The assessment of General Education in 2015-16 engages all GE course instructors in gathering evidence of student learning in relation to one outcome for one requirement in one course. The Curriculum Committee intends for both the evidence-gathering process and the evidence itself to be useful for course instructors.
Instructors who gather evidence of student learning in a General Education course can expect to use the process and/or findings in the following ways:
- To enhance alignment between course goals, activities, and assignments. Participants in the 2011-12 GE assessment found that they became more attentive to the GE learning outcomes for the requirements they were assessing, strengthening the connection between what they wanted to accomplish, and how they tried to accomplish it. Arguably, this has the potential to improve a course even before the instructor begins teaching it.
- To improve students’ understanding of course content and pedagogy. The 2011-12 GE assessment prompted some instructors to be more intentional and specific in communicating the intended outcomes of their GE courses to their students, often in relation to particular readings or assignments. Such conversations can help students be more purposeful in their learning.
- To inform decisions about course revisions. The General Education Student Learning Report asks instructors both to gather evidence and to reflect on its significance for their own instruction. The completed report will be useful as the instructor considers what to continue and what to change the next time he or she teaches the course.
- To inform participation in faculty development. The College provides a wide array of opportunities for faculty to strengthen their teaching practices, from CILA programs to summer workshops. Findings from the GE assessment may help guide an instructor’s decisions about which opportunities to pursue and when.
- To enrich the content and design of other courses. Many of the instructors who participated in the GE assessment pilot project extended their “backward design” thinking into other courses they were teaching – not only those that carried GE credit but also those that did not.
- To provide evidence of the instructor’s commitment to instructional improvement in faculty reviews. The revised standards for faculty evaluation in the St. Olaf Faculty Manual include “continuing one’s own development as an instructor through a variety of means, such as…the use of evidence of student learning for instructional improvement.” Instructors will be able to refer to what they learned about their own teaching in the GE assessment and how they acted on the results. Additionally, they will be able to use the results in their professional statements for tenure and promotion and in their post-tenure review discussions with their department chairs.