Reconsidering General Education at Purdue Fort Wayne

“What is difficult is getting a group of faculty from many different perspectives and prior institutional and educational experiences to work together to design or change a curriculum to be cogent, coherent, and meaningful to student.” (Ratcliff, J.L., 1996, p.6).

Part 1: Confessional

The General Education Assessment Plan Proposal presented on Thursday, January 5th at the Transition Meeting was more than a simple assessment plan proposal.  As I reviewed the various assessment reports for general education courses prepared over the last few years and examined how students matriculated through general education courses, it was clear that the 300 or so options for completing general education at IPFW provided little opportunity for faculty members to create a coherent curriculum or for students to experience a meaningful general education learning experience.  In effect, our general education program (like many others) is a menu of courses that students complete to check off a space on their “Bingo Sheet”.  The construction of a programmatic assessment of general education was challenging given the lack of common intellectual experiences for our students.  Therefore, embedded in the Assessment Plan Proposal, is a proposal to redesign the general education program.

The Proposal presented is intended as a starting point – nothing more, nothing less.  Admittedly, it is a relatively strong statement of what our general education program could become. It represents a personal design bias toward integrating a practical, applied liberal arts foundation across the broad spectrum of academic programs associated within a comprehensive university.  It is grounded in a strong perspective that a comprehensive university can intentionally design a learning experience and leverage assessment findings to demonstrate the distinctiveness of their graduates to multiple constituents.  Finally, the design is driven by a desire to help students experience a baccalaureate degree experience that helps them think critically and creatively, to solve problems and create opportunities, and to use this knowledge to advance a more inclusive vision of life, work, and service to their home, career, and community. However, ultimately, our faculty will decide what our general education program should be.  My role is to support and help realize that collective vision.

Part 2: Invitation

In a couple of weeks, our office will be announcing a series of town hall sessions to discuss the proposal, listen to the ideas of our faculty members, and provide information to the General Education Sub-committee.  Regardless of the decision on structural changes to the general education program, we hope to secure consensus on a revised assessment plan for general education.  Should we reach consensus this semester, we hope to roll out the assessment plan over a couple of academic years much like we did a few years ago with Programmatic Assessment.  I look forward to our discussions.

D. Kent Johnson, PhD., Director of Assessment