- Associate Editor's Note
In this issue of the Journal of General Education, we continue our discussion about institutional change as it relates to general education. At this point, a sufficient number of institutions of higher education have worked seriously with reform in their general education curricula for us to begin to see results as well as serious, ongoing problem areas. Many of the institutions are beginning to assess both the reform and the process, but in addition, independent scholars also are examining what happens when a college or university goes the route of general education change.
Two such studies are included in this volume of JGE. The first concerns Portland State University, which recently has celebrated the tenth anniversary of its reform in general education. The second concerns change "at Western Protestant University, a pseudonym for a religiously affiliated liberal arts college in the western United States." While the authors approach their texts quite differently, both clearly show that the study of change in general education is scholarly work. Our third article takes the problem of disciplinary differences—a source of trouble noted by the authors of the first two articles—and argues for a common set of guidelines in assessment.
Mary Kathryn Tetreault and Terrel Rhodes analyze the change process at Portland State University in "Institutional Change as Scholarly Work: General Education Reform at Portland State University." Neither was at the institution at the time of reform, and both "were drawn" by the reformed curriculum. After briefly discussing the change, the authors apply Catherine Stimpson's questions about higher education at the institutional, epistemological, and personal and relational levels to the reform. By using this multilevel framework, they are able to show how effectively PSU has achieved its goals and also describe the underlying causes for disagreement among faculty members about the reform. In doing so, the authors effectively attribute a major source of tension to disciplinary differences in approach within the disciplines to the questions they ask about the knower and the known.
A theory of the organizational change process is used by Greg Dubrow of Florida International University in "Collegiality and [End Page vii] Culture: General Education Curriculum Reform at Western Protestant University." WPU is the title used for an anonymous, religiously affiliated university recently studied by Dubrow. His focus is institutional culture and its effect on curricular change because, as he states, "[t]he most well-meaning general education reform can be derailed if the people charged with carrying out that reform do not pay attention to the cultural markers around them." Dubrow cites a number of sources concerning both general and more specific higher education change theory that will be of interest to JGE readers who wonder why general education change has been so slow. He notes that analysis identifies faculty work, student life, and institutional type as primary areas of cultural study in institutions of higher education, but notes that two qualities in academic life also are unique: creativity and autonomy. His findings at WPU show deep divisions among faculty depending upon discipline, a widely different sense of need among stakeholders, and serious problems with timing.
Of course, any evaluation of change in education involves assessment. Douglas J. Eder has identified guidelines for assessment within disciplines for general education purposes. His article, "General Education Assessment Within the Disciplines," clearly and carefully explains a process that can be used within any discipline, but begins by giving readers an overview of a critical problem in general education: "The resulting department-based structures [of culture and ways of knowing] serve the disciplines well, but they exhibit the Tragedy of the Commons when encountering an issue that involves them all: providing general education." The article suggests how an element of general education unity can be brought to the various disciplines through assessment methods.
This issue includes an extensive and excellent review of Bernice W. Kliman's edited book, Approaches to Teaching Shakespeare's "Hamlet," by Sharon A. Beehler. Beehler's review (which includes comment on many but not all of the chapters of Kliman's work) will be particularly useful to faculty who may teach this well-known play because, as Beehler notes, the book...