- Editor's Note
Numerous faculty members carefully evaluate and assess their general education reforms. Despite projects that assess general education, Ikenberry (2011) asserts that "the connection linking scholarship and decision making on campuses and by policy makers is not strong" (p. 2). The first article in this quarterly issue represents a formal research study to investigate if faculty members view assessment as a scholarly activity. Wang and Hurley, in their article "Assessment as a Scholarly Activity," surveyed faculty at a liberal arts college in the Midwest. They found that rather than time being a major barrier to faculty participating in assessment, lack of motivation was the significant reason faculty did not get involved with assessment. Another major result is that faculty were more likely to participate in assessment if they viewed it as a scholarly activity. The implication from this research study is that faculty may be more motivated to engage in assessment if they value and perceive opportunities to present the results from their assessment work in such forums as conferences or publish articles in journals or books. In addition, such scholarly activities add to the overarching knowledge about what works best in assessing general education and may provide important information to administrators and faculty who want to revise their own assessment plans.
The next two articles in this issue focus directly on the implementation of general education reforms. Hachtmann studies the change process for general education at a major research university in the article "The Process of General Education Reform from a Faculty Perspective: A Grounded Theory Approach." Through a qualitative study, this researcher found that there are major phases of change, including calling for change, appointing the committee, designing the program, and implementing the program. A series of propositions are grounded in the data collected from this study. Hachtmann reports that faculty buy-in influences the phases of reform. Faculty who teach mainly undergraduate courses and are tenured tend to buy into the reform process more than instructors who teach mainly graduate courses or who are not tenured. Also, if faculty view the new general education program as an improvement from [End Page vii] the previous program, then they are more likely to buy into the process. The in-depth discussion of these recommendations may help others who are seeking to reform their own general education programs.
The next reform article focuses on a quantitative study to investigate the impact of a two-semester-long learning community on first-year students at a research university. Bliss, Webb, and St. Andre report the major findings in their article "The Impact of the University of Utah's LEAP Program on Student Performance." They find that there is a statistically significant association between student participation in the learning community and academic performance as measured by first-to-second year retention, first and second semester grade point average, and time to graduation. Female students who participated in the learning community improved their performance and benefited more than did the male students. Some colleges and universities face challenges in retaining their students over time, and as this study suggests, a learning community can make a difference in engaging students, who may become more committed to fulfilling their academic goals.
Six different book reviews are included in this issue. Jan Cook reviews the book Managing Technology in Higher Education. Brian Caughie evaluates the book Transformational Teaching in the Information Age. Leatrice Malec reviews Transforming Professional Development into Student Achievement. Carol Luongo critiques the book Women and Educational Leadership. Shawn Mark evaluates the book Learning from Lincoln: Leadership Practices for School Success. And Donna Tortu-Rueter reviews the book District Leadership that Works: Striking the Right Balance.
We hope that you find these articles and book reviews to be helpful as you reflect upon your own general education programs.