Faculty Forum on General Education
8 November 2002
I. Remarks from Vice Chancellor Padilla
a. Thanks to GERTF and the faculty as a whole for undertaking Gen Ed revision.
b. Gen Ed is the ideal venue for us to express our interests in interdisciplinarity and integrative education.
c. Dr. Padilla expressed his personal interest in the process of Gen Ed revision; the outcome will help us to define ourselves as a public liberal arts institution. A strong general education program will allow us to stand out within the UNC-system and to attract motivated, intellectual students.
II. Presentation on the General Education Review process to-date
a. Dr. Edward Katz briefly noted that the Statement of Institutional Principles for Design of the Revised General Education Curriculum is the product of 5 campus-wide efforts: the Learning Circles on Student Development (Spring 2000); the GERTF contribution to the SACS Enhancement Self-Study (1999-2001); the Chancellorís Taskforce Reports on Retention, Curriculum, and Diversity (2000); the APC Review of General Education (1999-2001); and the GERTF Listening Project (Fall 2001-Spring 2002). This document arises in response to the issues highlighted in each of these efforts and attempts to articulate the needs and interests that the campus community has identified.
III. Summary Analysis of the Listening Project
a. Dr. Jeff Konz summarized the analysis of the listening project: he reminded faculty of the process, explained the method of summarizing faculty responses, and highlighted four issues:
i. The importance of interdisciplinarity and integration in both our current and prospective general education programs.
ii. Widespread consensus that our current program is pretty good but needs modification; however, there is no consensus on the precise nature of needed modification.
iii. The most common dimension of change is to cultivate an increase in flexibility for both students and faculty--course options to fulfill a component, faculty offering of topical courses, the preservation of AFEs, pedagogical innovations, etc.
iv. Recognition of the need for administrative oversight and sufficient resources for faculty and departments who participate in general education.
IV. Statement of Institutional Principles for Design
a. Dr. Katz explained the purpose and intent of the statement of principles and opened the floor for discussion.
V. Faculty and Staff Discussion
oThe most important question is about the balance between an interdisciplinary core and distribution components.
∑We need to look at student evaluations, sophomore and senior surveys, alumni responses and other information about the Humanities sequence in particular, general education in general.
∑Our distribution requirements create efficiencies in terms of SCH generation.
∑We need to lay out the parameters and trust our faculty to be innovative and creative in meeting the objectives of Gen Ed rather than impose a curriculum on them.
∑Use all tools of assessment in both design and evaluation of Gen Ed courses.
oShould we survey students to see how they respond to "humanities-type" instruction? Data on instruction is available on question #2 of course evaluations. (As a point of clarification "humanities type" courses stress breadth over depth and engage faculty from outside of their disciples.) It is important to assess what students think of their total educational experience, not just the humanities. Survey alumni to determine if the value that students give the core experience appreciates over time. Everything we do should be scrutinized, not just the humanities. We need to look at the general education holistically.
oGERTF should keep input to guidelines and recommendations and trust faculty to implement those guidelines.
oGeneral education needs on-going oversight.
oAlumni responses reveal the value of our Humanities courses as growing over time, even if students complain at the time.
oOur administrative reorganization ought to reflect the value that we place on interdisciplinarity throughout the curriculum, not just in General Education.
oConcern about AFEs. If we allow AFEs, many of our students will simply take more courses in the major. We ought to consider forcing students to take electives at the 300 level in other disciplines.
oThe principles consider Gen Ed as a four-year program. We must consider issues of transferability, particularly students who transfer to UNCA and are placed at a disadvantage by the uniqueness of our Gen Ed courses.
oIn Gen Ed revision, everything is in fact open to scrutiny, including the Humanities program. Our conversation needs to be about the entire Gen Ed program, and not only about the Humanities sequence.
oWe need to consider the time that our students are taking to complete their degrees and whether or not Gen Ed creates barriers to completing degrees in four years. Adding flexibility will make this less of an issue. We also ought to consider a Freshman Seminar to facilitate the transition to college.
oOur structure needs to rely mostly on full-time faculty. Part of our adjunct dependence stems from the fact that we are trying to do too many things, partially because of proliferation of degree programs and minors. Is it possible for us to use these programs in General Education? Particularly, WMST and AFST ought to count toward Gen Ed in some way.
oMy undergraduate Gen Ed experience was based on a distribution model; I have spent years since that time "backfilling" to integrate this material. Our courses need to be integrative from the very beginning rather than simply interdisciplinary. An example of this problem is the current structure of Arts 310, which is now a survey of artistic forms, rather than an integrative approach to the arts. Integration also happens if we are able to encourage connections between Gen Ed components and between Gen Ed courses and disciplinary courses.
oStudents often find information taught in other courses to be in conflict with the information that I teach in my disciplinary courses. We need to promote faculty development session, which encourage conversations about pedagogy and content.
oStudent perception is important; we need to consider how we title courses. Some students, for example, won't take anything with the word "chemistry" in the title.
oWe ought to consider upper-division linked courses taught in topical clusters. This provides integration in combination with disciplinary depth. Integration is missing in the distribution model. More course integration and linked courses will make the general education program stronger. There should be links between courses and disciplines. There should be conversations across disciplines regardless of specific content.
oIn a dream redesign it would be fun to team-teach a theme. This could involve a thematic approach of linked courses or team teaching. Example - the sociological and economical perspectives of consumerism.
oStrong disciplines lead to good interdisciplinarity. Thematically oriented courses would be good, but within disciplines.
oFaculty collaboration and conversation would be enhanced through this sort of linked or clustered-course approach.
oThese clusters need to be not only interdisciplinary but also interdivisional. We need to affirm that Gen Ed is an integral part of education and not simply a barrier to the completion of the degree.
oAs a faculty, we need to buy in to the fact that we teach at UNCA, which we claim is a unique institution. Our primary allegiance isn't to our departments, but to the institution.
oDisciplinary dissonance is desirable from the standpoint that it illustrates the differences between disciplines for our students. The fact that they get a different interpretation in a Gen Ed course than they get in disciplinary courses isn't in and of itself a problem. Also, our interdisciplinary, integrative goals are able to be achieved now. We need to go for the vision first, and then work to make it happen.
oIs Gen Ed interdisciplinary as a program? And do our courses have to be interdisciplinary? The best kind of integration happens when students observe and make connections between their courses rather than when we enforce it in the curriculum.
oIntegration isn't automatic. We have to be intentional at the level of faculty communication in order to get it in the classroom; we can't wait for our students to see integration on their own.
oWe have to have faculty communication in order to ensure community and commonality of purpose.
oGen Ed must go beyond 100-level intro courses.
oDon't forget that disciplines do clash in reality; our viewpoints don't always show consonance, and we shouldn't try to tell students that they do.