Assessment Report 1997 Appendix E

1997 Annual Report

University of Nebraska–Lincoln
April 1998

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Appendix E
Integrative Studies Component of the Comprehensive Education Program
Spring, 1997

No academic program can long sustain vitality without ongoing, thoughtfully controlled evolution and regular assessment. The Comprehensive Education Program was proposed to the UNL faculty in September of 1993, approved by the faculties of nine undergraduate colleges by the end 1994, and became effective in the fall of 1995. An ambitious multi-phase assessment of CEP is under way, focused heavily this year on the Integrative Studies (IS) component. The opportunity is ripe, then, to re-examine the nature and purpose of the Integrative Studies requirement, both to prepare for assessment of its effectiveness and to provoke an invigorating faculty discussion of IS as it is realized in the classroom.

The UNL General Education Planning Committee chose to state the criteria for IS courses in terms of classroom activities in order to emphasize that the Integrative Studies concept centered on what students might profitably do to develop their intellectual skills. However, true outcomes assessment demands clearly stated learning objectives as a guide for evaluation of the program's effectiveness. You will find below, first, the somewhat expanded description of Integrative Studies that will appear in the 1997-98 Bulletin. The IS criteria originally proposed by the General Education Planning Committee will appear in bold letters. Second will be an elaboration of IS learning objectives in a reformulation that preserves the elements of the CEP proposal but proposes a new organizational pattern to reflect the development of the IS implementation over the last three years.

Bulletin Copy

Integrative Studies is a UNL experience requirement intended to engage students in actively developing their ability and desire to analyze, evaluate and communicate complex material and positions. A student will take ten courses which are taught as Integrative Studies to enhance the following skills:

  • Critical thinking (objective and subjective), through a variety of approaches in which students investigate arguments, engage in research, gather data, perform qualitative and quantitative analysis, and assess conclusions.
  • Writing (formal and informal), on which the instructor comments, used to explore substantial problems in the subject area and report the results of critical and creative thinking.
  • Oral expression in the classroom through discussion, group and individual reports, and other activities that provide students opportunities to share creative work, describe research, or explore important issues. Analysis of controversies concerning the subject matter of the course in which students investigate concepts and hypotheses open to question.
  • Exploration of assumptions underlying beliefs and concepts relevant to course content and of processes for examining those assumptions, so that students understand and establish control over those ideas they bring to their study of the subject matter.
  • Inquiry through course content into the origins, bases and consequences of intellectual bias through which students will understand the particular perspective on the world employed in the academic discipline of the course.
  • Consideration of human diversity appropriate to the subject matter of the course so that students can explore the way in which cultural differences shape conceptions about the subject matter and discern the intellectual and pragmatic effects on human groups of the subject matter and ideas related to it.

To encourage students to develop their intellectual abilities throughout their academic program, at least one course in Integrative Studies must be taken at the 200-level, one at the 300-level and one at the 400-level and no more than three courses are to be taken within a single department.

Learning Objectives

The effort here has been to define in considerable detail the terms used by the General Education Planning Committee for the Integrative Studies criteria both as an aid to faculty members teaching or constructing IS classes and as a step in the creation of an assessment matrix to measure the effect of IS courses on student performance over the years. It should be clear, then, that not every item in the lists below need be (or could be) addressed in every IS class. Rather these definitions as a whole create an ideal picture of the skills of a graduating student after a full UNL education. The organizational scheme within which the objectives are stated is not an attempt to rewrite the IS criteria of the original CEP proposal. It is, instead, one attempt to make clear the connections among those criteria, to some extent in response to the way some UNL colleges have interpreted the criteria. In short, the final four IS criteria have been repositioned as special applications of the critical thinking objectives, leaving critical thinking, writing, and oral expression as the three overall goals of the requirement.

CRITICAL THINKING

  1. Fundamental Skills
    1. The graduate should be able to think globally and openly, rather than narrowly and rigidly;
      - to think in terms of probability and possibility;
      - to perceive multiple variables in a problematic situation and distinguish between the central and the peripheral;
      - to bring personal experience to bear on a problem without confusing the personal with the general;
      - to take into account non-rational responses and insights within the pursuit of rational ends.
    2. The graduate should be able to comprehend the thinking of others;
      - to follow an argumentative discourse, assess its use of evidence, and judge the validity of its conclusions;
      - to recognize irony;
      - to discern the emotional appeal of written, spoken, or graphic communication;
      - to recognize ethical questions within arguments and identify the values reflected in those arguments;
      - to be tolerant of unavoidable ambiguity and tentative conclusions;
      - to be appropriately skeptical of appeals to authority and able to articulate critical opposition;
      - to comprehend mathematical analysis used in support of arguments;
      - to understand graphic representations of data, phenomena, or concepts.
    3. The graduate should be able to conduct a line of inquiry/analysis using logical thinking, direct experimentation, and/or research into primary and secondary sources;
      - to theorize about or calculate the unknown on the basis of the known;
      - to gather data or evidence concerning an object of study in a focused but open-minded manner;
      - to suspend final judgment until sufficient evidence is in place;
      - to attend to the contexts of facts and observations before judging their validity or usefulness;
      - to distinguish between the individual and the general but also see the relationship between them;
      - to solve open-ended problems by identifying issues and framing a central concern.
    4. The graduate should be able to formulate the results and implications of inquiry/analysis; - to develop criteria by which to evaluate results or conclusions;
      - to project the consequences or implications of ideas and hypotheses;
      - to consider and evaluate alternative conclusions;
      - to construct logically valid arguments based on appropriate evidence;
      - to recognize flaws in his/her thinking and rectify them;
      - to use mathematical analyses/concepts to describe or support ideas;
      - to represent data, phenomena, or concepts graphically.
  2. Significant Applications
    1. The graduate should be able to explore assumptions underlying beliefs and concepts relevant to a subject matter and to examine those assumptions critically;
      - to perceive that she/he, like all human beings, brings to the learning process assumptions about the world that color or shape his/her understanding of the subject matter;
      - to understand what those assumptions are and how they differ from others' ways of viewing the subject matter;
      - to consciously adjust his/her assumptions and new learning to one another without doing damage or injustice to either.
    2. The graduate should be willing and able to Inquire into the origins, bases and consequences of intellectual bias;
      - to understand that academic disciplines (and all systems of thought) carry with them assumptions about the world that are often unstated;
      - to demonstrate awareness of the "biases," the lenses through which a particular subject matter is viewed;
      - to see the advantages and limitations of an intellectual bias and its consequences for learning about the subject matter.
    3. The graduate should look for and analyze controversies concerning a subject matter;
      - to demonstrate an awareness that current thinking about a subject matter has not always been the established view;
      - to understand that contemporary views of a subject matter are open to challenge and revision (even those of instructors, textbooks, and research sources);
      - to perceive his/her work with a subject matter as at least a small part of a healthy and ongoing conversation about a subject matter.
    4. The graduate should be able to perceive the relation of human diversity to a subject matter;
      - to understand the biological, national, social, economic, religious, linguistic, and aesthetic factors that define groups of humans, as well as the similarities that link them;
      - to comprehend the advantages and disadvantages of human group-making;
      - to realize that a comparison of cultural traits need not imply the superiority of one over another;
      - to avoid essentialism, the notion that an individual's membership in a cultural or biological group determines the nature of the individual;
      - to see the way in which culture shapes conceptions about the subject matter and the consequences of that shaping;
      - to understand that decision-making is influenced both by rational thinking (e.g. scientific/mathematical analysis) and by cultural biases, assumptions, and values that is by human diversity;
      - to discern the intellectual and pragmatic effects on human groups of the subject matter and ideas related to it.

WRITING

The graduate should be able to use written language effectively:

  • to employ a variety of writing styles for appropriate purposes (expressive, reportorial, analytical, persuasive);
  • to develop a piece of writing from an assigned task or self-generated idea though a series of stages and drafts to a mature and polished text;
  • to understand how the context for written discourse and its intended audience guide the writer's choices in the composition process;
  • to build bridges to the audience, using shared knowledge, experience,and values;
  • to employ with skill and integrity facts, examples, lines of argument, and images to enhance or change the audience's view of the topic; to create a structure that aids the audience's comprehension;
  • to use words in a precise and economical way;
  • to weave data or research results smoothly and clearly into the text;
  • to when appropriate, cite the sources of material used or quoted in a concise and helpful manner;
  • to employ the rules and terminology of the discourse community (i.e. intellectual discipline) to which the writing belongs or contributes;
  • to use the technical resources and structures of language in such a way that the reader is not distracted by or dismayed at infelicities or unintentional lapses from standard usage;
  • to eliminate typographical mistakes, spelling errors, and formatting inconsistencies from the text.

ORAL EXPRESSION

The graduate should be able to speak effectively to and with others:

  • to orally conduct planning, exploration, and problem-solving in a group or team setting;
  • to speak thoughtfully and without undue apprehension to a variety of audiences;
  • to engage in oral argument with confidence but also with respect for others and their viewpoints;
  • to employ sentence structure and diction appropriate to the audience and situation in both prepared and spontaneous oral discourse;
  • to build bridges to the audience, using shared knowledge, experience, and values;
  • to employ with skill and integrity facts, examples, lines of argument, and images to enhance or change the audience's view of the topic.