| General Education Program
General Education at NJCU
Vision and Mission of the General Education Program
What is “General Education” and what does the NJCU General Education Program mean for you? At its most basic level, General Education is that part of the college experience shared by all students regardless of major. But it is much more than that. It is a special part of your educational experience. While you can pursue your major at hundreds of colleges and universities, your General Education program is unique to NJCU. This signature program is designed to help you develop, improve and ultimately showcase the skills and learning you acquire through your studies. By the time you complete this program you will have become a stronger writer, a more confident speaker, a more sophisticated user of information, and a more critical thinker. You will be better prepared for your university studies and your life outside the university.
General Education is a key component of most university programs. For much of the twentieth century, the basic aim of these programs was to provide students a broad introduction to the various disciplines within higher education. More recently, the focus has begun to shift, moving from programs designed to bring you information to those designed to help you navigate and manage the information now so readily available. Institutions across higher education have recognized that the easy access to potentially limitless information brought on by rapid technological innovation means that the challenge facing our students is not so much how to acquire information, but rather how to make sense of it all. Universities across the country have recognized that we need to help you learn how to think critically about your information sources and how to process the information you receive. We need to help you find ways to arrange and synthesize information from multiple sources and to integrate that content with your experiences in the world at large. We need to help you formulate hypotheses and discover effective solutions to life’s challenges. Moreover, we need to help you develop the skills so that you are able to express those solutions clearly, confidently, and persuasively. Because the challenges you face are interdisciplinary in nature, we need to help you develop both a strong foundation in a particular academic discipline and the intellectual and social skills that extend across those academic disciplines. In short, we need to provide you with a comprehensive and flexible General Education; one that is central to your academic success and applicable to the complexities of life beyond the university. Through its innovative curriculum and the opportunities to extend learning beyond the classroom and beyond the campus, the NJCU General Education program delivers that education.
The NJCU General Education program is built on the first six University-Wide Student Learning Goals. Those goals and their connection to our General Education program are:
1. Students will demonstrate effective writing skills.
Effective writing skills are essential to learning and communication in whatever major you ultimately choose to pursue. Good writing entails more than mastering mechanics—vocabulary, grammar, sentence structure—but also developing and organizing your ideas, summarizing and expanding on your research, and expressing yourself clearly, thoughtfully, and creatively. The General Education program includes opportunities for you to develop and refine all of these skills as you enter and continue through your major.
2. Students will demonstrate effective oral communication skills.
The ability to speak clearly, persuasively, and coherently is fundamental to effective communication in both formal and informal settings. Oral communication skills prepare you to present an idea to an audience, to discuss issues with confidence, to teach a class, and to build interpersonal relationships at work, at home, and among peers.
3. Students will demonstrate effective quantitative literacy skills.
Your smart phone may have put a calculator in your hands at all times, but you still need to know what numbers to enter and how to interpret the results. Whether you are trying to calculate interest on your car loan or to understand statistics for some course, you will need the ability and confidence to interpret and manipulate numerical data. Quantitative literacy relates to the fundamental mathematical, analytical and scientific concepts and operations that are essential for your life within and beyond the university.
4. Students will demonstrate the ability to think critically to evaluate and solve problems.
Critical thinking refers to your ability to question assumptions, challenge received wisdom, and look at problems from creative perspectives. When you can carefully analyze an idea or a problem, or research and evaluate evidence, and then apply what you have learned, you are better prepared both to address the personal challenges you face in your non-academic life and to pursue a more successful academic career, whether that means envisioning new ways of approaching social and political issues, scientific hypotheses, or artistic conventions.
5. Students will demonstrate effective information and technology literacy skills.
With the rapid proliferation of devices capable of providing easy access to ever increasing quantities and types of information—smart phones, computer tablets, laptops—your ability to understand, evaluate, and use both information and the technology used to deliver that information is increasingly vital to participating fully in contemporary society. Locating, recognizing, and effectively using information are necessary skills for meaningful engagement in your community and successful entry into the job market. Our program will help you develop your skills in using computers, software applications, databases, and other technology tools.
6. Students will practice responsible citizenship in a culturally complex world.
Success beyond the university requires that you learn how to work collaboratively and to act ethically with others. All of us need to consider how our knowledge and actions shape our personal and professional relationships, our local and global communities, as well as the environment and the world around us. Practicing responsible citizenship, then, is not simply voting or showing up for jury duty. It is a commitment to participate in the life of the community. Our program encourages you to connect what you learn in the classroom to your life outside the classroom through a curriculum that both brings the community into the classroom and takes the classroom into the community. It provides opportunities for you to engage and explore our incredibly rich and diverse urban environment.
Throughout the General Education program, you will have the opportunity to develop, improve, and ultimately showcase your mastery of these essential skills.
The NJCU General Education Program
The NJCU General Education Program is composed of three tiers that take you from introductory college writing and math courses to a culminating capstone course experience. It provides for both breadth (combining an introductory seminar and more advanced interdisciplinary courses) and depth (through the tiered structure). The credit distribution for the program is:
Tier 1: Beginning the University Experience 10-20 credits1
Tier 2: Studying the World 22-31 credits
Tier 3: Engaging the World 3 credits
Total Credits 44-45 credits
Each of the tiers is described in more detail below.
Tier 1: Beginning the University Experience (10-20 credits)
The objective for this level is to provide a solid foundation for your college career and is composed of the following:
English Composition I 4 credits
Math 3-4 credits
Tier 1 Seminars 3 or 12 credits2
The composition course prepares you for university course work by introducing the basic communication skills (reading, writing, speaking, and listening) essential for your success and includes a writing laboratory component to provide more individualized instruction on good writing mechanics (grammar, punctuation, spelling, and vocabulary).
Basic mathematical concepts are central to nearly every academic discipline in the university and a regular feature of life outside the university. The specific math course you take will depend on factors like your intended major or your score in a placement test. But whichever course you take is designed to develop your quantitative skills and your confidence in processing and using quantitative information.
The Tier 1 seminar courses work in concert with the composition and mathematics courses to help you develop your communication, quantitative, and research skills. They introduce you to the four modes of inquiry that comprise much of the second tier of the program and provide you with your first opportunity both to conduct original research and to share the results of that research with your peers (both in written and oral presentation). Our program includes a variety of Tier 1 seminars covering a broad range of topics (recent offerings have included the physics of music, environmental ethics, and the global AIDS epidemic).3 Consult with your advisor to select seminars that best fit your interests.
Tier 2: Studying the World (22-31 credits)
The university is composed of different colleges, departments, and programs all of which offer you different tools and perspectives for engaging the world. The next step of your General Education introduces you to the core modes of inquiry associated with higher education. In Tier 2 you will begin to identify the relative advantages of these approaches, how they differ, and what they share. Just as importantly, you will continue to sharpen the core academic skills introduced in the First Tier. So in addition to the courses connected to the four modes of inquiry, this tier also includes a second English Composition course. This second composition course builds on the research (information literacy) and critical thinking skills introduced in the previous course. As with the first English Composition course, it includes a writing laboratory component. In addition to passing the ECII course, you are required to take 18 or 27 credits and complete at least one or two courses within each of the approaches.4 In this tier, you will find that some courses stand alone while others come together to focus on a common topic from different perspectives. In choosing your schedule, work with your advisor to determine which courses best fit your interests. Sometimes that may mean taking a cluster of closely related courses, and sometimes it may mean taking three individual courses.
The four approaches in this level of the program are:
Creative Process and Production
Your curriculum in this category focuses on creative expression and provides you with opportunities both to develop your own forms of creative expression and to interpret and appraise those of others. You can learn to communicate ideas and information through art, design, performance, media, or creative writing; to develop particular artistic or creative skills – painting, animation, sound editing, digital arts, or memoir writing, for example – or examine the historical development and social functions of the creative arts.
Language, Literary, and Cultural Studies
Your curriculum in this category explores ideas, systems of thought, or culture(s) through language, literature, and other texts (including historical, political, and cultural narratives). You will begin to interpret and critique a range of texts and to recognize and question the various contexts in which particular narratives are produced and received. You will compare different cultural and literary histories and traditions; use texts to analyze contemporary questions and issues, and evaluate diverse identities, experiences, and perspectives in relation to your own.
Scientific and Quantitative Inquiries
Your curriculum in this category provides opportunities to examine the natural and physical world through disciplined systematic inquiry. You will learn to recognize how science investigates the world -- asking certain types of questions, generating empirical evidence, then applying logical rigor in answering those questions. This category also includes courses in which you use, interpret and apply quantitative data and inferences to the world beyond the classroom.
Social and Historical Perspectives
Your curriculum in this category addresses the historical, economic, political, psychological, and social factors that shape and influence people’s thoughts and behavior. During your course of study in this area, you may examine the historical roots and contemporary workings of social institutions and structures – such as the family, religious institutions, schools, corporations, governments; the interconnections among and within diverse nations, cultures, and populations; and the artifacts associated with them.
Tier 3: Synthesizing, Creating and Evaluating (3 credits)
The culmination of your General Education is a single capstone course. As part of the capstone experience, you will have the chance, working individually or in collaboration with your colleagues, to develop, design, and present research or creative projects (depending on the capstone course you choose). The capstone courses provide a hands-on experience in which you will showcase your command of the skills you have been honing and the knowledge you have acquired during your course of study at the university. Because this course provides an opportunity to integrate your General Education studies with your major, consult with your advisor to select the capstone that will best supplement your major course of study.
General Education Support and Administration
Given the reduced credits allotted for General Education in this proposal, we can surmise that the projected costs for the new program will be lower than those associated with the current program. However due to a variety of factors the complete budget implications will not be known until the program is fully operational.
The projections included in Appendix 3 assume a similar teaching load structure (that is, full time, adjunct, and overload) and course distribution in the current and the proposed programs. Those ratios may change, however, since the proposed program includes more upper-level courses. It is conceivable that that change could mean an increase in the number of fulltime faculty teaching General Education courses.
In addition, the proposal calls for the creation of a new administrative position (a Director for General Education, discussed below). The details of this position beyond its responsibilities (that is, issues connected to salary, staffing, office space, etc.) are deliberately omitted in this proposal in that those issues fall under the jurisdiction of the Senate Administration Coordinating Committee and University hiring officers. At best, the GSCC can recommend the creation of these positions; it does not have the authority to specify compensation, staff, etc. The GSCC strongly recommends that the overall stability of the program would be enhanced if the director had faculty status with administrative release time rather than be a separate administrative position.
The budget implications will vary depending on how the position is ultimately staffed. Assuming that the above recommendation is accepted and the director has faculty status with administrative responsibilities compensated through release time, the budgetary impact would vary depending on the faculty rank of the director, the number of release time credits being issued to administer the program, and the salary guidelines in either the prevailing fulltime (if extending overload opportunities to fulltime faculty members) or adjunct faculty agreements (if hiring additional adjunct faculty members) that may be required to cover the classes that would otherwise be taught in the absence of the release time. If the director is an administrative position, we could project a minimum annual salary in the $75,000 to $85,000 range.
The GSCC also recommends that at least one support staff member be available for the director, and projected salary expenses for an administrative assistant would be in the $50,000 to $60,000 range.5
Finally, the GSCC recommends that the University provide funding for faculty development for faculty engaged with the General Education program in the classroom and on the various committees that administer the program. Curriculum development, assessment training, pedagogical innovation are vital elements of the new program and we believe faculty should be both encouraged and rewarded for working to improve the General Education experience for our students. While we expect that at least some of these initiatives will be grant funded (see the discussion of director’s responsibilities below), the University should be prepared and willing to supplement and support these development activities. A viable model for projecting those costs would be the 1 credit and .5 credit bonuses provided to faculty members who taught in early versions of the Project 100 Program, (now First Year Experience Program). Since 2008, the FYEP program has had between 75-85 faculty members teaching for it, and a half credit stipend on average would be $600, or $48,000/semester.6 That number would increase depending on the size of the stipend and the number of faculty in the program, but it provides a reasonable benchmark.
The expenses listed above are not included in the budget projections presented in Appendix 3.
Assessment for the program will be the responsibility of the General Education Assessment Committee (GEAC, described in more detail below). The program is designed to support the University Wide Student Learning Goals adopted by the University Senate (see Appendix 2) and each course in the program is required to address two (2) of the student learning goals. The GSCC recommends that course proposals and course syllabi should indicate the learning goals being addressed and identify both assessment instruments and assessment criteria being used. Individual faculty members are not responsible for programmatic assessment within the confines of their individual course; however, faculty members assigned to each course will be required to provide data that can be used for programmatic assessment.
During the development of this proposal, a working group on assessment met and researched assessment design, assessment rubrics, and assessment protocol, and issues related to programmatic assessment have been discussed and considered throughout the construction phase of the proposal. Specific guidelines for programmatic assessment will be developed by the GEAC and distributed subsequent to the adoption and prior to implementation of this proposal. The GSCC would recommend that the GEAC begin by reviewing the AAC&U VALUE rubrics as the basis for programmatic assessment.
The following Assessment Plan was approved by the University Senate on May 5, 2014:
General Education Assessment Plan
The purpose of programmatic assessment in the General Education program is to determine how well the program enables students to meet the six University-wide learning goals; and to provide the University community with data to inform recommendations for potential curricular revisions and instructional improvements to enhance student learning.
All faculty teaching General Education courses will be expected to assign to their students, and make available for collection by the General Education Assessment Committee (GEAC), signature assignments that demonstrate the skills associated with the respective University-wide learning goals. For example, in courses in which critical thinking is addressed, signature assignments that require students to demonstrate critical thinking will be collected; in courses in which quantitative literacy is addressed, signature assignments that require students to demonstrate quantitative literacy will be collected; and so on for all six learning outcomes.
All signature assignments will be collected in all General Education courses. However, not all collected assignments will be scored every year. Rather, a statistically appropriate sample of the collected assignments will be selected for scoring to minimize labor and program costs without sacrificing assessment data quality.
Every academic year, the GEAC will train representative groups of faculty (assessment teams) to assess student work for the purpose of programmatic assessment. Each assessment team will include representatives from across the modes, and each team will be trained to assess specific learning goals. Faculty trained in assessing student work will score the selected signature assignments using GEEC-approved VALUE Rubrics. The GEAC will keep an archive of collected signature assignments and maintain a database of the results of all programmatic assessment efforts.
In the first year of the program, signature assignments that address all six University-wide student learning goals will be scored to establish baseline scores and ensure the availability of initial assessment data for all six learning goals. This will facilitate informed decision-making about how to proceed in the second year. For example, the data collected on all six learning goals will reveal which, if any, of the learning goals most urgently requires curricular or instructional intervention, and whether any revision (or replacement) of the approved assessment instruments is required.
This assessment plan will be revisited by the GEAC in the second year to determine whether all six learning goals should be assessed in subsequent years, or whether a more focused annual assessment cycle should begin, according to which fewer than six learning goals will be assessed each year. The GEAC will present its recommendations to the GEEC; and the GEEC will make recommendations to the University Senate for approval.
In addition to the data collection and analysis described above, a longitudinal study will be undertaken, in which a cohort of students who enter the program in a given year will be followed through their completion of the capstone course. Their work will be analyzed separately from the other data maintained by the GEAC.
The GEAC will present its findings to the GEEC, the University Senate, and the NJCU community on an annual basis. Its findings will inform recommendations for General Education “closing-the-loop” activities, curricular revision, and instructional improvements.
Transition from Old to New Program
Students who enrolled at the University prior to the adoption of this new program will have the option of fulfilling their General Education requirements in either the old or the new program. The completion guidelines for the current program will continue to be observed. Students who are not in compliance with this practice will have their transcripts evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Students who enroll after the adoption of this new program will be required to follow the new program.
The new program should be launched by the start of the most feasible academic year possible following adoption by the University Senate and the Senate-Administration Coordinating Committee. The committees that comprise the administrative elements of the program (described below) should be convened as quickly as possible following Senate Administration Coordinating Committee (SACC) approval. The search for the General Education Director (described below) should begin as soon as possible following SACC approval. While the search for the director is ongoing, the University should appoint an Interim Director as soon as possible following adoption by the Senate and SACC.
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