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Communicating Effectively About Liberal and General Education AAC&U Network for Academic Renewal March 2011Chicago, IL.

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Presentation on theme: "Communicating Effectively About Liberal and General Education AAC&U Network for Academic Renewal March 2011Chicago, IL."— Presentation transcript:

1 Communicating Effectively About Liberal and General Education AAC&U Network for Academic Renewal March 2011Chicago, IL


3 Communicating What Really Matters in College What are the two most important skills you hope your students develop as a result of completing their gen ed requirements? What are two common misunderstandings or challenges you have heard from students about liberal or general education? If someone came to your colleges Web site, what would be the main message they would receive about the most important outcomes of college?

4 LEAP Areas of Work: Public Advocacy/Communicationleadership through National Leadership Council, Presidents Trust, and work in selected LEAP states to make the case for liberal education and importance of essential learning outcomes Campus Actiontechnical assistance and networking to support campus efforts to increase all students achievement of essential learning outcomes and to communicate more effectively about liberal education Authentic Evidencereports on public opinion, high-impact practices that lead to essential learning outcomes, assessment approaches that deepen student learning and periodic reports of national data on student achievement

5 Why Make Communications a Priority? Intentionality and coherence of educational experience Lack of awareness about what really matters in collegeespecially among first-generation students and their families Slipping public confidence in higher education

6 Public Opinion In 2004, 93% of Americans viewed higher education institutions as one of the most valuable resources to the US. Public ranked colleges as high as military and churches. (Chronicle of Higher Ed) In 2009, 55% of Americans viewed higher education as absolutely essential to success, up from 31% in (Public Agenda) In 2010, 87 percent of Hispanics agreed that a college education is important for a person to get ahead in life. (Univision/AP)

7 Public Opinion In 2009, 60% agreed that colleges today are like most businesses and care more about the bottom line than about making sure students have a good educational experience. (up from 52% in 2007). (Public Agenda) In 2009, 70% said students shouldered a great deal or a lot of the blame for low graduation rates. (AP/Stanford)

8 The Communications Challenge What is a good educational experience? What are the essential elements of a good educational experienceoutcomes and practices?

9 Narrow Learning is Not Enough The Essential Learning Outcomes Knowledge of Human Cultures and the Physical and Natural World Focused by engagement with enduring and contemporary big questions Intellectual and Practical Skills Practiced extensively across the curriculum, in the context of progressively more challenging problems, projects, and standards for performance Personal and Social Responsibility Anchored through active involvement with diverse communities and real-world challenges Integrative and Applied Learning Demonstrated through the application of knowledge, skills, and responsibilities to new settings and complex problems

10 Main LEAP Messages There is an emerging consensus about the essential learning outcomes college students need in todays world. An engaged liberal education is the best way to ensure that students achieve these outcomes. All students need and deserve a liberal education. We must raise levels of student achievement of these outcomes to meet the demands of a volatile economy and globally interdependent world.

11 General Communications Tips Communicating messages about aims of educationeveryones responsibility Students receive messages from multiple sources (Web sites, syllabi, faculty, advisors, career counselors) Multiple messages must be consistent, repeated, and reinforced in multiple settings.

12 Know Your Audience: LEAP/AAC&U Research Focus groups with college-bound high school students and advanced college students Focus groups with employers National surveysbusiness leaders (2006/2007/2009) and recent graduates (2006) National surveyAAC&U member CAOs (2009)

13 What do Students Think? Selected Focus Group Findings High-school students feel uninformed about the college curriculum and uncertain of its demands. Students are focused on choice of major rather than what they will learn Students lack understanding of liberal education Once informed of definition of liberal education, student embrace the concept, but complain that reality not living up to ideal.

14 Students Definitions of Liberal Education It brings up both liberal arts, which to me means a broad education not involving the hard sciences. It also means a politically liberal education, which is the way a lot of colleges are. The professors teaching are often liberal, and I think that usually people come out of college more liberal than when they came in. --College student, Alexandria, VA

15 Students Definitions of Liberal Education The freedom to choose and learn, broad education, its not focused on one specific field. Its a privilege rather than a right, and offers an open door. --High school student, Alexandria, VA

16 Outcomes of College: Student Views The outcomes of college that HS and college students think are most important: maturity, time management, work habits, self- discipline, teamwork. The outcomes students think are least important: values, cultural diversity, science, American history and culture, computer skills, global awareness, civic engagement. Students dont connect outcomes to the curriculum. Long-term professional success overwhelmingly primary reason to go to college

17 Criticisms of General Education Timing of general education requirements = less chance of connection to major. Limited options for fulfilling requirements. Dont connect general education to important broad learning outcomes. General education classes are sometimes duplicative of what is learned in high school and are too elementary. Concern expressed more by career-oriented students.

18 What Employers Say my company lives and dies on our ability to innovate and to create the new products and processes that give us an edge in this very competitive global economy. ESCO needs people who have both a command of certain specific skills and robust problem-solving and communication skills. Steven Pratt, CEO, ESCO Corp. and Chair of the Oregon Business Council 18

19 What Employers Say [Employers] generally are...frustrated with their inability to find 360 degree people who have both the specific job/technical skills and the broader skills (communication and problem- solving skills, work ethic, and ability to work with others) necessary to promise greater success for both the individual and the employer. From Peter D. Hart Research Associates, Report of Findings Based on Focus Groups Among Business Executives (AAC&U, 2006)

20 National Surveys of Employers on College Learning and Graduates Work Readiness AAC&U commissioned Hart Research Associates (in 2006, 2007, and in late 2009) to interview employers (C-level suite executives and, in 2009 additional human resource professionals) whose companies report that hiring relatively large numbers of college graduates Findings are summarized in the following reports: How Should Colleges Prepare Students to Succeed in Todays Global Economy? (AAC&U, 2007) How Should Colleges Assess and Improve Student Learning? Employers Views on the Accountability Challenge (AAC&U, 2008) Raising the Bar: Employers Views on College Learning in the Wake of the Economic Downturn (AAC&U, 2010) See: 20

21 How important is it for colleges and universities to provide the type of education described below? This particular approach to a four-year college education provides both broad knowledge in a variety of areas of study and more in-depth knowledge in a specific major or field of interest. It also helps students develop a sense of social responsibility, as well as intellectual and practical skills that span all areas of study, such as communication, analytical, and problem-solving skills, and a demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and skills in real-world settings.

22 Not sure Less/not important Fairly important Very important * 76% of employers would recommend this type of education to a young person they know. How important is it for colleges and universities to provide this type of education (see previous slide)? Business Leaders

23 Employers Evaluate College Graduates Preparedness 23 Teamwork Ethical judgment Intercultural skills Social responsibility Quantitative reasoning Oral communication Self-knowledge Adaptability Critical thinking Writing Self-direction Global knowledge Mean rating* * ratings on 10-point scale: 10 = recent college graduates are extremely well prepared on each quality (How Should Colleges Assess and Improve Student Learning? AAC&U/Peter D. Hart, 2008) Very well prepared (8-10 ratings)* 39% 38% 35% 32% 30% 28% 24% 22% 26% 23% 18% Not well prepared (1-5 ratings)* 17% 19% 21% 23% 26% 30% 31% 37% 42% 46%

24 HART RESEARCH P e t e r DASSOTESCIA Raising The Bar Employers Views On College Learning In The Wake Of The Economic Downturn Key findings from survey among 302 employers Conducted October 27 – November 17, 2009 for

25 2009 AAC&U Survey Methodology Survey among 302 executives at private sector and non-profit organizations that have 25 or more employees Each reports that 25% or more of their new hires hold an associates degree from a two-year college or a bachelors degree from a four-year college. Overall margin of error = +5.7 percentage points Source: Raising the Bar (AAC&U, 2010)

26 Employers Expectations of Employees Have Increased % who agree with each statement Our company is asking employees to take on more responsibilities and to use a broader set of skills than in the past Employees are expected to work harder to coordinate with other departments than in the past The challenges employees face within our company are more complex today than they were in the past To succeed in our company, employees need higher levels of learning and knowledge today than they did in the past Source: Raising the Bar (AAC&U, 2010)

27 Balance of Broad Knowledge and Specific Skills Preferred Which is more important for recent college graduates who want to pursue advancement and long-term career success at your company? Broad range of skills and knowledge that apply to a range of fields or positions In-depth knowledge and skills that apply to a specific field or position BOTH in-depth AND broad range of skills and knowledge Raising the Bar: Employers Views on College Learning in the Wake of the Economic Downturn (AAC&U and Hart Research Assoc. 2010)

28 What Employers Say Its in Apples DNA that technology alone is not enoughits technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing and nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices. Steve Jobs, Seattle Times, March 3, 2011

29 % saying two- and four-year colleges should place MORE emphasis on helping students develop these skills, qualities, capabilities, knowledge Employers Top Priorities for Student Learning Outcomes in College Effective oral/written communication Critical thinking/ analytical reasoning Knowledge/skills applied to real world settings Analyze/solve complex problems Connect choices and actions to ethical decisions Teamwork skills/ ability to collaborate Ability to innovate and be creative Concepts/developments in science/technology Raising the Bar: Employers Views on College Learning in the Wake of the Economic Downturn (AAC&U and Hart Research Assoc. 2010)

30 HART RESEARCH ASSOTESCIA AAC&U Members On Trends In Learning Outcomes, General Education, and Assessment Key findings from online survey among 433 Chief Academic Officers and other academic leaders at AAC&U member institutions Conducted November 19, 2008 – February 16, 2009 for Margin of sampling error ±4.7 percentage points

31 31 Goals/Outcomes for All Students College Learning Humanities Science Social sciences Global/world cultures Mathematics Diversity in U.S. Technology U.S. history Languages Sustain- ability Writing skills Critical thinking Quantitative reasoning Oral communication Intercultural skills Information literacy Ethical reasoning Civic engagement Application of learning Research skills Integration of learning Among respondents from campuses WITH campus-wide goals, percent saying their institutions common set of learning goals/outcomes addresses each area of knowledge/intellectual skills & ability Areas of KnowledgeIntellectual Skills/Ability

32 32 Many institutions recognize room to expand students understanding of common learning outcomes. How many of your students understand your institutions intended goals or outcomes for undergraduate learning?* * Among members at institutions with learning outcomes for all undergraduates Majority Some Almost allNot many

33 The majority of institutions uses a distribution model with additional integrative features. Distribution model with other features Distribution model only One or more other features only Which of these features are part of your institutions general education program? 15% 64% 18% Other features: Common intellectual experience Thematic required courses Upper-level requirements Core curriculum Learning communities 33

34 Messages That Work Liberal education outcomes are key to success in todays global economy. Narrow training is not enough. Students must gain broad knowledge and have multiple opportunities to hone skills over time and in real-world settings.

35 Messages That Work Liberal Education outcomes are important because students are likely to change jobs multiple times Liberal education introduces students to multiple perspectives and develops their own independent critical judgment. Students neednt choose either a liberal education or preparation for professional successboth forms of education can be pursued together in mutually reinforcing ways.

36 Messages That Work Given the pace of technological and social change, it no longer makes sense to devote four years of higher education entirely to specific skills. By learning how to learn, one makes ones educational last a lifetime…students should develop the ability to continue learning so they can become agents of changenot victims of it. Michael Roth, Huffington Post, 2010

37 Ways to Get the Message Out Wisconsin Student Essay Contest Student Focus Groups Op-Eds, blogs, speeches Web e/generaled/requirements

38 LEAP Online Resources How Should Colleges Assess and Improve Student Learning? (2008) How Should Colleges Prepare Students to Succeed in Todays Global Economy? (2007) Raising the Bar: Employers Views of College Learning in the Wake of the Economic Downturn Findings from Student Focus Groups Focus Group Discussion Guide

39 LEAP Resources Making the Case for Liberal Education: Responding to Challenges Communicating Commitment to Liberal Education: A Self-Study Guide for Institutions Why Do I Have To Take This Course? A Student Guide to making Smart Educational Choices What Will I Learn in College? What You Need to Know Now to Get Ready for College Success (available in print; bulk prices available) What is a Liberal Education? and Why is it Important to My Future? (available in bulk; 500 minimum order)

40 For full LEAP Report and poll data:

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