting this work and to ACM FaCE, Lake Forest College and Rachel Ragland for inviting us to speak at this conference  Thanks to Kevin Hastings at Knox who has worked with us on this project, but couldn’t be here today.

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