General Education Council seeks program revision

A proposal by the Shippensburg University General Education Council could result in a drop in the amount of general education credits a student is required to take to graduate.

Currently, students are required to take 48 credits in general education courses. The proposal is looking to reduce the number of credits from 48 to 45, or possibly 42, according to SU General Education Faculty Co-Chair Scott Drzyzga.

The potential changes in the program are the first the university has seen in years. SU has not changed its General Education Program since 1985, and is the only university in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) to not reform its program since 2000, according to Drzyzga. The current proposal has been in the works since 2009.

“The current system from PASSHE requires universities to have students take no less than 40 credits and no more than 48 credits in general education courses,” Drzyzga said.

At this time, students are required to take a minimum of 48 credits, which in August 2018 will not fit the standard set by PASSHE, which requires that students do not exceed 48 general education credits.

The proposal to cut the number of credits required is designed to help students who are required to take a lot of credits to graduate, making it easier for students in majors with higher course loads to graduate, according to Drzyzga.

The proposal could also allow more flexibility in what courses go into a student’s degree, presenting more opportunity for double majors and minors.

“It is a challenge in some majors,” Drzyzga said. “Students in our education programs and some of our sciences have a very difficult time completing all the requirements and graduating with 120 credits.”

Along with the program changing the number of credits students are required to take, the program is also looking at changing how to assess student progress in the general education program. SU will be required to start assessing student learning in its general education program to maintain its regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), according to Drzyzga.

“When we tried to assess how our students were doing in the mid-2000s, we learned that our courses are working, but that there are a lot of gaps and holes that aren’t working,” Drzyzga said.

The problem stems from an inability to see what students are getting out of the program as a whole, not in individual courses, Drzyzga said.

According to Drzyzga, the council wants to communicate to students and parents that students will develop foundations, see and recognize how the they are connected, how they fit in culture, how the natural world works, where they fit in society as well as developing creativity in a general education program.

The plan hopes to be able to assess student progress in the different course options so that the goals of the program are clear to incoming students and their parents, so students can know what they are getting out of the general education program, Drzyzga said.

The assessments the program is considering to determine each student is reaching those objectives could either come in test form, or in an embedded system, according to Drzyzga.

The embedded system however, presents more challenges.

Embedded assessment could be anything from an assignment or questions on an exam that are part of what you normally do in class, Drzyzga said. It allows examiners to see if you are learning science, gaining an appreciation for art or using critical reasoning apart from the course to compare what is happening in each general education class to make sure students are reaching the same objectives in different courses, according to Drzyzga.

Drzyzga also stressed the importance of student involvement and for students to be aware that the changes are happening. The council has been meeting with Student Government to address the students’ needs, Drzyzga said.

The general education council hopes to have its proposal instituted by the 2018-19 academic year, according to Drzyzga.

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