General Education Survey, 2009

General Education Survey, Spring 2009

Introduction

The survey was straightforward: It included questions about each domain and the general-education learning outcomes, and it invited comments. This survey provided preliminary data; the general-education committee (GEC) will use it to guide upcoming surveys and focus groups. Information gathered in this way is subjective and in many ways unscientific. Any conclusions have to be supported by other research or data to be credible.

Areas for Further Study

  • The survey suggests that while writing is highly valued, most feel that freshman composition is not working well. Is it, in fact, not working? And if so, how might YSU improve foundational writing instruction?
  • Many respondents do not know what's happening in general education across campus or in their own departments. After being in place for ten years, the GER seem mysterious to many respondents. What problems are caused by this lack of knowledge? How do we address the problems?
  • What do we do with selected topics? As a domain, it is impossible to assess, and it has few options for students.
  • In some cases, survey respondents asserted something that is not accurate; they believe some things about the GER that are not correct.

Demographics of Participants

  • Of the 110 participants, 60.8% were full-time faculty members; 21% were part-time faculty members; 16.6% were academic administrators, including deans; and 1.7% were advisors. Considering that YSU has more than 400 full-time faculty members, several hundred part-time faculty members, and dozens of academic administrators and advisors, this response rate is not good. All results have to be taken as preliminary at best, providing guidance for further questions and research.
  • The ranks were pretty evenly distributed: 28.7% instructors (both full and part-time), 21.3% assistant professors, 19.9% associate professors, and 30.1% full professors.
  • Years in rank were also distributed: 25.1% five years or less, 21.2% six to ten years, 17.3% eleven to fifteen years, 11.2% sixteen to twenty years, and 25.1% more than twenty years.

Summary of Survey Data

The following is a summary of the survey results. If you wish to review the entire survey, please contact Julia Gergits at jmgergits@ysu.edu or (330) 941-2983.

Writing

  • 97.5% of respondents agree or strongly agree that YSU students must write effectively upon graduation. A high percentage "strongly agree" with this assertion (83%).
  • Whether they do so is not so clear: nearly 40% were unsure, and the other responses were nearly equally distributed on both side s.
  • Faculty think that their departments offer sufficient writing instruction in their programs (YSU requires two writing-intensive courses in addition to the freshman composition courses, and writing is required in all senior capstones), and they feel that they and their colleagues are comfortable teaching it.
  • Many are unsure whether the writing-intensive requirement should remain as it is.
  • More than 80% of the respondents think that YSU students have difficulties with grammar and other mechanical errors.
  • Most (68%) believe that freshman composition should prepare students to write in their majors; few (13%) think that they do so. Including the "unsure" respondents, nearly 87% have serious questions about the efficacy of freshman composition, and with 41% unsure, another 38% think the courses should be changed (only 21% think it should remain the same). It looks as if changes are warranted, although more data are needed to know what kind of changes.

Speaking

  • Nearly 95% of the respondents believe that effective speaking is important for YSU students.
  • Although 32% are unsure whether YSU students succeed at fulfilling this goal, about half think they do. Only 20% think they don't.
  • About half think that their departments offer enough speaking instruction, and 67% think their colleagues are comfortable teaching speaking.
  • Many are unsure whether the oral-intensive requirement should remain as it is (one required course) .
  • Nearly half are unsure whether Communication Studies 1545 should remain as it is , although half think that the course fulfills its goals (only 15% think it doesn't). The committee will have to find out more information to determine what's happening in this outcome.

Critical Thinking

  • 98% believe critical thinking is essential to the success of any YSU student.
  • While 35% think graduates are capable of critical thinking upon graduation, 41% are not sure.
  • Most felt that their departments handle critical thinking effectively in their programs; they are also sure that their colleagues are comfortable addressing critical thinking.
  • While 32% are unsure, nearly 50% think this requirement should remain as it is. This goal seems to fit well with departments' overall disciplinary goals in general.

Mathematics

  • Approximately 93% of respondents believe that students need to know how to use mathematics to function upon graduation.
  • For 77%, it is essential.
  • Nearly 50% are unsure whether YSU students achieve this goal.
  • Approximately 60% of the respondents say that their departments integrate mathematics into their curriculum.
  • 62% are unsure whether Mathematics 2623 (Survey of Mathematics) is successful; half of the respondents are unsure whether the mathematics requirement should remain as it is.

Natural Science (NS)

  • 83% believe that YSU graduates need to have a basic understanding of science to function professionally, and the same percentage believe that understanding science is essential to being well-educated.
  • While approximately 40% believe YSU students achieve that goal, 45% are unsure.
  • 82% say that understanding the scientific method is important to their students.
  • 42% specify which natural science courses their students take.
  • A high percentage (59%) do not know whether YSU students gain an understanding of the natural environment.
  • Responses were nearly evenly split on including natural science courses into the curriculum (including 20% that didn't know if it's being done in their departments).
  • Slightly more than half are unsure whether the requirement should remain as it is.

Artistic and Literary Perspectives (AL)

  • 78% believe that artistic and literary perspectives are important professionally to YSU graduates.
  • A higher percentage, 86%, believe that artistic and literary perspectives are important to students' becoming well-educated people.
  • Half of the respondents do not know whether this goal is achieved; slightly more respondents think it is achieved than think it is not.
  • About 30% say that it is important to their students' discipline; few departments require specific A&L courses
  • About half do not know whether the requirement should stay as it is; about 28% think it should remain as it is.

Societies and Institutions (SI)

  • Nearly 90% believe that YSU students need a basic understanding of societies and institutions to function professionally, and more than 90% believe knowledge of SI is essential to being a well-educated person.
  • While SI is important to disciplines (78%), about half are not sure whether this goal is met.
  • Some departments require specific SI courses, but many of the respondents were not sure about the requirements.
  • 57% did not know whether the requirement should remain as it is. More thought it should (28%) than that it should not (15%). As with the other domains, the dominant response is "unsure," which indicates either that the questions are not clear or that respondents are not familiar with the GER and how it works.

Personal and Social Responsibility (PS)

  • 93% believe that students need a basic understanding of personal and social responsibilities to function when they graduate. Slightly more (95%) believe that PS is essential to their students' becoming well-educated people, and 85% say that PS is important to their disciplines.
  • As with most of the domains, nearly half are not sure whether this goal is achieved.
  • 56% do not know whether the requirement should stay as it is. The survey comments and previous GEC discussions have touched on structural problems in the GER model itself related to this domain that require attention.

Selected Topics (ST)

  • 57% think that having such an unstructured option in the GER is useful; interestingly, only 27% said that their departments specify which course to take (students can take an additional NS, SI, or AL course in place of ST, and, despite respondents' response, many departments, such as engineering programs and education, specify which one).
  • This domain gathered more "unsure" responses for each question than the others; in each question, "not sure" had the highest response rate.
  • No comments were submitted for this domain; more work needs to be done to determine the relevance of this domain.

Capstones

  • A high percentage (59%) strongly agree and another 26% agree that their department includes a capstone that includes discipline-specific research.
  • 78% say that their capstone includes writing; another 15% are not sure. Capstones are required to include writing and revision.
  • 78% also say that their capstones include a professional presentation.
  • Slightly more than half include collaborative work.
  • 84% include critical thinking, another requirement for capstones.
  • About 67% say that students do well in their capstone courses.
  • Although 31% were not sure whether capstones should remain in the GER, 63% thought it should, the highest positive response rate in the survey.

Individual GER Learning Outcomes

For each of the learning outcomes (listed below), the most frequent response to "Please indicate how likely you think it is that YSU students have achieved the . . . goals" was "somewhat likely"--at or near 50% for nearly all of them; the second most common response was "high likelihood." Goal 11 had slightly more negative responses around the middle "somewhat likely." Given the different responses to the writing and critical-thinking domains, for instance, one might anticipate more variation.

  1. Students will demonstrate the ability to write and speak effectively.
  2. Students will demonstrate the ability to acquire, process and present large amounts of qualitative information using the most appropriate technologies.
  3. Students will demonstrate the ability to reason critically to distinguish among forms of argumentation and to derive justified conclusions.
  4. Students will demonstrate an understanding of the importance of ethical reflection and moral reasoning.
  5. Students will demonstrate an understanding of the use of mathematics for problem-solving and decision-making.
  6. Students will demonstrate an understanding of the scientific method.
  7. Students will demonstrate an understanding of the interrelationships among science, technology, and society.
  8. Students will demonstrate an understanding of artistic expression in multiple forms and contexts.
  9. Students will demonstrate an understanding of the relationships between physical, mental, and emotional well-being and the quality of life of the individual, the family, and the community.
  10. Students will demonstrate an understanding of the development of cultures and organization of human societies throughout the world and their changing interrelationships with Western Society.
  11. Students will demonstrate an understanding of the organization of and theories behind legal, governmental, and social systems as well as economic markets.
  12. Students will demonstrate an understanding of diversity in America in all of its forms.
  13. Students will demonstrate an understanding of the natural environment and the processes that shape it.