The Journal of General Education 52.3 (2003) vi-viii
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Associate Editor's Notes
It has been some time and many scholarly conferences and articles since the late 70s, when we first began to look at general education more closely. We have become wiser (and more attentive), despite the fact that in many institutions of higher education, general education still is part of the problem of "the commons," which tells us that which is commonly owned is subject to a lack of close attention. This issue of the Journal of General Education certainly indicates that general education, when considered as seriously as disciplinary teaching, can produce a wealth of information across every aspect of the academic environment. Our contemporary understanding is that educators must have more than content awareness if we are to be effective; we must know about course structures, student abilities, pedagogy, and assessment, as well as have knowledge of the institution's selection of students. This leaves us with a very full plate indeed; however, we are aided and encouraged in this complex work by faculty and administration scholars who have chosen to do scholarly work in all of these areas.
The common curriculum is the subject investigated in "Five Features of Effective Core Courses" by Julie Weissman and Kenneth J. Boning of St Louis University. They open with the fact that in the fall of 2000, St. Louis University began offering a set of general education core requirements and included an evaluation of objectives with the program. This evaluation provided large amounts of valuable information; what Weissman and Boning discuss specifically in their article are the "[f]ive features of the teaching and learning environment" that "emerged" as the new program was carried out. Their qualitative study covers the creation of community and collaborative learning, students' ownership of learning, interdisciplinary and "real world" connections, evaluation, and course design to facilitate disciplinary learning. The article also briefly discusses the way the program itself was developed and integrated into the overall University curriculum. The program has received much attention, resulting in broad campus distribution of information through internal reports and meetings, as well as national notice through publication and participation in conferences. [End Page vi]
Specific types of pedagogy are the subjects of an article by Anthony A. Olorunnisola et al. entitled "Case Study Effectiveness in a Team-Teaching and General Education Environment," this article looks at " worth and effectiveness" in a particular capstone communication course and general education course. A particularly useful aspect of this article is the authors' attention to the several innovative teaching strategies they make use of, among them the case study method and team teaching. The article also includes survey results concerning student satisfaction, implications, and suggestions for future research. Readers interested in large class teaching, case studies, and team teaching will find much information here.
Along with developing greater understanding of curriculum structure and pedagogy, faculty in higher education have been eager for more information about students' ability to perform effectively and how their performance might be enhanced. Robert L. Williams and Susan L. Stockdale attend to the critical thinking skills of a particular group of students in their article, "High-Performing Students with Low Critical Thinking Skills." They note that research has indicated that low critical thinking students have two areas of difficulty - they make poorer grades than their higher critical thinking peers and they are "less likely to improve their critical thinking." However, the authors also find that some students who are low critical thinkers do make high grades. The focus of the article is their investigation of four questions: how low critical thinkers manage high grades; whether they find ways to compensate; whether they improve their critical thinking skills; and/or whether they take an alternate route to high grades.
The study examines a number of credit variables and a variety of support techniques in two groups of students taking an undergraduate Human Development course, required as teacher preparation. From their quantitative study, the authors find several implications. Students with low critical thinking abilities and low performance also have "work-habit deficiencies...