2009 Focus Group - Personal and Social Responsibility Focus Group
The focus group leader, Jane Reid, noted that the very different goals used for this domain suggest that two different groups would have worked better.
Some questions from the original questionnaire weren't used because the responses were integrated in earlier discussion. Below are the specific questions they answered and brief summary of the original report.
General Impressions of General-Education Requirements (GER)
What are the benefits of general-education requirements in preparing YSU students to be productive and responsible citizens?
Students bring to YSU assumptions and values that they haven't examined. Done well, general-education classes introduce students to different ways to look at the world and how to listen and learn from others who may not look or think like they do. The faculty noted that since they teach very large sections, teaching critical thinking is difficult, but they tried various ways to "spark" students' independent thinking and inquiry.
What are the challenges of the GER in preparing YSU students to be productive and responsible citizens?
Students feel entitled to their degrees and grades just for appearing in class. Students expect to be allowed to miss class, assignments, and tests without damaging their grades. The faculty felt that they're performing, not simply teaching, to get students to pay attention. The PS teachers discussed not providing too much information on WebCT or via such communication systems as Twitter.
They felt that the entire GER needs work to engage students' interest and attention. Students need an orientation course (Liberal Studies 100) that prepares them to be intellectually engaged, so they know that they're not at a trade school but at a university, at which they will be exposed to various subjects and approaches. One person suggested that new faculty also need to be introduced to the GER so they can better understand that their courses are part of a program and have specific GER learning outcomes.
Specific Questions about Personal and Social Responsibility Courses
YSU students should demonstrate an understanding of the importance of ethical reflection and moral reasoning. How well do you think the courses that you teach help students to do so?
It works. The faculty say that they pose problems, teaching students to gather and evaluate evidence and to present arguments based on evidence.
YSU students should demonstrate an understanding of the relationships among physical, mental, and emotional well-being and the quality of life of the individual, the family, and the community. How well do you think the courses that you teach help students to do so?
The question elicited course-specific examples of all kinds: developmental psychology, obesity, general health problems, and so on. Most seemed to begin with students' assumptions about health and wellness and began presenting data and evidence and asking questions.
What challenges are you facing in the courses that you teach to meet the learning outcomes of the two main learning outcomes just discussed and combining them with another goal from three to twelve?
Most courses address aspects of diversity; others hit some of the other ancillary goals. It's hard to generalize.
The GER committee realizes that a course-by-course assessment of learning for courses identified as personal and social responsibility is not providing them with the kind of information that they need to assess learning.
They were not sure why students' successful completion of the courses didn't count as assessment. This group felt that the current GER is better than the old anything-goes version, but they weren't sure how to assess it--perhaps a pre- and post-test of some sort?
Are there any general comments that you would like to share with the GEC?
They felt that the "new" domains seemed to lose entire areas of studies, such as the humanities, and that they have odd names. It's not clear what is expected of a successful GER program. They were concerned that GER is getting reduced to skills, such as writing and speaking, with little attention to liberal arts. While they were concerned that revising the current GER would lead to huge battles on campus, they think it needs to be changed.
And assessment is a huge problem.