3.5.1 General Education Competencies

Comprehensive Standard 3.5.1: College-level Competencies

The institution identifies college-level general education competencies and the extent to which graduates have attained them.

Compliance Partial Compliance Non-compliance

NARRATIVE

The University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee (USF Sarasota-Manatee) Core Curriculum totals 48 semester credit hours: (1) 36 semester credit hours of General Education, (2) 3 credits in Foundations of Success, and (3) 9 credits in Pillars of Intellectual Engagement. With its Core Curriculum, USF Sarasota-Manatee provides all of its students with the broad knowledge base and skills necessary to solve modern interdisciplinary problems in the vast array of careers open to college graduates. At the lower level, the University Core Curriculum consists of twelve courses (36 credits) as General Education (Gen Ed) and two courses (3 credits) as Foundations of Success (Foundations). At the upper-level, students take three Pillars of Intellectual Engagement courses (9 credits): one Communication and Critical Thinking course, one Leadership and Ethics course, and one Community Engagement and Diversity course.

The Faculty Senate’s Core Curriculum Committee is responsible for the ongoing development, implementation, and assessment of an effective and meaningful core curriculum. Responsibilities include approval of courses for all components of the core curriculum, and assessment of their effectiveness. These include, at the lower level, general education and foundations courses; at the upper-level, Pillars courses. This committee advises the Regional Chancellor and the Regional Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs on Core Curriculum issues, reports to the Faculty Senate on the development of future general education programs at the University, and provides continuous assessment of the general education program, (Core Curriculum Webpage, Sample minutes for AY1415, AY1314, and AY1213: 11/06/14, 04/08/15; 08/20/13, 4/25/14, 08/17/12, 04/16/13).

For more information on USF Sarasota-Manatee’s Core Curriculum, please see Core Requirement 2.7.3 (General Education).

Assessment of the Core Curriculum

The Core Curriculum Committee, chaired by the Core Curriculum Faculty Coordinator, identified the general education competencies that align with Florida Statute 1007.25 about general education courses. In keeping with USF Sarasota-Manatee’s Annual Assessment Cycle Timeline for Academic Programs, the Core Curriculum Committee reviews student performance in two areas: (1) Lower-level General Education and (2) Upper-level Pillars of Intellectual Achievement.

Summary of Development of the Core Curriculum at USF Sarasota-Manatee

In 2011, when SACSCOC accredited USF Sarasota-Manatee, it was a “senior institution,” which did not teach the lower-level General Education curriculum.

In 2011-12, USF Sarasota-Manatee assessed the General Education competency (basic skills and breadth of knowledge), because the completion of General Education, or its equivalency, was a graduation requirement. At that time, USF Sarasota-Manatee began development of a full four-year curriculum, and the faculty expressed its intent to create a unique core curriculum to address Florida’s statewide General Education requirements. It would also develop competencies and values shared across all of its colleges. The Faculty Senate’s General Education (GE) Task Force became a standing committee beginning Fall Semester 2012. Further, the administration funded a new Faculty Coordinator of Core Curriculum.

In 2012-13, the new GE Coordinator and the GE Committee led the faculty in defining the “Pillars of Intellectual Engagement” that would shape the education experience of USF Sarasota-Manatee’s students. Terminology for the area change to the Core Curriculum (CC), one component of which is general education. Because only the General Education curriculum was in place, only it was assessed in 2012-13.

In 2013-14, the CC Committee implemented the process for submitting Pillars course proposals and a criteria for acceptance. It also continues to assess the General Education curriculum.

In 2014-15, with Pillars courses being offered for the first time, the Committee could assess the full Core Curriculum (GE and Pillars). In fall term, the Committee developed an assessment process for the Pillars courses, which included scoring rubrics and performance prompts. In spring term, students in Pillars produced work for external assessment. During the summer, members of the CC Committee scored and analyzed assessment data. With these results the CC Coordinator is following up with faculty to improve Pillars course design and delivery.

1. Assessment of General Education Learning Outcomes

The Core Curriculum Committee identified the following student learning outcomes for lower-level general education:

Basic Academic Skill Sets

  1. Reading: Read critically, with appreciation of structure and nuance in works of fiction and nonfiction.
  2. Writing: Write correct, clear, and cogent academic prose.
  3. Critical Thinking: Analyze the argument of others and develop effective argument.
  4. Mathematics: Perform college-level competency in mathematics.

Breadth of Knowledge Fields

  1. Humanities: Demonstrate conversance in the essential facts, theories, and principles of the Humanities, which includes history and the fine arts.
  2. Social Sciences: Demonstrate conversance in the essential facts, theories, and principles of the Social Sciences.
  3. Natural Sciences: Demonstrate conversance in the essential facts, theories, and principles of the Natural Sciences. 

Until fall 2014 faculty used several measures to assess general education outcomes, including the Educational Testing Service’s Proficiency Profile, the Writing Proficiency Assessment, the Critical Thinking Proficiency Assessment, and items from the Graduation Survey and the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). The Proficiency Profile measures proficiency in critical thinking, reading, writing and mathematics in the context of humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. It contains multiple-choice questions designed to measure academic skills developed, as opposed to subject knowledge taught, in general education courses. It is a test of college-level skills in reading, writing, critical thinking and mathematics designed to measure the academic skills developed through general education courses, rather than the subject knowledge specifically taught in those courses.

Below are Annual Assessment Reports that demonstrate USF Sarasota-Manatee’s students performance on general education outcomes:

General Education Assessment Report 2012-13
General Education Assessment Report 2013-14

With the beginning of Core Curriculum offerings in Fall Semester 2013 when the “First Freshmen” enrolled, the Assessment Coordinator in Institutional Research & Effectiveness (IR) worked with faculty in the SLS 1107 Foundations of University Success course (taken in a new freshman’s first semester) to administer the Proficiency Profile to obtain baseline data. In addition to the Proficiency Profile administered to freshmen upon entrance to USF Sarasota-Manatee each semester, the original plan for General Education Assessment Plan 2014-15 developed by the Core Curriculum Committee was that the Proficiency Profile would be administered in the second Foundations course: SLS 2122 Foundations of Professional Success. However, due to the sudden loss of the Faculty Coordinator for General Education in 2014-15, SLS 2122 Foundations of Professional Success was not offered. A national search for a new Faculty Coordinator for General Education was successful. The new Coordinator will teach SLS 2122 in 2015-16 and assess the students in his course on general education outcomes through the Proficiency Profile.

During 2015-16, the Core Curriculum Committee is exploring alternative measures to the ETS Proficiency Profile.

(2) Assessment of the Pillars of Intellectual Engagement Outcomes 

The Core Curriculum Committee identified the following student learning outcomes for the six (6) Pillars of Intellectual Engagement:

  1. Communication: Students will communicate effectively by means of written and/or oral modalities.
  2. Critical Thinking: Students will demonstrate the skills necessary to be proficient critical thinkers.
  3. Leadership: Students will analyze and apply specific leadership theories or characteristics.
  4. Ethics: Students will apply ethical perspectives and concepts to situations and justify the implications of their applications.
  5. Diversity: Students will demonstrate and integrate an understanding of the complexity of elements important to various cultures, groups, beliefs, and/or practices.
  6. Community Engagement: Students will demonstrate and integrate understanding of a societal issue as the result of engagement outside the classroom (literal or virtual).

With 2014-15 being the first year that enough of the Core Curriculum courses were being offered, the Core Curriculum Committee developed its Pillars of Intellectual Engagement Assessment Report 2014-15.

Communication – Assignments in every degree program capstone have been designed by the faculty to provide opportunities for students to demonstrate competency in written communication.  All capstones require students to complete a written assignment or research project. Student work is evaluated using a scoring rubric that defines characteristics of communication. Scale: (1) Far Below Expectations, (2) Below Expectations, (3) Meets Expectations, (4) Exceeds Expectations. IR pulls data on the Communication outcome from each of these degree programs’ assessment data and provides a table for the Core Curriculum Committee to review.

Communication is also measured through the ETS Proficiency Profile section on writing, which is used to assess General Education Outcome 2: Writing. IR pulls these data for faculty review from the General Education assessment record – see above.

Communication is also measured via a Graduation Survey. Each semester IR invites USF Sarasota-Manatee graduating seniors to take the Graduation Survey. Students indicate the extent to which their experiences at USF contributed to their growth and development in their ability to “communicate effectively (verbally, in writing, etc.)” by selecting 1 (None) to 5 (A Great Deal). 

Critical Thinking – Faculty designed assignments in every degree program capstone course to provide opportunities for students to demonstrate competency in critical thinking. All capstones require students to complete a written assignment or research project. Faculty evaluate student work using critical thinking scoring rubrics (Critical Thinking Rubric Examples). Scale: (1) Far Below Expectations, (2) Below Expectations, (3) Meets Expectations, (4) Exceeds Expectations. IR collates data the Critical Thinking outcome from these degree programs’ assessment data.

Note that USF Sarasota-Manatee has chosen “Incredi-Bull Critical Thinking” as its QEP topic. The QEP Steering Committee developed a new common rubric to score Critical Thinking competencies across the curriculum, which it will pilot in the fall of 2015. The hope is to standardize the rubric used across undergraduate degree programs.

Critical Thinking is also measured through the ETS Proficiency Profile section on writing, which is used to assess General Education Outcome 3: Critical Thinking. IR extracts these data from the General Education assessment record – see above.

Critical Thinking is also measured via the Graduation Survey. Students indicate the extent to which their experiences at USF contributed to their growth and development in their ability “to critically analyze ideas and information” by selecting 1 (None) to 5 (A Great Deal). 

Leadership – A selection of upper-level courses in degrees distributed through all four colleges qualify as “Pillar courses” emphasizing leadership. A course that qualifies as a Leadership Pillar includes the following outcome in its syllabus.

Leadership Outcome: Students will analyze and apply specific leadership theories or characteristics.

Faculty design assignments in Leadership Pillar courses to provide opportunities for development and measurement of competencies related to leadership. All Leadership Pillar courses require students to complete the following assignment:

Leadership Essay: In a short essay of 300-500 words, analyze the hypothetical leadership problem provided, explain the challenges involved, and propose a solution.  

At the end of each term, the instructor submits electronically to IR, clean, ungraded copies of the essays. Each essay contains a cover sheet identifying the Pillar course, the semester, and the original instructions given to the students. The IR staff creates a random sample from all Leadership Pillar course submissions, renders them anonymous, creates a duplicate set, and sends the sample to members of the Core Curriculum Committee for scoring. Two members of the Core Curriculum Committee independently score the sample using a common Leadership Rubric. Faculty score Leadership competencies using the following scale: (1) Far Below Expectations, (2) Below Expectations, (3) Meets Expectations, (4) Exceeds Expectations.  

Ethics – A selection of upper-level courses in degrees distributed through all four colleges qualify as “Pillar courses” emphasizing ethics. A course that qualifies as an Ethics Pillar includes the following outcome in its syllabus.

Ethics Outcome: Students will apply ethical perspectives and concepts to situations and justify the implications of their applications.

Faculty design assignments in Ethics Pillar courses to provide opportunities for development and measurement of competencies related to ethics. All Ethics Pillar courses require students to complete the following assignment:

Ethics Essay: In a short essay of 300-500 words, analyze the hypothetical ethical dilemma provided and propose a solution.  

At the end of each term, the instructor submits electronically to IR, clean, ungraded copies of the essays. Each essay contains a cover sheet identifying the Pillar course, the semester, and the original instructions given to the students. The IR staff creates a random sample from all Ethics Pillar course submissions, renders them anonymous, creates a duplicate set, and sends the sample to members of the Core Curriculum Committee for scoring. Two members of the Core Curriculum Committee independently score the sample using the Ethics Rubric. Faculty score Ethics competencies using the following scale: (1) Far Below Expectations, (2) Below Expectations, (3) Meets Expectations, (4) Exceeds Expectations.

Diversity – A selection of upper-level courses in degrees distributed through all four colleges qualify as “Pillar courses” emphasizing diversity. A course qualifying as a Diversity Pillar includes the following outcome in its syllabus.

Diversity Outcome: Students will demonstrate and integrate understanding of the complexity of elements important to various cultures, groups, beliefs, and/or practices.  

Assignments in Diversity Pillar courses have been designed by the faculty to provide opportunities for development and measurement of competencies related to diversity. All Diversity Pillar courses require students to complete the following assignment:

Diversity Essay: In a short essay of 300-500 words, describe the manifestation of human diversity explored in this course, and discuss what you feel are the most important understandings related to diversity that you learned, explaining their significance in relation to the issue.    

At the end of each term, the instructor submits electronically to IR, clean, ungraded copies of the essays. Each essay contains a cover sheet identifying the Pillar course, the semester, and the original instructions given to the students. The IR staff creates a random sample from all Diversity Pillar course submissions, renders them anonymous, creates a duplicate set, and sends the sample to members of the Core Curriculum Committee for scoring. Two members of the Core Curriculum Committee independently score the sample using a common Diversity Rubric. Faculty score Diversity competencies using the following scale: (1) Far Below Expectations, (2) Below Expectations, (3) Meets Expectations, (4) Exceeds Expectations.  

Community Engagement – A selection of upper-level courses in degrees distributed through all four colleges qualify as “Pillar courses” emphasizing community engagement. A course qualifying as a Community Engagement Pillar includes the following outcome in its syllabus.

Community Engagement Outcome: Students will demonstrate and integrate understanding of a societal issue as the result of engagement outside the classroom (literal or virtual). 

Faculty designed assignments in Community Engagement Pillar courses to provide opportunities for development and measurement of competencies related to community engagement. All Community Engagement Pillar courses require students to complete the following assignment:

Community Engagement Essay: In a short essay of 300-500 words, describe the community engagement activity enabled by this course, and discuss insights related to diversity understand that the experience provided you personally, conclude by identifying what you feel will be your most lasting impression from the experience. 

At the end of each term, the instructor submits electronically to IR, clean, ungraded copies of the essays. Each essay contains a cover sheet identifying the Pillar course, the semester, and the original instructions given to the students. The IR staff creates a random sample from all Community Engagement Pillar course submissions, renders them anonymous, creates a duplicate set, and sends the sample to members of the Core Curriculum Committee for scoring. Two members of the Core Curriculum Committee independently score the sample using a common Community Engagement Rubric. Faculty score Community Engagement competencies using the following scale: (1) Far Below Expectations, (2) Below Expectations, (3) Meets Expectations, (4) Exceeds Expectations.

 

SUPPORTING DOCUMENTATION AND EVIDENCE

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