The Journal of General Education 49.3 (2000) iv-v
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Associate editor's Note
Elizabeth A. Jones
Faculty, staff, and administrators are making changes in their general education programs. These revisions sometimes occur at the margins or borders with individual faculty reforming their own courses. While this type of change is important, it is less likely to have a major cumulative effect on student learning over time. At the other end of the spectrum, faculty are transforming their entire general education program with the expectation that students will be stronger learners. In our first article, "Tensions and Models in General Education Planning," Robert R. Newton provides a strong overview of three different planning models that faculty may adopt as they consider making changes. Some faculty may choose the "Great Books Model" by requiring students to read the classics of Western culture and thereby maintain the importance of the canon. Other faculty may believe the "Scholarly Discipline Model" is most useful and focus their planning efforts on providing all undergraduates with an introduction to diverse disciplines. Finally, some faculty may value the "Effective Citizen Model" and build a curriculum that is focused on the issues and problems that college graduates will encounter in the real world. Newton concisely develops a strong framework articulating the differences in perspectives associated with each model. Faculty who are thinking about changing their general education programs will find that this article provides a thorough review of potential models that could be adopted.
Once faculty and staff implement their plans for major reforms in general education, it is critical to assess whether students are reaching new expectations for their learning. Trudy Bers, in her article "Assessing the Achievement of General Education Objectives: A College-Wide Approach," provides an excellent overview of how faculty at a community college developed their own local assessments. Faculty across the college were invited to be readers of student written work. They received formal training from an external consultant on primary trait scoring and developing rubrics. Faculty decided to use three different prompts that consisted [End Page iv] of real world issues where students wrote their responses to each problem. One rubric was used to assess abilities to distinguish theory from opinion, to evaluate supporting evidence, and to evaluate hypotheses about human behavior. The second rubric was designed to assess communication skills including using language correctly and writing competently. Faculty have found this assessment process to be meaningful in learning more about student performance across different disciplines.
The final article in this quarterly issue, "Intentional Learning: The Need for Explicit Informed Consent in Higher Education," is a position statement where the author, R. J. Connelly, asserts that undergraduates need to learn about informed consent in order to develop as critical learners who will be able to make informed decisions. "The goals of informed consent are self-determination and rational decision making" (p. 211). Connelly calls for faculty to assume the responsibility for educating students about the meaning of informed consent and to portray it in practice. He describes how this concept can be used as a tool both in the classroom and in the institution's culture.
We end this quarterly issue with two book reviews. Kenneth W. Borland Jr. assesses Student Development in College: Theory, Research, and Practice. His essay is followed by Ana M. Martínez Alemán's evaluation of Higher Education Leadership: Analyzing the Gender Gap.
We hope that you will find these articles to be useful and meaningful as you and your colleagues reflect upon your own general education programs.
Correction: In issue 49.2, the article "Building Study Skills in a College Mathematics Classroom" should have been attributed to Yoram Sagher, M. Vali Siadat, and Linda Serra Hagedorn.