West Texas A&M University

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Learning Assessment General Education

General Education

West Texas A&M University’s general education program is aligned with the University’s mission of “cultivating opportunities to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills, information literacy, and ethical behavior.” The University views the core curriculum as integral to its success, as evidenced by this description in the Undergraduate Catalog: “University core curriculum requirements apply to all baccalaureate degrees and are intended to provide students with the basis for establishing broad and multiple perspectives of the individual in relation to the larger society and world in which he or she lives.” The competencies of the University’s general education program are comprised of the Texas Core Curriculum (TCC) mandated by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), and the “common set of student learning outcomes” developed by the Texas A&M University System, which are termed General Learning Outcomes (GLOs) at WTAMU.

THECB Texas Core Curriculum (TCC)

Every graduate of an undergraduate degree program at a public higher education institution in Texas must fulfill the Texas Core Curriculum (TCC) requirements established by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). WTAMU’s Core Curriculum adheres to these requirements by providing students with opportunities to develop intellectual competence in reading, writing, speaking, listening, and critical thinking that are “essential to the learning process in any discipline.”

During 2011, the THECB revised the Texas Core Curriculum in an effort to incorporate 21st century competencies into the required components. In doing so, the Coordinating Board replaced the basic intellectual competencies and essential educational objectives with six Core Objectives:

  • Critical Thinking Skills (CT) – to include creative thinking, innovation, inquiry, and analysis, evaluation and synthesis of information;
  • Communication Skills (COM) - to include effective development, interpretation and expression of ideas through written, oral and visual communication;
  • Empirical and Quantitative Skills (EQS) - to include manipulation and analysis of numerical data or observable facts resulting in informed conclusions;
  • Teamwork (TW) - to include the ability to consider different points of view and to work effectively with others to support a shared purpose or goal;
  • Social Responsibility (SR) - to include intercultural competence, knowledge of civic responsibility, and the ability to engage effectively in regional, national, and global communities; and,
  • Personal Responsibility (PR) - to include the ability to connect choices, actions and consequences to ethical decision-making.

The TCC requires a minimum of 42 semester credit hours (SCH) of coursework in nine Foundational Component Areas that are mapped to the Core Objectives, as all courses in the TCC must be at the freshman or sophomore levels.

In preparation for implementation of the revised TCC in fall 2014, the University underwent a rigorous curricular review of its Core course offerings. At a policy level, the University sought to maintain the requirement that all students take a three-hour Communications course during their Core coursework. In order to fit within the newly adopted structure, the University shifted the second English course previously required to the Component Area Option. The University also increased the number of optional courses for students in the Component Area Option and raised the number of “elective” hours in this option from 1-3 under the previous Curriculum to 6 SCH in the new Core Curriculum.

As part of the curricular review process, a Core Curriculum Revision Committee was created in spring 2012 to review proposals for each course that would be included in the Core Curriculum, ensuring that each course complied with the new THECB Foundational Component Areas and required Core Objectives. The committee met during the spring and fall semesters in 2012, completing their recommendation of courses to be included in the core in November 2012. For each proposed course, academic programs were required to submit a common Core Curriculum Revision: Course Application Form, along with a syllabus for the course. The Course Application Form required programs to specify course learning objectives and applicable TCC Core Objectives, and to provide assessment methods to be incorporated. Internally approved courses were submitted to the THECB, as 95 courses were approved and comprised the current University Core Curriculum. New courses seeking approval for inclusion in the University’s Core Curriculum must follow the same documentation process when submitting formal requests to the Core Curriculum Committee for approval.

The Coordinating Board’s Table of Foundational Component Areas summarizes the interrelationship between the Foundational Component Areas and the Core Objectives, indicating which Foundational Component Areas must address specific Core Objectives. The alignment of the University’s Core Curriculum to THECB’s Core Objectives demonstrates, in part, that these general education outcomes are deemed to be at the college level. Additionally, students have performed at a level similar to comparison schools on normed examinations (e.g., Collegiate Assessment of Academic Proficiency (CAAP), California Critical Thinking Skills Test (CCTST)). These factors support the recognition that the University’s Core Curriculum is comprised of college-level general education competencies.

To facilitate the transition to the new TCC, the Office of Learning Assessment has developed a schedule for assessing each of the six Core Objectives. With 2014-2015 serving as the first year of implementation for the revised TCC, WTAMU aligned the schedule of assessments with expectations expressed by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). Based on information provided by THECB, the Coordinating Board expects four-year public universities to assess each of the Core Objectives on a three-year rotation, culminating in a summative report submitted one year prior to submission of the Compliance Report as part of the university’s decennial SACSCOC reaffirmation. The schedule outlined below conforms to the design by THECB, culminating with the ten-year report that will be submitted August 31, 2024. Depending on results of assessments conducted in accordance with this schedule, assessment may occur more frequently if data indicate areas of deficiency need to be addressed.

Schedule of Assessments for Texas Core Curriculum

Core Objectives 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 2021-22 2022-23
Critical Thinking Skills X     X     X    
Empirical and Quantitative Skills X     X     X    
Communication Skills   X     X     X  
Teamwork   X     X     X  
Social Responsibility     X     X     X
Personal Responsibility     X     X     X

Texas A&M University System (TAMUS) General Learning Outcomes (GLOs)

Beginning with the 2012-2013 academic year, the Texas A&M University System (TAMUS) established a common set of learning outcomes that all System institutions are required to assess and provide progress of attainment on a three-year rotation. WTAMU has termed these mandated outcomes as General Learning Outcomes (GLOs) in order to distinguish them from the other learning outcomes specified for Core Curriculum and program-level assessments. The GLOs (detailed below) include Decision Making and Social Responsibility, Globalization and Diversity, Specific Knowledge, Integration, Communication, and Problem Solving/Critical Thinking. While overlapping to a certain degree with the University’s Core Curriculum, the GLOs are distinctive in that assessment of these learning outcomes should occur across the full spectrum of courses offered by the University, including courses at the freshman through senior levels.

Explicit university-wide expectations for student learning needed to be articulated to provide a framework for describing and evaluating the quality of the University’s learning environment. To that end, ad hoc committees were created in 2013 and were appointed to review and refine each of the pre-established GLOs. Conclusively, the committees found the following six GLOs appropriate, assessable, and relative to the mission of the University:

Communication Learning Outcome:

Upon completion of their degree program, students will be able to express ideas clearly and coherently orally, in writing, and electronically to a diverse range of audiences and interact with others in large and small group settings.

Students will:

  1. Use multiple formats and technologies to communicate ideas effectively in large and small group settings.
  2. Apply fundamental writing strategies such as invention, drafting, revising, and editing to the development of effective academic/professional written communication.
  3. Deliver effective oral presentations in a variety of settings
  4. Demonstrate the ability to incorporate multiple informational resources in projects and/or papers with appropriate citations.

Problem Solving/Critical Thinking Learning Outcome:

Upon completion of their degree program, students will be able to demonstrate critical thinking, including the ability to explain issues, find, analyze and select appropriate evidence, and construct a cogent argument that articulates conclusions and their consequences.

Students will:

  1. Construct well-supported, clearly articulated, and sustained arguments;
  2. Demonstrate an ability to justify conclusions based on evidence;
  3. Interpret, analyze, and evaluate statements, graphics, articles, and/or questions by:
    • discriminating among different degrees of credibility, accuracy, and reliability of  inferences drawn from data , and
    • recognizing assumptions in sources;
  4. demonstrate the ability to identify, analyze and formulate solutions to complex problems.

Discipline Specific Knowledge Learning Outcome:

Upon graduation, students will demonstrate mastery of the depth of knowledge required for their respective degrees.

Students will:

  1. Perform satisfactorily on licensure or certification exams necessary for professional status within their chosen careers, where applicable.
  2. Demonstrate skills required for success in their discipline.
  3. Identify and propose solutions to challenges or problems within their field.
  4. Identify, analyze, apply and evaluate disciplinary theories and concepts.

Ethical Decision Making and Social Responsibility Learning Outcome:

Upon completion of their degree program, students will be able to demonstrate an understanding of and use ethical reasoning for responsible personal and professional decision-making in a culturally and ethnically diverse world.

Students will:

  1. Articulate multiple cultural perspectives in local, national and global communities
  2. Identify and analyze social and ethical challenges, including possible resolutions

Globalization and Cultural Diversity Learning Outcome:

Upon completion of their degree program, students will be able to analyze the impact of multiple factors on the interconnectedness of diverse peoples in the global environment.

Students will:

  1. Utilize multidisciplinary perspectives to evaluate initiatives that have been employed to address global issues
  2. Describe the nature of global interdependence and its impacts.
  3. Articulate an understanding of cultural differences from diverse perspectives in specific disciplines

Integration of Broad Knowledge (Undergraduate) Learning Outcome:

Upon completion of their degree program, students will be able to synthesize knowledge from general and specialized studies.

Students will:

  1. Demonstrate mastery of the general education core curriculum
  2. Apply broad knowledge to academic disciplines, and professional or technical fields.

After the outcomes were vetted and consensus reached, the ad-hoc committees modified the appropriate VALUE rubrics that had been developed by the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) for each GLO. These committees used the structure provided by the VALUE rubrics that are designed to assess student learning at the introductory, developing, and mastery levels. Individual departments were then consulted to provide curriculum maps for each GLO, including at which level (introductory, developing, mastery) the learning outcome was to be assessed.

Due to the far-reaching nature of the GLOs, the University’s impact on student attainment of these learning outcomes is being measured through academic program assessments, as well as intentional and systematic efforts conducted by academic support and student services units on campus. Direct assessment methods being used with the GLOs include course-embedded assessments, portfolios, licensing exams, and standardized external assessments. Indirect methods incorporated into the assessment of GLOs include results from national surveys (e.g., National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), Educational Benchmark Inc. (EBI) survey), service learning activities, participation in study abroad, exit surveys, and employer feedback.