What I’ve learned thus far

Please, fellow seminarians, read this and tell me if I have any misinformation here.

Here are some of the things I have learned from attending the University Seminar on General Education:

–Gardner plans to convene a committee, whose members haven’t been named publicly, to review all proposals for new tier II gen ed courses. They may require instructors fill out a form, write a few paragraphs describing the course, and/or meet the committee in person.

–They want the first of these newly proposed courses to be taught in spring 2016.

–The only successful gen ed course proposals will be ones that convince the committee the instructor will promote “integrative thinking through digital fluency.”

–The committee has no stated criteria for courses other than that. Gardner characterizes what they’re looking for as something they will “know when they see it.”

–This subjective approach was underscored by three visitors to yesterday’s seminar meeting, including Scott Oates, who declared in no uncertain terms that the learning outcomes for general education at VCU are uncharted territory and cannot be defined at this stage.

–GC’s committee has the power to recommend any course be given or denied tier II status. Approved courses will be appended with a course attribute designating them part of the core curriculum. That attribute is valid for only one section for one semester (see James Wiznerowicz’s clarification of the approval process in his long reply to my post on this blog dated June 3.

–The attribute ensures that a student who took that section that semester will earn gen ed credit that lasts for her/his college career, regardless of whether the course is deemed worthy of gen ed status in subsequent semesters.

–Gardner’s goal is to make 75% of all tier II courses emphasize integrative thinking through digital fluency by 2019 (halfway to the next QEP deadline).

–All courses currently designated as having tier II status will remain in tier II, regardless of their emphasis on integrative thinking or digital fluency.

I will add more after having some caffeine. But I hope to have some members confirm or correct the information I’ve gathered here thus far.

6 thoughts on “What I’ve learned thus far”

  1. Kate- I appreciate your effort to reduce ambiguity. That is the general impression I got. I am concerned that: (1) we will produce very few Tier 2 classes when we already don’t have enough; (2) we favor form (digital and integrated learning) over substance to the detriment of our students with a sacrifice to core competencies, and (3) the burdens are inequitably distributed.

  2. Kate – thanks for the summary. I am going to work on my blog this morning and maybe it will add something to your take on matters – but like you the caffeine must kick in for my brain to do its work…as a sub-thought the next time this USGE happens more time to digest our discussions before blogging would be most appreciated. I simply cannot stay up late into the night processing and then write coherently.

    1. Kate,

      Your summary is very helpful and reflects what we know at this point. However, the Implementation Committee of the Gen-Ed Task Force, which I am on, has not really done anything yet. The procedures and criteria for approving new Tier II courses have not yet been defined. As far as I know, there are no immediate plans to dis-approve existing Tier II courses. I will certainly oppose such plans since I am teaching a Tier II course that will be very difficult to teach according to the suggested paradigm.

      Quality Enhancement requires us to try new things and be open to the possibility of failure. It has gotten a bad reputation because some the things that were “tried” in the past were actually irreversible so that failure was not an option. My impression of the new QEP is that failure is definitely an option. If there are no really successful courses that adopt the proposed emphasis, then someone will have the job of explaining that to SACS. If that explanation reflects what actually happened, we will be OK.

      I am hopeful that there will, in any event, be some gains from attempting to incorporate integrative thinking through digital fluency in our teaching, even if the overall effort fails to meet our aspirational goals.

      Bob G.

      1. Thank you, Bob. This is a seasoned, thoughtful, perfectly reasonable perspective, which characterizes all the work you did in the seminar last week. I’m so glad to have gotten the chance to work together.

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