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The Journal of General Education 52.4 (2003) vii-ix

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Editors' Notes

The goal of this special issue is to share models of assessing the integration of general education outcomes within majors in a variety of institutional contexts. These articles are case studies of individual institutions of higher education. Each institution has developed an innovative process of assessing general education outcomes within major fields of study. The institutions included in this issue were selected because they follow the best principles of good practice in assessment. The profiled projects are outcomes-based and include changes made as a result of assessment data. These projects are beyond the planning stage and have been implemented to varying degrees.

The opening article provides the reader with an overview of the assessment process, as well as its application to general education outcomes. A basic framework for approaching assessment is provided to furnish the format for the remaining articles. This framework includes: (1) the identification of learning outcomes to be assessed, (2) an overview of the assessment process and methods, (3) presentation of assessment results, (4) using assessment results to make improvements, and (5) evaluating the assessment process.

In the next article, authors Christine DeMars, Lynn Cameron, and T. Dary Erwin discuss the role and assessment of information literacy in general education at James Madison University. Faculty first identified information literacy learning outcomes to be assessed. Then reference librarians and assessment specialists designed the Information Seeking Skills Test (ISST), a computer-administered test measuring students' abilities to find and evaluate information. Discussion centers on the evolving assessment instrument, as well as progressive uses of the assessment data to improve student learning.

The 21st Century Learning Outcomes Project at Hocking College focused on assessment and documentation of mastery of general education learning outcomes achieved by each student. In this third article, Bernita Crawford describes three years of planning and progress. She explains the campus-wide initiative to integrate [End Page vii] Success Skills into every academic and co-curricular program at Hocking.

Sharon Hamilton discusses the development of the learning matrix for IUPUI's student electronic portfolio in the fourth article. Based on the University's Principles of Undergraduate Learning, the matrix is intended not only to document and assess both improvement and achievement in discipline-transcendent skills, but also to serve as a catalyst for deeper, more insightful, and more connected learning.

David Greene of North Carolina State University explains a process of assessing general education learning outcomes in the self-designed major. The University's self-designed major applies principles of inquiry-guided learning to construct the major. Faculty in the Division of Multidisciplinary Studies assist students in designing their majors and identifying learning outcomes that correspond with some of the University's general education outcomes. Division faculty developed an assessment procedure that respects the program's emphasis on inquiry-guided learning and aligns with university-wide requirements for program assessment.

The next article, by Anna Lusher, provides a case example of the assessment of general education skills and knowledge in the Business Department at West Liberty State College. Here, the program's faculty identified desired competencies for the program's graduates that include general education skills and degree-specific traits. After these skills and competencies were established, the faculty created a Primary Trait Analysis to assess these specified skills.

The closing article by Donald Shipman, Susan Aloi, and Elizabeth Jones, addresses the challenges inherent in assessing student-learning outcomes. The authors discuss the necessity of acquiring institutional resources, encouraging faculty involvement in assessment, identifying student-learning outcomes, selecting measurement instruments, and using assessment data to make institutional improvements. Suggested resources to assist in overcoming these assessment challenges are also provided.

The examples discussed in this special issue demonstrate a variety of approaches to assessing general education learning outcomes within major disciplines. It is our goal in sharing the assessment [End Page viii] methods developed at these institutions, as well as the lessons learned in the process, to promote campus-wide dialogues on the potentiality of assessing general education outcomes through the...


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