University Senate Committee on General Education

FIRST YEAR EXPERIENCE PROGRAM COURSE ELEMENTS

CATEGORY I: ACADEMIC SKILLS AND METHODS)
(Minimum of three [3] to be incorporated)

Critical Thinking
Writing
Information Literacy
Primary Research
Oral Communication
Ethics

1. CRITICAL THINKING

Intended Outcomes

"Critical thinking is that mode of thinking - about any subject, content, or problem - in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully taking charge of the structures inherent in thinking and imposing intellectual standards upon them." Students will, therefore, begin to develop the ability to "raise critical questions and problems, gather and assess relevant information, think openmindedly within alternative systems of thought, and communicate effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems".

(Adapted from Defining critical thinking[1], a statement by Michael Scriven & Richard Paul for the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking Instruction)

Guidelines

Should count for a minimum of 10% of the students' final grade. May be combined with other FYE elements.

Implementation

The following ideas are offered as possible examples of assignments and projects across disciplines that encourage/reinforce the concepts and application of critical thinking.

1.      Debate an issue - students or student groups will be assigned opposing viewpoints on issues which require reflective, analytical and logical thinking to support an argument.

2.      Writing assignment - traditional research or response paper formats encourage the development of critical thinking skills and abilities.

3.      Application of a theory, synthesis of several viewpoints - students are required to assimilate appropriate information and produce a coherent analysis.

4.      Hypothesis testing - requires students to understand principles and methodologies and apply them.

5.      Experimentation based on well-established physical laws - requires understanding and application of scientific methods.

6.      Questioning/examining methodologies; compare with conclusions - requires students to question and interact with the processes that produce theories, laws, knowledge.

7.      Methodology and interpretation of results - students will understand and test various scientific and social principles and be able to determine the most appropriate for a given situation.

Assessment

Faculty should establish clear criteria to evaluate student work. For example, using exams, papers, presentations, class discussions, etc. faculty could determine how successfully (e.g., 1-5 scale) students achieved each of the following criteria.

 1.      Ability to understand complex questions and apply appropriate methods of answering.

2.      Ability to demonstrate analytical thinking verbally.

3.      Ability to construct an appropriate argument/solution in writing.

4.      Ability to demonstrate open-mindedness through assimilation of information and reflection.

2. WRITING

 Intended Outcomes

To demonstrate that students have been introduced to writing as a process. Specifically, students should:

        Use writing and reading for inquiry, learning, thinking, and communicating

        Understand a writing assignment as a series of tasks, including finding, evaluating, analyzing, and synthesizing appropriate primary and secondary sources

        Integrate their own ideas with those of others

        Be aware that it usually takes multiple drafts to create and complete a successful text

        Understand the collaborative and social aspects of writing processes

        Use a variety of technologies to address a range of audiences

        Learn common formats for different kinds of texts

        Practice appropriate means of documenting their work

        Control such surface features as syntax, grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

Faculty in all programs and departments can build on this preparation by helping students learn:

        The uses of writing as a critical thinking method

        The interactions among critical thinking, critical reading, and writing

        To build final results in stages

        To apply the technologies commonly used to research and communicate within their fields

        The conventions of usage, specialized vocabulary, format, and documentation in their fields

(Adapted from Writing Program Administrators’ guidelines[2].)

Guidelines

Should count for a minimum of 10% of the students' final grade. Minimum of 8-10 pages of final draft writing. Evidence of sustained informal writing (i.e. journal, web assignments, discussion boards). Evidence of multiple assignments, frequent feedback. May be combined with other FYE elements.

Implementation

Any form of writing assignment that requires application of critical thinking and writing. Examples could include:

1.      Ungraded or informal writing (journal, discussion boards, etc) that reflects the student's development and growth in logical and progressive thinking and writing.

2.      Lab reports, care plans, logs, etc. that require the careful application of complex ideas, standards, and methods.

3.      Traditional paper writing (response, short research, etc.) which reinforces critical thinking concepts and shows growth and development over time. For this reason, several short papers may be preferable to one long research paper

4.      Interviews and transcription, with analysis to underscore the ability to organize and communicate thoughts and ideas clearly and succinctly.

Assessment

Faculty should establish clear criteria to evaluate student work and should provide frequent, iterative feedback with opportunities for revision. For example, using any appropriate assignment (see Implementation above), faculty could determine how successfully (e.g., 1-5 scale) students achieved each of the following criteria.

1.      Ability to express thoughts clearly and succinctly.

2.      Ability to construct an argument/defend a position based on legitimate and balanced information.

3.      Ability to arrange thoughts logically so that one idea flows into another.

4.      Ability to hold the reader's attention.

5.      Ability to adhere to proper sentence structure and grammatical conventions.

3. INFORMATION LITERACY

Intended Outcomes

Information literacy forms the basis for lifelong learning. It is common to all disciplines, to all learning environments, and to all levels of education. It enables learners to master content and extend their investigations, become more self-directed, and assume greater control over their own learning. An information literate individual is able to:

        Determine the extent of information needed

        Access the needed information effectively and efficiently

        Evaluate information and its sources critically

        Incorporate selected information into one’s knowledge base

        Use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose

        Understand the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information, and access and use information ethically and legally

(From American Library Association Information Literacy Standards for Higher Education[3])

Guidelines

Should count for a minimum of 10% of the students' final grade. May be combined with other FYE elements.

Implementation

Work with a library faculty member to create an appropriate assignment/presentation. Some examples include:

1.      Traditional research paper/presentation that demonstrates the students' ability to gather appropriate information, incorporate it into a cohesive argument and use the information ethically.

2.      An annotated bibliography to demonstrate ability to perform the intellectual work necessary to support a position/argument in a traditional research paper.

3.      Guided information search to encourage students to use various discovery tools and information formats to reinforce the understanding of the research process.

4.      Integrated exercises or assignments to reflect stages in information process.

Assessment

Faculty should establish clear criteria to evaluate student work. For example, using appropriate assignments and exercises (see Implementation above), faculty could determine how successfully (e.g., 1-5 scale) students achieved each of the following criteria.

1.      Ability to locate and obtain appropriate information sources.

2.      Ability to support an argument with secondary source information.

3.      Ability to use information ethically.

4.      Ability to cite sources in the appropriate format.

4. PRIMARY RESEARCH

Intended Outcomes

Understanding of the collection and analysis of original data/information reflective of the discipline.

Guidelines

Should count for a minimum of 10% of the students' final grade. May be combined with other FYE elements.

Implementation

This will necessarily vary according to discipline. Some examples may include:

1.      Analysis/critique of primary research article in a peer-reviewed journal. The nature of research in certain disciplines may not allow for primary research, but students will gain the ability to recognize and criticize reported primary research.

2.      Laboratory experiments that prove/disprove theories, laws and principles so students gain an appreciation of the process of primary scientific research.

3.      Examination of primary source documents (i.e. published or unpublished letters and writings, or contemporary accounts of events) to reinforce the ability to distinguish between primary and secondary writing.

4.      Conduct surveys and questionnaires to introduce students to the process of gathering and analyzing source data.

Assessment

Faculty should establish clear criteria to evaluate student work. For example, any appropriate method (see Implementation above), faculty could determine how successfully (e.g., 1-5 scale) students achieved stated criteria.

5. ORAL COMMUNICATION

Intended Outcomes

"...the NCA has identified several communication skills that are vital for students to learn at both basic and advanced levels (Morreale, Rubin, & Jones, 1998). These skills include, among others, the ability to recognize when it is appropriate to speak, to speak clearly and expressively, to present ideas in an organizational pattern that allows others to understand them, to listen attentively, to select and use the most appropriate and effective medium for communication, to structure a message appropriately, to identify others’ level of receptivity to their message, to give information and to support it with illustrations and examples."

(from Oral Communication Skills in Higher Education[4] by Dunbar, Brooks and Kubicka-Miller)

Guidelines

Should count for a minimum of 10% of the students' final grade. May be combined with other FYE elements.

Implementation

Possible examples include:

1.      One individual oral presentation (minimum of 5 minutes) to ascertain students' ability to formulate an argument and communicate ideas and thoughts clearly.

2.      One group presentation (minimum of 5 minutes per person) which reinforces the importance of working collaboratively.

3.      Debate format presentation in which each contributor debates for approximately 5 minutes, to develop the students' ability to speak clearly, efficiently and effectively.

Assessment

Faculty should establish clear criteria to evaluate student work. For example, faculty could determine how successfully (e.g., 1-5 scale) students achieved each of the following criteria. Peer assessment has also been suggested as an effective tool.

1.      Chooses and narrows topic appropriately.

2.      Communicates topic clearly.

3.      Uses supporting materials appropriately.

4.      Organizes presentation logically.

5.      Uses language appropriate to audience and topic.

6.      Uses correct grammar and articulation.

7.      Uses appropriate physical behaviors.

(Adapted from the Competent Speaker Rubric[5] from Maricopa CC)

6. ETHICS

Intended Outcomes

Students should be aware that the actions of individuals and organizations (i.e., government agencies, businesses, non-governmental organizations (NGO), unions, religious institutions, action groups, etc.) affect other people and societies. Students also should be able to examine and evaluate the impact of their behavior on others. At a very basic level, students will be attempting to distinguish what is right from what is wrong given cultural and historical perspectives. Further, students should consider the responsibility individuals and organizations have in promoting social causes. When exploring situations that have ethical and social implications, students should realize that positions and parties are often in conflict.

Guidelines

This module can be implemented in many courses. Ethical situations arise in the context of social and behavioral sciences, biological and physical sciences, the performing arts, and professional studies in addition to the humanities. Instructors should have students examine the ethical issues specifically related to course content. This could include the methods used to gather information in the field, the products of their field (e.g., devices and compounds, literature, music, research papers, etc.), processes used in the field (e.g., psychotherapy, invasive medical diagnosis, collection of personal information, etc.) or how the work of the field is interpreted by members of society. A number of models (e.g., deontology, teleology) from the field of ethics can be used to implement this module. However, instructors are not required to apply any formal models or perspectives from the field of ethics, they only need to be aware of the ethical issues in their field and present these issues to students for systematic examination.

The Ethics module can be implemented in several ways. The instructor must show evidence in the syllabus that students are being evaluated on ethical issues that comprise at least 10% of the final grade. The following are examples of ways to meet the module requirements:

1.      Students are exposed to at least one ethical situation per week and required to write a short paper or present oral arguments relevant to the ethical viewpoints of the situation. The paper or oral arguments are graded by the instructor.

2.      Students develop a more comprehensive examination of ethical issues. This could be in the form of one major paper or shorter papers totaling a minimum of 15 pages.

3.      Students develop oral presentations individually or in groups. This requirement could be fulfilled in one major or more than one shorter presentations. The total presentation time should be at least 20 minutes per student.

4.      Students have essay exam questions relevant to ethical issues discussed in class. A minimum of two exams with ethical issues are required.

Implementation

Examples of Implementation

1.      Students or student groups examine two or more articles with ethical implications that have opposing positions (e.g., stem cell research, euthanasia, outsourcing, privacy and fighting terrorism, etc.). Students evaluate how the authors support their arguments and the potential positive and negative implications of the position. Guest lectures or video presentations could also be used to present opposing positioning on a topic.

2.      Students place themselves in an ethical situation faced by an individual in a case example (historical figure, organizational leader, etc.) and examine their anticipated personal response to the situation. Students would reflect on how their background (family, religion, friends, culture, etc.) could affect how they would react.

3.      Students write a reflective paper on an issue discussed in class. For example, students can explore how they reacted to a situation that caused an internal moral conflict (e.g., friend plagiarizing, helping a victim in a dangerous location, etc.). Students can reflect upon what guided their actions and if they would do anything differently.

4.      Students explore course content areas and speculate in writing or orally upon potential ethical dilemmas. For example, students in a course on the performing arts could speculate upon what types of works might produce societal stirrings. Students could examine the segments (religious, ethnic, demographic, etc.) of society affected by the works and discuss the responsibilities (if any) artists have to society.

Assessment

Faculty should establish clear criteria to evaluate student work. For example, using exams, papers, presentations, etc. faculty could determine how successfully (e.g., 1-5 scale) students achieved each of the following criteria.

1.      Ability to understand the impact of individual or organization behavior on individuals and/or society.

2.      Ability to interpret and express the opposing perspectives on an ethical issue.

3.      Ability to reflect upon personal thoughts and behavior in a situation with ethical implications.

4.      Ability to examine the social responsibilities individuals and organizations have toward socials causes.

It also would be valuable if instructors determined how many students reached a satisfactory level on each criterion. A pre and post test method would also be useful to determine student accomplishment in ethical thinking. Faculty could use this information to improve the content and methods of teaching this module.


[1] Online at http://www.criticalthinking.org/aboutCT/definingCT.shtml

[2] Online at http://wpacouncil.org/positions/outcomes.html

[3] Online at http://www.ala.org/ala/acrl/acrlstandards/informationliteracycompetency.htm

[4] Online at http://www.springerlink.com/content/24r768234427812h/fulltext.html

[5] Online at http://www.pc.maricopa.edu/assessment/oralpres/OralPresRubric.doc

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