General Education and Assessment 2017: Conference Highlights

AAC&U invites you to join with colleagues to explore how higher education can address these issues by designing, implementing, and evaluating high-quality general education pathways that are effective for all students, and how all campus educators are being supported and rewarded for innovative work to prepare today’s students for active participation in our nation’s democracy and success in an ever-changing global society.

Thursday, February 23, 2:00 – 3:15 p.m. 

Opening Plenary

Using Design Thinking to Empower Learners and Learning

Helen L. Chen, Senior Researcher, Designing Education Lab, Stanford University; and Lisa Grocott, Professor of Design, Monash University (Australia). 

Whether conceiving of assignments that promote student agency or signature work projects that integrate a breadth of learning outcomes, a design thinking orientation offers a framework for navigating the shifts in contemporary discussions around general education. Our shared goal is not only to design transformative learning experiences that change how students think, act, and feel when engaging in high-impact practices or grappling with unscripted problems, but also to encourage creativity and experimentation in how institutions capture, assess, represent, and communicate student learning. Participants will be invited to interactively explore how design thinking strategies can inform innovation and empower students and campus educators.

Thursday, February 23, 4:30 – 6:00 p.m.

Poster Sessions and Reception

Friday, February 24, 8:30 – 9:30 a.m.

Plenary II 

Using the Learning Sciences to Enhance Student Proficiency, Agency, and Equity 

Peter Doolittle, Assistant Provost for Teaching and Learning, Virginia Tech

How do we build formal and informal instructional environments that proactively support all students in their learning? In this endeavor, it is important to keep in mind that students are simultaneously individual and social agents, striving to develop awareness and control of their own learning, lives, and selves. General education can play a critical role in this development through the implementation of inclusive pedagogies that emphasize engaged, embedded, and personally relevant deep and flexible learning. Dr. Doolittle will discuss the science of cognitive, social, behavioral, and affective learning as the basis of developing and implementing agile pedagogies for the purposes of promoting and cultivating student learning, agency, and equity. 

Friday, February 24, 2:15 – 3:15 p.m. 

Plenary III

Bringing it All Together for Enhanced Student Learning 

Natasha Jankowski, Associate Director, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment and Research Assistant Professor, Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership, University of Illinois 

Building upon an integrative, coherent, and scaffolded general education program with multiple points for practicing authentic student learning and signature work, this plenary will explore how we can build upon the principles of design and alignment of learning experiences to create an intentional  learning environment in which all students succeed. Bringing to the forefront the role of assessment and high-impact practices, and pulling from the work of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), participants will explore how we can bring it all together with our students at the center.

Saturday, February 25, 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. 

Culminating Plenary

Design Thinking for Integrative Assessment of Higher-Order Learning—How Can I Do It?​ 

Catherine Wehlburg, Associate Provost for Institutional Effectiveness, Texas Christian University​ 

General education is so much more than a checklist. Although students are often encouraged to think of these requirements as only things to “get out of the way,” a strong general education program is essential to a liberal education. But how will we assess it? How can we design an assessment plan when not all students will take the same courses or learn the same things? In higher education, we value what we measure, so we must make sure that measurements are really focused on what we care about. Retention is important—but it does not tell us what students have learned. A transcript is very helpful in some ways, but traditional transcripts don’t show what knowledge or skills have been gained. In this session, Dr. Wehlburg will discuss assessment designs that have and have not worked; how design thinking in a general education assessment plan can result in higher-order learning for all students; and how assessment results can provide valuable information to the design process.