Transcription of the April 7, 2009
Kathryn Flynn, chair: I’d like to call to order the April 7 meeting of the Auburn University Senate to order. I’d like to remind all senators to please remember to sign in on the sheets in the back of the room and then I’d also like to bring you to the first order of business which is the approval of the minutes of the March 3rd Senate Meeting. The minutes were posted on the Senate’s Web page and a link was provided to all the senators on the agenda. So are there any additions or corrections to those minutes? (pause) Seeing none all in favor of approving the minutes please respond by saying aye.
Kathryn Flynn, chair: All opposed? (pause) Hearing no opposition the minutes are approved as written. The next item on the agenda is comments from Dr. Gogue.
Dr Gogue, president: Thank you, I’m delighted to be with you. I want to talk to you about a couple of things today. At our last Board Meeting several actions were taken and I will just call your attention to them briefly, you may have already read about them, but number one; there was approval, we had a federal grant to develop I think it’s called and intermodal facility, it’s a parking garage is the way I would notice it, but it’s got a fancy name, intermodal, is that right Don?, intermodal facility, and it will be bid and will either be 400 spots or as high as 800 spots depending on how the bids come in and how far our money will go on the federal side. The location of it is over right close to the Student Health Center and Forestry. It’s in that little corner that’s there on the lot. [directed to Don: “When should bids be led sometime in the next few months?” he responds with something] It’s an intermodal facility that you can park your car in, so we are making some progress on parking.
Number 2. We will reopen Foy this fall for food services, so down in that basement area I guess is the right area a number of new venues, but there will be food services in the basement of Foy. Part of that’s driven is there is not enough space in the new Student Center kids to actually get the food they need and very few faculty and staff can get over and into the place and get food so at least for the foreseeable future starting this fall it will be open. I don’t remember, Don may remember the array of restaurants (still working on that) but it will be more than what was there before from what we understand. So that will happen.
A third thing that you may have read about; in 2004 Auburn bonded for a new Information Technology building, and it was in need in 2004 and we’re still spread around in a number of different buildings, is it Parker Hall the main area, has flooding has a number of difficulties within that building and so the Board did approve a new IT facility. It will be located right over, next to the intermodal facility in that general part of the campus. In terms of security, in terms of almost all of the external audit reviews and comments we get back, it is in the quality of our IT facilities that we get the most demerits if that’s the right word.
The forth thing I wanted to mention is that they also approved, the state provided Auburn with roughly $20 million dollars, (new money a year and a half ago) and it was to have a program in the Research Park that deals with MRI related research. So, that was approved to be an expedited review where you move forward with the construction and then they will have to go through procurement to get the right magnets to make it work, but from the data we’ve seen it touched probably 12 or 15 different academic departments on campus that had a need for that type of skill set. There will be two magnets is what they are talking about this time, MRI pieces of equipment. One will be a three-tessler unit and that is sort of the top level that you can use for health reasons, there is only one or so in the state at UAB. And in our local area they usually use a 1.5 and I think our Vet School has a 1.5-tessler unit, so more powerful there, has clinical applications, but also there will be a seven-tessler unit that is truly a research piece of equipment. The College of Engineering will be taking the lead in trying to pull this all together. It will have a clinical component from what we have been talking about, we will not get in the clinical business, but through contracts be able to make that equipment available for medical use during parts of each day. So there’s a lot of excitement by people who get excited by MRIs on campus relative to that project. The part of the board meeting that I would share with you I think is a really important shift, the Board spent probably more time at the last meeting on academic related issues than anything else and that’s where Boards should spend most of their time. Drew Clark gave a very nice presentation on the collegiate learning exam, NSSE (National Survey of Student Engagement) data, FSSE data, BSSE data, I don’t know, a bunch of different ones, but the concept is: How do we know that we’re adding value? How do we know when kids come in, we keep them for x number of years in a variety of courses, how do we know we’re adding value and where are we adding value? And the data begins to show places where we have tremendous value. Places where we need to improve and add more value, but a very good discussion that focuses on our undergraduate mission and do it better every year. So I was excited about that.
Unrelated to the Board I would just share with you that about 4 years from now we will have our regional accreditors from SACS that will be here. So in about 2 years we will begin developing multi-volumes of material referred to as self-study. I can’t tell you how important that is for us to really begin to think about it and the Provost is going to begin to form the committees that begin to look at where we are, look at the standards, and try to make judgments. Those of you that are from professional colleges, you usually have no difficulty understanding or being engaged in that process. Those that don’t necessarily have professional accreditation groups or specialized accreditation groups, I should say, the whole concept of a culture of assessment is really kind of hard to understand. So we need to spend some time to make sure we understand what accreditors are going to look at and what their expectations are. I guess the reason it’s on my mind I spent last week at Washington State University at Pullman, a team of about twenty people looking at every aspect of the institution and you begin to see, even though you have done it before, you begin to see what they are really looking at when they talk about a culture of assessment. So we need to begin to have those discussions and for us as a campus to sort of be on board, we can argue about certain parts of it. We’ll be uneven at the end, but never the less there are areas that we have some good stories orated to tell and others hopefully can look at those and see if it makes sense within their disciplines.
Final area I want to mention has to do with budgets. Budgets are still churning in Montgomery. There has been no output that we have anything tangible. As I told you the last time we will not know until the session ends in the middle of May exactly what the numbers are. There are many different proposals that are coming out on the prepaid college tuition plan. Don’t know if any of those at the end of the day will actually be done or not done, but there are lots of thinking, lots of ideas, lots of proposals, and lots of discussion. It is still in spite of the fact that they started in early February that it is still extremely early in the legislative process to actually know what will come out. The only thing we keep seeing that is consistent is, remember that the State of Alabama is about $800 million dollars short in terms of its tax collections. The governor has about $3 billion dollars in stimulus money. He has made the case publically and to presidents in private that his plan is to not spend any of his stimulus money in the current fiscal year. So it would be postponed to the 2010 year, but how he allocates that within some limits that the feds put on him is a pretty flexible package. So we really don’t know and probably won’t know on the stimulus money until after the session has ended.
Those were the things I wanted to mention and I’d be happy to respond to any questions that you might have. Thank you. [10:20]
Kathryn Flynn, chair: The next item on the agenda is the chair’s report. This is my first meeting as chair and so first I’d like to start off by thanking Bill Sauser, who has agreed to serve as the parliamentarian for the next year. He’s done this in the past and he agreed to do it again this year for me. Before I make a few brief comments I’d like to call Dr. Mazey forward. She would like to discuss an item with us.
Dr. Mazey, Provost: this is just to remind you that the Tiger Cub does speak to what is considered an excused absence for a student, and it states in section 10.5.4 on religious holidays that students are responsible for notifying the instructor in writing of anticipated absences due to the observance of such holidays. So I know that I have had some inquiries from faculty about this Friday and I know that some faculty have decided that they would require a church bulletin in order to have an excused absence and that cannot be permitted. So just by notifying the instructor in writing will be considered an excused absence, so this is a reminder. Thank you for cooperating on this matter. [11:51]
Kathryn Flynn, chair: First off I’d like to say that I’m really looking to working with all of you over the next year. I’m very optimistic that we will have a productive year and I think that I’d like to remind you that you or people in your units have issues that they think deserve senate attention, if you would pass those on to me or one of the other officers, we will bring those to the appropriate committees and maybe back to the senate for discussion.
We have a busy agenda but I do want to make a few brief comments. Dr. Gogue mentioned that we face some financial challenges and we all know Auburn like everywhere else is facing some things that we haven’t really looked at in decades. Even though we are fairly well positioned do to the careful planning that occurred in the past, under the management of Don Large and his staff, the Board and others, as Dr. Gogue has said in the past we are going to be forced to participate in the recession. It’ s fortunate I think that Auburn is in probably a stronger position than it’s been in the recent past. We have a president and a provost who were selected through National Search. We are moving forward on a variety of academic priorities that were established by a strategic planning process that included input from pretty much everybody and there’s also I think a stronger feeling of cooperation and team work on campus than we’ve maybe had in at least my memory of time here. So I think that sets us up nicely to deal with challenges. I attend my first budget advisory committee meeting yesterday afternoon. Part of the responsibilities of chair is to serve on that particular committee and what became clear during the meeting was the uncertainty that does exist as to the status of the education budget for next year and probably tow or three years after that and the commitment that the upper administration and people on the committee have to do everything possible to protect the university from decisions that would have long term negative impacts. One of the things that Don Large asked the committee yesterday was to forward ideas to him that would facilitate cost savings and I’m passing on the request to you. I talked to him about it after the meeting and if you have suggestions maybe based on experiences you’ve had at other universities forward them to Don Large or to myself and I’ll forward them on to him. As we all know it’s a challenging time and that means that we are going to have to examine what we do and how we do it and what we need to do to improve ourselves under a somewhat difficult situation. I think for me it seems to do this we’ve got to suspend our skepticism. We have had trust issues in the past and we are typically by nature a skeptical group of people, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing but I think that what this means is that as we look at suggestions at how we might improve or change, how we do business that rather than saying “We can’t do that here, we’ve never done that here and it won’t work.” That we start thinking that maybe some of the ideas could be adapted to our particular situation and allow us to do things maybe better and more efficiently. Examples that are already being discussed are things like development of an overload policy for teaching and incentives for research and maybe even for outreach. So I think if we want to continue making progress on the things that we have identified as priorities, which include things like improving the quality of our academic programs, improving our retention and graduation rates and elevating our research profile, as just a few examples. Then we’ve got to continue to work together and be willing to embrace change.
So those are kind of my comments. That’s what I hope to help do as chair this year. And in the nature of change I am now going to bring Dennis DeVries, the secretary of the Senate forward for some action items that involve small changes. Thank you. Yes, Don.
Don Large: thank you for mentioning the welcome of any ideas on cost savings but let me also add any ideas on revenue enhancements are welcome too. We can laugh but there were good ideas starting to emerge from the budget advisory yesterday of possibilities that we might consider. Anything that just says that if you do business differently it would motivate or provide incentives for something different, something better. We are at the point where we welcome all ideas, asked the budget advisory to e-mail me, we’ll summarize them and share them with the budget advisory, we’ll go through them and try and prioritize the top ones to give to the president. Remember that the budget advisory is advisory to the president so all ideas are very welcome. Thank you.
Kathryn Flynn, chair: Thank you Don.
Dennis Devries, secretary: All right, good afternoon, we have two action items to deal with today. The first is the approval of an appointment to the Senate Steering Committee. Claire Crutchley served as a member of the Steering Committee and was just recently elected as chair-elect of the Senate and in that capacity she also serves on the Steering Committee so that position that she occupied which was a Senate appointed position is now vacant, so the Rules Committee met and identified Larry Crowley to replace her. For the Constitution this has to come before this body for approval. So I move that Larry Crowley replace Claire Crutchley as one of the Senate appointed members of the Steering Committee.
Kathryn Flynn, chair: This is a recommendation coming from Rules so it doesn’t require a second. So all those in favor of appointing Larry Crowley to the Steering Committee, say aye.
Kathryn Flynn, chair: All opposed, nay. (pause) Hearing no opposition, congratulations, Larry.
Dennis DeVries, secretary: The second item is nominations for Rules Committee. The Rules Committee as everybody probably knows is one of the important committees on campus. It’s the committee that’s responsible for staffing the senate committee in providing a slate on nominees to the president for university committees. It’s sort of nick named the Committee on Committees. We need to fill 3 vacancies in the Rules Committee that will be effective for fall semester and the people that are nominated for Rules Committee must be members of the Senate at the time of their nomination but they don’t have to be members of the Senate during the terms they serve on Rules.
What we’ll do is we’ll open the floor for nominations today. This should have been done back in February, but we fell behind in that so we are going to have nominations today and then bios will be distributed to everybody in the Senate, in preparation for the next meeting. And then we will actually vote on the slate of candidates at the May meeting and the people who are elected to serve will begin their two-year terms starting in August with the fall semester. So with that if there’re no questions about the process or what we’re doing I’ll open the floor for nominations. [20:00]
David Carter, senator from the department of history: I’d like to nominate James Goldstein from the department of English.
Kathryn Flynn, chair: Does anyone second that nomination?
Jim Wright from Pathobiology: I’d like to nominate Gwen Thomas from Polymer and Fiber Engineering.
Kathryn Flynn, chair: Do I hear a second?
Allen Davis with Fisheries: I’d like to nominate Larry Teeter from Forestry.
Kathryn Flynn, chair: Do I hear a second?
Kathryn Flynn, chair: Thank you that gives us three nominations. Are there any other nominations to be made? All right we’ll have the election next month to do everything by the book. That completes our action item portion of the agenda. We are bringing 3 information items to you today. The first items is a report from the General Education Task Force and Bonnie White who was chair of the task force and professor in curriculum and teaching is going to make that report for us. [21:42]
Bonnie White, chair of the General Education Task Force: While we’re waiting I’d like to thank the committee members and they are all right down here in front, I appreciate their being in attendance. [22:49]
Auburn’s 2008 Strategic Plan identified 6 priorities with elevating academics as priority one. It states the Auburn University system will elevate undergraduate education and enrich the undergraduate experience. The plan urges a review of our approaches and content and a redesigning of them to meet new challenges. The plan’s action step directs Auburn to conduct a review of general education requirements and novel general education at peer institutions. The current task force was appointed in response to this directive. We received our charge in September 2008 from Dr. Sharon Gabor and the task force charge has several components. The first was to review the university’s current general education requirements. Our current core was approved by the Senate in 1988 and implemented in 1991. Several features approved by the Senate in 88 were not implemented in the 91 core, these are detailed in our report along with history and rational of the core. The 1991 core was further modified in 1994 followed by the adoption of Alabama’s Articulation Agreement and later during the 2000 semester transition. Our current core consists of 41 semester hours distributed among eight broad academic fields. The specific courses within each of these categories and honors designations are presented in our report.
Another facet to our charge was to understand the requirements of the general studies curriculum established under state law by the state wide Articulation and General Studies Committee, or the AGSC. The AGSC was created for the purpose of simplifying transfer credit among Alabama’s public universities and colleges, so that we now have a state wide General Studies in Articulation program.
This agreement covers course work in the freshman and sophomore years. Within the state a student wishing to transfer from a junior college to a four-year institution can transfer up to half the total bachelor degree program, 64 semester hours. Areas one through four on the slide constitute 41 hours and relate to the 41 hours of the AU core. Our report provides more detail on the courses within each of the areas. Also the procedures for having a course approved under the general studies curriculum and we also map up Auburn’s current core to the four AGSC General Studies areas. [25:57]
Our third charge was to determine the extent to which there are opportunities for greater flexibility or inclusiveness within Auburn’s General Education requirements. When the 1991 core was implemented the dominant model of general education emphasized essential knowledge that students should acquire or what a college graduate should know. Since that time at the national level emphasis has been shifting to a more outcomes based approach to general education that is reducing the emphasis on subject matter coverage and moving toward college level competencies that graduates should develop. The shift in emphasis likewise relates to our SACS accreditation. The 2008 SACS accreditation principles contain two requirements that impact our general education program. Core requirement 2.7.3 is based on essential knowledge and we’re in good shape on this one and we cover the details of that in the report as well.
The one that will need our attention is comprehensive standard 3.5.1, which reflects the more recent emphasis on the essential outcomes. That standard reads; “The institution identifies college level general education competencies and the extent to which graduates have attained them.” In other words, Auburn University will have to demonstrate its compliance with these standards at its reaffirmation in 2013. The university has started moving in this direction. Auburn University has identified an approved seven general education outcomes listed on the slide. We provide a link in the report which takes you to a listing of the goals and also the major competencies that are identified with each of these goals, that link is in our report.
Another aspect of our charge was to look at how other institutions are approaching general education. We reviewed 15 institutions including all the land-grant institutions within SACS. Their models fell along a continuum in two broad categories. A third of the institutions still have the subject based models, another third those institutions with primarily revised models gravitated more toward the outcome based approach. And then there was another third, kind of in the middle, kind of hybrids between these two models. We provide institutional reports on each of the institutions that we studied and also links on the Web within the report so you can go directly to their general education core requirements.
And finally the charge that brings us here today, to prepare a report that identifies alternative courses of action with recommendation for review by the Provost in discussion with the University Senate. Based upon our study of Auburn University’s current core, the AGSC guidelines for state institutions, the SACS standards for reaffirmation, and our review of the peer institutions our task force is making four recommendations.
Recommendation one. Use the flexibility available in the current AGSC agreement to provide a more inclusive approach to Auburn University’s general education requirements. We found that we have some flexibility between our current core requirements and the AGSC agreement. Within our current core we can build more flexibility by eliminating course requirements that are not part of the AGSC agreement. This would involve reducing the two required sequences, we have one required in area 2, humanities and fine arts and one in area 4, history, social, and behavioral sciences, reducing those to one sequence. By reducing the required core sequence to one we would then match the AGSC requirements. Another point of flexibility would be making philosophy an option in the arts and humanities area. The AGSC does not require philosophy. And adding flexibility by bringing the science requirement in line with AGSC, Auburn University requires 8 semester hours including labs in an approved sequence. AGSC also requires 8 semester hours including labs, but these may be in two separate labs sequences. We can also add flexibility and inclusiveness to our core through additional courses that would be appropriate to Auburn’s general education outcomes.
The first source would be to consider courses we currently have at Auburn that address some of the general education goals, but that are not in the core. Secondly we could consider new Auburn University courses similar to those AGSC approved courses being offered at other state institutions. In our report we provide a link to the areas, areas 1–4, by institutions. We listed Auburn’s institutions and there’s a listing of the courses that we have in areas 1–4. And just for comparison we also put the link in there for the University of Alabama. And if you’d look at the difference for example in area 2 the humanities area the University of Alabama offers a wider variety of courses than we do, they have 74 in their list we have 13.
Also we could look at how other institutions outside the state have framed their general educations programs and how they address the courses and the experiences that they have designed to meet their general education goals. [32:42]
Other flexibility considerations as the task force brought forth were that departments and programs should not restrict course selection by students unless there is a compelling reason. And this may be a need for a prerequisite for an advanced course or perhaps and accreditation standard. And also to exempt students from selected core courses if students have high scores on appropriate tests. At this point the departments would need to determine the appropriate courses and acceptable tests and test scores for that.
The second recommendation relates to moving us toward the 2013 reaffirmation, by clarifying the relationship between the current core curriculum and Auburn University’s general education outcomes. Work has already begun on this process. The Core Curriculum Oversight Committee has been mapping current core courses to the major competencies in the general education goals. Their review should help identify the general education outcomes that are not fully supported by course work in the current core, and secondly to verify that core courses address the major competencies of the general education goals with which they are identified, in other words to verify that the core courses strengthen student’s ability in the identified major competencies. We must remember that while the core curriculum is an important component of a general education program it is not necessarily the only component or the totality of a general education. And we may find that while many of the general education competencies are covered within our core courses, others may occur within the academic program. As Core Curriculum Oversight Committee completes its mapping, that is of the current core courses to the general education outcomes, procedures will need to be developed which support the identification, the implementation, the assessment of general education outcomes. Therefore the task force recommends expanding our current committee to a core curriculum and general education committee with broad representation. [35:10]
As we approach the 2013 reaffirmation date we need to be mindful that in order to be in compliance with the SACS standards of outcome based general education, we will not only need to have identified the college level education competencies, we will also need to have gathered assessment information to which graduates have attained these competencies. The university has started to address the new language of outcomes by identifying our general education goals and major competencies, and we are in the process of assessing how our current core relates to the outcome based general education goals. In order to meet the requirement that we have gathered assessment information about the extent to which our graduates have attained the general education outcomes we need to move forward on recommendations 1, 2, and 3 in a timely manner.
This has been a quick overview of our findings and recommendations and we present details along with many links in our report and we hope this will be a useful document for all of us as we begin to move toward implementing our general education goals. Are there any questions?
Norbert Wilson, senator from Ag Economics and Rural Sociology: Under recommendation 1 there will be this freeing up of required courses, will those hours that now are freed up will they be given back to departments to use or will they be kept in the core curriculum and require additional classes but no specification of what those classes will be?
Bonnie White: Okay, I think I’ll defer that to Drew. Could you respond on that one.
Drew Clark, institutional research and assessment, not a senator: No, the freed up hours will remain in the general education component in order to be in compliance with the state wide agreement. What’s happening is that, students instead of being directed to take a course from a very short menu will have a somewhat larger menu, perhaps significantly larger menu of courses to choose among.
Bonnie White: Does that answer your question?
Guy Rohrbaugh, senator from philosophy: If you could explain a little more clearly so to speak, there’s your task force and there’s also the Core Curriculum Oversight Committee which is a Senate committee, and it would be helpful for me to report back to my department if I could understand; your task force is making recommendations so to speak, to what body and then how to things then get directed, do parts of it go to them, I’m a little unclear to whom this is addressed?
Bonnie White: Yes, at the beginning of my report I kind of laid a foundation for why we were appointed as a task force in terms of our strategic plan, and meeting the directives of the strategic plan and we were directed to complete our study with the charges and to report back to the Provost and to report to the Senate. So our report goes back to the Provost and with discussion to the Senate and then the Senate will look at the recommendations and move forward with their discussion and/or approval and develop action items for the report.
Guy Rohrbaugh, senator from philosophy: So am I understanding, different parts of the recommendation would have to be taken up so to speak by different parts of Auburn, by the Provosts office, by the Senate, by different committees, there are a bunch of different people will have to work together to bring your vision to fruition?
Bonnie White: That’s my understanding. Dr. Mazey do you have any other…
Dr. Mazey, Provost: (not at a mic and difficult to hear her speak) I think that particularly the recommendations now expand the core curriculum over which is part of oversight… [39:50]
Mike Stern, department of economics: Is there going to be any review as to those that participate in the core curriculum or offer courses in it as to the way they are compensated or staffed in order to do so, in other words the flow of funds as opposed to the curriculum? Because one has to staff courses and whatnot in the curriculum if there is increased registration for. Is there any analysis for the way funds staffing or positions will be distributed based on participation in the core?
Bonnie White: Again Dr. Mazey will have to answer that.
Dr. Mazey, Provost: I think that that at this point we have the task force recommendation. And the task force recommendations will go to the expanded GE Oversight Committee and the emphasis will be on learning objectives and learning outcomes, and then we’ll have to have the approved courses and as you can see there’s going to be a great deal more flexibility in all likelihood if we take the recommendations which I certainly endorse of the task force. And at that point we would have to look in terms of the resources that will be needed. At this point I don’t think we know exactly what the curriculum is going to be so we can’t start talking about the allocation of resources.
Mike Stern: But is there a planned review? Are you going to do a review of resources funds and availability and flows prior to approving curriculum changes? Or are you going to approve curriculum changes and then look at the flow of funds?
Dr. Mazey, Provost: Well, I think that we’d do the two hand-in-hand, that it would be important to look in terms of when we open up those courses what resources are going to be needed and what impact that’s going to have on the current courses that we have in our core curriculum.
Kathryn Flynn: Thank you very much Bonnie. Our next item on the agenda is a report on Collegiate Learning assessment and then National Survey of Learning Engagement. This report will be presented by Drew Clark, who’s director of Institutional Research and Assessment. It has a nice tie in to Bonnie’s report. [42:20]
Drew Clark, director of Institutional Research and Assessment: Thank you Kathryn, and I want to give you just a brief overview of some materials that I’d love to discuss with you at later length and in fact hope to do so. The national survey of student engagement about which I briefed this body before and the collegiate learning assessment are nationally benchmarked sources of information to help us gauge how well we’re doing with certain aspects of our strategic plan. Together they have the virtue of providing us with institution level information about the environment we’re providing for teaching and learning and the results we’re getting. I’m going to show you this language again, probably less visibly than you saw it before. The institution identifies college level general education competencies and the extent to which graduates have attained them. That’s comprehensive standard 3.5.1 for our next accreditation review and it will be on the quiz for today’s Senate meeting what year that occurs in. Let me just say that an assessment chronology, 2013 is the day after tomorrow. When we are next reviewed by SACS we’re going to have to show that we are in compliance with this standard through a process that included review by the University Senate and recommendations from the Core Oversight Committee last year. Auburn has indeed as Bonnie said, identified 7 college level general education outcomes or competencies, and we now face the task of identifying the extent to which graduates have attained each of those competencies. You can’t read a date here on the slide because it’s between the lines, but the current practice of the Accrediting Association is not only to demonstrate the extent to which graduates have attained them but to demonstrate as part of an overall institutional attitude that we have considered those results and taken action where appropriate to improve the results that we are getting. So it’s a comprehensive challenge for the institution.
We have a couple of tools that we are well practiced in that will help us meet part of that documentation challenge. To get direct information about the extent to which our students have acquired some of the competencies, we have been deeply involved in the national project called the Collegiate Learning Assessment. This assessment is given to samples of brand new freshmen and of graduating seniors in order to estimate institutional performance in a related set of skills that you kind of run together in one quick phrase, analytic reasoning critical thinking problem solving written communication.
CLA scores are abstract and I’m going to show you just how abstract they are, but they are also powerful. Let me say for starters that you are about to see a bar graph, the left hand bar or orange one will be the mean score for new freshmen who took the CLA test, and I’d be happy by the way to administer the test to anybody in the room, it will take you about 90 minutes, it’s a delight and kids enjoy taking it. It absolutely is, you don’t have to name a single president (laughter). So the scores are expressed on the SAT scale, from 400 to 1,600, with 1,600 being the maximum. The rare student will score up near the top of that scale, but because of a unit of analysis the institution that is a mean score for a random sample of new freshmen and new seniors. We have good and encouraging results nationally that no institution is yet maxing out this test, which is important, very important. So here are our scores from 3 rounds of cross sectional testing over the last three years. We are about to conclude the forth year, but I don’t have the results back yet. I know that’s very tough to see, but roughly speaking our freshmen are scoring at about…let me start with the seniors, the bar on the right. The seniors are scoring 1,240ish on the CLA every time we give the assessment. The freshman bar, you may be able to see this much, is rapidly gaining on the senior bar over the last three years. There’s great news in this, but it’s news we already knew from the average ACT score of entering freshmen. It went up a whole point last year and may well rise again this coming fall. There’s also some challenging news in this from a measurement point of view it’s quite inconvenient because the rapid rise in the freshman profile has basically invalidated cross sectional-testing. We cannot compare this year’s freshmen with this year’s seniors, we’ve got a plan to deal with that, but it does show that relative to an absolute point those seniors are scoring better than the freshmen which is real good news for the institution since we wouldn’t want to lay claim to the institution that makes kids dumber. It’s not happening in fact they are getting better.
I have to speed past this now, but there’s very, very interesting ways of analyzing these data that also allow us to ask relative to what they should score on the CLA, how are they doing? And that’s because there’s a very strong positive correlation between SAT scores and CLA scores therefore you can calculate the extent to which they are under or over performing. I’d be happy to go into that at another time.
I do want to show you one slide about a separate study we’re doing. We’re also doing a four-year longitudinal study where we are testing the same individuals up to three times over their four years with us. We began in fall 05, we’re wrapping it up this semester with students who have stayed with us and this slide shows the results as of spring 07 the midpoint testing for random students who began in fall 05. These are for students who had tested twice, once as brand new freshmen and again at the end of their sophomore year. And I want to draw your attention to the general orientation of these two horizontal bars toward each other. What you’re looking at is a slide depicting the middle 50 percent of scores for the same kids as new freshmen and then again what we would call rising juniors. So in fall 05 that middle 50 percent stretched from a 1,039 to an 1,136, in other words one quarter of all we tested scored below 1,039 and one quarter above 1,196 the midpoint or mean was 1,123 that testing. When we tested the same kids after two years with us the middle 50 percent scored between 1,074 and a 1,286 the scores were more dispersed than they were as freshmen and fortunately they were shifted toward the right, that is toward higher scores. The gain was about 50 points on the SAT scale for those of you who are statically inclined relative to their own performance as freshmen the gain was about four tenths of a standard deviation which is in line with what we are seeing nationally. The kids gained roughly a standard deviation over the four years of college. A good reminder that college can’t fix everything we can only do a few things and we try to do those well. [50:15]
When we get our final results from the spring 09 test administration we’ll be able to estimate the extent to which our students got better at the critical intellectual skills measured by the CLA. But that’s only some of the skills we’re looking at. We’ll also be able to compare their gains of students at other schools, controlling for entering abilities. CLA allows us to collect direct information about student performance in certain key areas but its scope is limited and as you’ve seen its results are fairly abstract. We can improve the clarity of our picture of student learning by collecting indirect evidence from well-designed large-scale student surveys like the National Survey of Student Engagement. Introduced in 2001, NSSE it’s called and we did administer as Dr. Gogue pointed out about BSSE and FSSE and the results, you can fill in the blank…messy, it’s now one of the leading sources of institution level information for assessment and accountability; you can’t go on a campus visit for SACS or one of the other regions without being confronted with NSSE data because they are so powerful, so inherently interesting, so cyclometricly robust. The NSSE collects information from freshmen and seniors about their academic experiences and behaviors, the emphasis they perceive in their courses and how much academic work they are being assigned, the number of hours they spend each week on their studies, on co-curricular activities, and work or other activities, and certain information about their satisfaction and their relationships and indeed their satisfaction with the entire college experience. They are also given an opportunity to estimate the extent to which they think they have grown along certain key dimensions of general education. We certainly will be using some of that NSSE data when we come up for our SACS visit. [52:08]
Students who complete this survey are of course not actually demonstrating their mastery of college level skills, never the less the survey can provide us with rich contextual information and provides better guidance for action in some ways than the CLA results alone can. There are 85 questions on the survey and for convenience they are analyzed along five dimensions, and again you are probably not going to be able to see this, but Dennis this will be on the Senate site. Again 85 questions, they are organized into five broad benchmarks; academic challenge, that is does your institution ask kids to do their best work and challenge them to rise academically; active learning, are they sitting there passively absorbing information or are they actively engaged in their learning through things like service learning, class presentations, tutoring other students; supportive campus environment, because you know Auburn you know that will be our best score you may not know that that’s the best score for almost all institutions; enriching experiences, things like foreign language study, internships, cooping, culminating senior year experiences for example a thesis or a capstone course, study abroad; and finally student-faculty interaction, when my younger daughter went to college I said to her “Sweetheart, I got one thing I want you to do this year and other than that I’m not going to give you any advice.” And she said, “yeah I know dad I’m supposed to study hard and make lots of ‘A’s.” I said, “No, what your job is to get to know one faculty member reasonably well.” Student/faculty interaction matters.
These benchmark scores are express on a scale from 1 to 100 and I won’t go into the math of that. Because the 100 mark would imply perfection and because no institution in the country comes anywhere near a 100 on any of these benchmarks, what I’ve done is to take the top 10 percent of institutions for each benchmark and that’s about 75 institutions last year per benchmark, take the mean benchmark score for them and call it 100, rescaled our benchmark score as a proportion of that so we’re looking at us up against the top 10 percent as opposed to perfection. So here’s the shape for freshmen and again probably the best you can do from where you are seated today is to look at the general shape. These are the benchmark scores for freshmen when we measured last year. An 81 relative to the top 10 percent in the country on academic challenge, a 77 on academic learning, a 91 on supportive campus environment, a 79 on enriching experiences, a 76 on student-faculty interaction. This is the classic shape of freshmen engagement where ever you look. Both we and the top 10 percent score highest on supportive campus, second highest on academic challenge and I’ll just pass along from there and show you the senior shape. [55:09] If we were looking at it against the perfection pentagon if I could call it that, then what you would see is over here in the lower left hand corner for enriching experiences, you would see that side of the polygon stretch out toward perfection because seniors do more of these kinds of things than freshmen do. Here I’ve rescaled it academic challenge senior versus top 10 percent in the country, 84, 83 active learning, 90 supportive campus, 71 on enriching experiences, our students are not doing as much of this as students who are doing a whole lot of it are doing to put it that way; Student/faculty interaction about a 77.
I want to switch for just a moment, since we’ve been administering this survey most every year since 2002 and address the question, have any of these things changed over the six years we’ve been administering this survey? I’ve given more than one presentation to this body and to many other groups. It would be nice to see some of these dimensions of the undergraduate experience at Auburn actually go somewhere and change. So I picked out two. Here’s a good news slide, and these are the lines by active learning by freshmen and seniors, the intervals are every other year 2004, 6, 8, the top line is for seniors and its flat. [56:27]
Basically there has been no change in that benchmark score for seniors since we began administering the survey. On the other hand that’s a high score relative to peer institutions. This is one where we tend to out perform research universities at the senior level, not so at the freshmen level where we have scored low relative to peer institutions, for example our students make many fewer class presentations than is customary at the freshman year for a research university. The good news is that there’s a clear steady upward trend in the level of active learning since 2002. The score in ’02 was on the perfection scale a 33, has risen to a 40 over time, and that means that faculty members are working with students to assign more creative assignments than we were doing just a few years ago. And that’s good news. Our freshmen are gaining on our seniors. A very important benchmark that has remained flat for both freshmen and seniors since 2002 is the benchmark for academic challenge. This rolls together questions about the amount of reading and writing students are being assigned, about the emphasis of their classes on higher order thinking skills as opposed to memorization, about their perception of whether they are challenged to work hard, their perception of whether the institution emphasizes academics, and there’s been a little fluctuation around the benchmark points, but basically we are where we were in ’02, freshmen are scoring about a 40, sorry about a 50, and seniors slightly higher than that, 53 or 54.
I want to show you one extract from that benchmark to go to a number of papers written. An important component of the academic challenge benchmark is the amount of writing that students say they’ve been asked to do. This graph suggests that the number of written papers assigned Auburn students has probably gone down since 2002. I have to say probably because of the phrasing of the question, but we estimate that the typical senior answering in ’02 had written about 15 papers during that academic year, it’s now at about 13; the typical freshman had written about 12, it’s now at about 10. So this shows that perhaps we should add urgency to our progress on implementing the writing initiative so students will have an opportunity to practice and develop their writing skills in the context of their chosen major and free electives not just as a first year writing requirement.
I’ll only go briefly over next steps from the measurement side. What I can do institutionally, we can continue to launch new CLA studies and we’ll start a new longitudinal study on the basis of this falls freshmen and probably another one with next fall’s freshmen. We are certainly going to continue participating in NSSE because it provides us with such rich information and it is directly tied to some of those general education outcomes, but we need help because it’s only real faculty teaching real subjects to real students in real classrooms who can change the character of student learning on this campus. So we need your help. We are going to convene a series of campus discussions better to understand and use these results and again these results are fairly abstract, they don’t tell you what the kids in your particular class need, only you can decide that, but they may provide us with strategic framework for thinking about ways in which we can improve the undergraduate learning experience here on this campus. I’d be happy to address any questions you may have, but I know I’ve already gone past my time limit. [1:00:05]
Bob Locy, immediate past chair of the Senate: Drew your data where you benchmark Auburn scores against the top 10, if we’re 84 percent let’s say of the top 10 score, it could be a really tight distribution about a mean and we could be well below the mean even at that 84 percent. Where would the mean scores for each of those benchmark fall relative to that?
Drew Clark: Means scores of the kind you’re describing, that is for all institutions are displayed by NSSE. We begin to get into some fairly for me as a professor of Renaissance Literature of some fairly head spinning areas…Could I put it to you in terms of relative to peer groups where we are ahead of and behind research universities, would that be helpful to you?
Bob Locy: That’s what I was trying to get at.
Drew Clark: Roughly speaking most years that we take a measurement seniors are ahead of peers on the benchmarks for active learning, for supportive campus environment, which is our single strongest trait, they love it here, they love one another, they love the administrative staff in offices, they even love the faculty. So we score well on those. We score well on the senior level on student/faculty interaction. At the freshman level the only one of the benchmarks where we are outperforming peers is the supportive campus environment. For some of the other benchmarks it’s a wash, for a couple of them we have work to do to catch up even with peers.
Howard Goldstein, senator from music: In your description of the various benchmarks, I was curious when I was going to hear the word cultural offerings, I thought that might be included in enriching experiences, but those all seem to be academically oriented. Is that in fact something that is part of that benchmark?
Drew Clark: It’s not calculated in that benchmark but there is NSSE data, has been there since the beginning, I’m going to give you three activities and tell you in advance that students are asked in the current school year about how often have you done these things. And their choices are: never, sometimes, often, very often. And you can (I’m a big fan of making up the data and thinking about what you could do with it if it turned out this way) so I’ll let you answer this one. The three activities are: gone to an art exhibit, attended a play or musical performance, that’s one question, how often have you done that? Number two, participated in physical exercise; number three participated in exercises to enhance your spirituality? So Okay, how’d it go?
Howard Goldstein: Well there was one that seemed to be peripheral, but yeah the musical experience, but that’s not something that you are looking at as an area that needs improvement or additional resources.
Drew Clark: I would love to put the data in front of you and get your ideas for how it would change. For a measurement issue, that particular question is not rolled up into the enriching educational experiences benchmark, which is a decision made at the national level by NSSE, but it doesn’t mean that just because an item is not in the benchmark doesn’t mean it couldn’t be critically interesting to us.
Howard Goldstein: Okay, thank you.
Guy Rohrbaugh, senator from philosophy: Does anyone give CLA benchmarks to people who don’t go to college for these four years of their life?
Drew Clark: That’s a great question, because one of the things with any pre-, post-research design you’ve got to wonder, well maybe college actually retarded their growth. Or accelerated it. And so there are studies ongoing, they have not been published yet, but with 18–22 year olds at about the same time intervals and you’ll probably be able to guess where they are finding the young men and women to take the test is in the military. Which is its own kind of experience, these things are complicated, Yes the issue of what is the institutional impact and what is a maturation impact is a critical one because we are doing these assessments in order to try to generate ideas for how to make things better. We don’t have to meet some of the same levels of proof that perhaps you would need for interventions that could harm people. Thank you. [1:05:19]
Kathryn Flynn, chair: Thank you Drew. We have one final update, this is an update on the writing initiative and Sharon Roberts who co-chaired the writing initiative task force and who’s an associate professor in biological sciences will present the update. [1:05:40]
Sharon Roberts: I have only one slide so I don’t want to give away my punch line. And I don’t want you reading ahead either, so what I would like to do just quickly is give you a little bit of history and that is simply to mention that last year in the spring the Office of the Provost formulated the Writing Initiative Task Force which I co-chaired with Marcia Boosinger from the Libraries and we made recommendations to the Office of the Provost that I presented to you to the Faculty Senate early in the fall semester 2008. Late in the fall semester, that same fall semester, money was allocated to the writing program and as I imagine everyone is aware, one of the strategic plan goals is the establishment of a Writing Center. And so as I said money was allocated in late fall 2008 and Isabelle Thompson, who’s a coordinator of the English Center, and I were asked to initiate the first steps towards a writing program. And so we have two major projects that are currently underway. Now comes the one slide.
The first of these is the expansion of the English Center. Now the Writing Center here at Auburn since about 2005 has been called the English Center because it had the resources to provide support in the form of tutoring only to freshman composition and world literature. So other writing on campus, simply because the English Center really didn’t have the resources were not supported by the English Center. So our first project or one of the first projects we’re pursuing is the phased-in expansion of the support that the English Center provides from just the freshman composition program and world literature programs to providing writing support for all core courses. Dr. Thompson will become the director of what will now be called the Writing Center and she is working with faculty in the colleges and departments involved in core courses to develop this phased-in expansion of the support for writing. She’s working to hire undergraduate teaching assistants from these different colleges so over the next year or so we’ll be expanding her support to writing, and again in the core courses. At the same time then we are also getting new digs so the Writing Center will move into a larger facility that is actually more accessible for students. It’s still in Haley Center, but it will be down on the ground floor in the 1200 numbered quad, which means that it’s right across from the new Student Center on the ground floor. Don’t need to upstairs, downstairs, they’ll be able to find it. Even those who don’t spend all their time in Haley Center, I can find it. It took me a long time to find the English Center on a regular basis. So, being a little facetious here but this is really wonderful and we’re in the process now of renovating this space. It’s about 25 percent larger than the space she has at the present time and it will include offices for Isabelle, who as I believe I said but I’ll repeat, will become the full time director for the Writing Center, and it will have office space for her and will also include office space for a writing program administrator. And so that’s the second project that we have underway at the present time. And that individual will be hired to develop a Writing-in-the-Disciplines Program. So we have just instituted a national search for a writing program administrator. And one of the first responsibilities then of this individual will be to implement a Writing-in-the-Disciplines Program. Now we’re also very much aware that there is writing going on in disciplines already here at Auburn and so a project that I’m involved with is essentially inventorying what writing we are doing in the disciplines, so that if you recall back when I presented in the fall, our goal with the Writing-in-the-Disciplines Program is that students are learning the appropriate writing methodologies that are appropriate to their discipline. So again as I said, we know much of this is going on and the goal is to have this inventory here and in place as our writing program administrator arrives so that he (she) can work with those who are already doing writing-in-the-disciplines who may want to expand what they are doing already, and also to work with those faculty in disciplines that are at the present time just starting to consider writing in the disciplines and wanting to develop those programs. So we will have an inventory in place at the time that individual arrives. [1:11:30]
One of the things I’d like to ask you all as senators representing the various departments on campus that the knowledge that you have of current writing if you would share that with me I would very much appreciate it. I have an initial inventory that was compiled by the writing initiative task force last year as one of our very first projects, but I intend to continue to collect this information and Isabelle and I are also then at the present time making appointments to meet with deans and department chairs and heads so that we can talk with them about the writing program and these initial steps that we intend to implement. So I’d be happy to entertain any questions.
James Goldstein, senator from English: At an earlier stage of the writing initiative there had been discussions of the possibility of decreasing the size of freshman composition classes. Is there any chance of money being allocated for that goal?
Sharon Roberts: I can’t answer that. At the present time in discussions with the Office of the Provost, talking primarily with Sharon Gabor in the late fall, she was interested in providing funding for this particular project. Dr. Mazey, do you have anything to add?
Dr. Mazey, provost: I have been working with Sharon particularly, and Isabelle and Emit on these new initiatives that she just reported on. I did read that in the Task Force report, but obviously at this point in time we have this budget reduction and the Provost’s Office is doing budget reductions not only in our unit, but certainly across the colleges, so I just don’t see how we could at all reduce the class size. So, just being honest with you.
Charles Mitchell, senator from Agronomy and Soils: I heard your presentation last fall but I don’t recall a lot of details about it but I’m sitting hear listening to the proposal for the Writing Center and I hear things like we are increasing the space, we’re hiring administrators, we’re developing a program, but what are you going to do? I mean what is this Center supposed to do for our students, do you have a vision of how is it going to help them? Are you going to plan a curriculum, or are you going to create courses, what are you going to do, because this is a subject that is very dear to me because I’ve just finished some exams that clearly show that my students can’t write. They absolutely can’t write, these are graduate students and I would love to be able to send them somewhere to get some help. So can you give me some real meat here, what are we going to do in this Center to help my students to be better writers in my discipline?
Sharon Roberts: I’d be happy to. Really there’re sort of two answers. The Writing Center again given the resources we have available it was felt that what we could do is expand the support for writing in core courses, so in the short term, no, the Writing Center would not really be available to help your students. Ideally they will already have been helped before they come to you, in the Writing Center by virtue of the support they’re getting for their writing in terms of core courses. In terms of hiring administrators, we’re actually just expanding Isabelle Thompson’s work from three-quarters of her time in the Writing Center to full time. So it’s not really in her case hiring a new administrator. The WPA is very definitely a new administrator. The model that our writing task force recommended to the Office of the Provost and obviously this will evolve as we hire a writing programs administrator is a learning outcomes model centered with faculty. That Faculty as disciplinary experts are the ones who really know the appropriate type of writing that their students need, a Writing Programs administrator doesn’t, but that individual should be able to work with your faculty in developing the appropriate learning outcomes to work with them in developing assignments that are manageable, in learning the pedagogy for helping students write better, suggesting things like rubrics, really helping those of us who are not writing experts but disciplinary experts do a better job of designing and implementing our writing assignments.
And so that’s really a model that we’ve proposed, our goal in hiring a writing program administrator would be to find someone who is comfortable with that model. The model where we first encountered this was at North Carolina State where they have done a wonderful job of using a learning outcomes model to meet with faculty in the disciplines and to ask them the questions of what are the kinds of writing that you do in your disciplines. So we very much want to avoid simply everybody goes and writes term papers. If they are appropriate if that’s a style of writing that furthers the intellectual and professional development of your student then that’s what they should be doing. If it learning to write technical reports, if it learning to write executive summaries, if it is learning to take raw data and put it into a report that someone else can follow, that’s the kind of writing we want to promote and facilitate. And this sort of process that you’re asking me about is the very sort of evolutionary process that the faculty on the task force went through; of first kind of standing off and saying they don’t write well and I don’t know how to help them; to, by the way I want them to learn to write like I do, and that would be really cool and by the way, I’ll do that if you provide the faculty development I need to be able to do that well. And that’s where we were with the task force and that’s how we came to the North Carolina State model, and that’s our proposal ultimately once we have a Writing Program administrator here is to work with us as disciplinary experts and to provide that faculty development. And I hope that’s reassuring.
Hi Sharon, Tony Moss of biological sciences: Is their Web site for that learning model available at that university that we can go to?
Sharon Robert: I have a number of…, well… probably. What I have is a number of documents that have been produced by the folks at North Carolina State and Isabelle and I are also working on developing a writing program Web site so that information is beginning to appear at Auburn too so we’re all very much more familiar with it. So I will provide that to the people I would provide that to so that would be available, yes. (giggles and laughter from both). Thank you.
How ya doing, Mike Stern from economics: I know you say you want support for all university core classes in this right? We have a course in the core. Last fall semester the average number of students in our core classes was 320 students per class, no resitation sections. Given that we cannot have written assignments in that framework how would your center support any development of writing in our core class?
Sharon Roberts: My understanding would be that obviously this has to be tempered with the fact that you have a course that’s structured that way. And that perhaps while we’re saying that we’re offering support to all core courses, it may not work out for all core courses. Or it may be that there are other strategies that are appropriate, that are not necessarily a formal writing assignment that you grade. Often times a writing assignment such as just, and you may already be familiar with it so if I’m telling you stuff you already know I apologize, but something like a one minute paper at the end of the class session, and a quick review of those. You don’t grade those, but they can give you insight into what the students are learning; it can give the students insight to what they are learning. So it may not all be disciplinary in that sense, they may not learn to write in an economics form.
Mike Stern: Right, but if the goal is to improve writing skills which I think it is at Auburn University and you want a particular focus here on the core, then there actually has to be written assignments in the core, which will require sufficiently small classes and sufficient staffing in the core in order to actually have graded written assignments. Students with us take those written assignments seriously and they will then have something to come to you for in order to gain help on to learn, but without the commitment of resources behind those that participate in the university core to allow sufficiently small classes to have detailed written assignments, there will be very little writing in the core and thus very little achievement of the goal of improving writing skills, at least at the core level at the university. Because our students don’t write ’til they get to the upper division because there’s no money for the core and to have sufficiently small classes to even have written assignments. [1:22:31]
Sharon Roberts: I agree. And I think most of us understand that and so we’re not saying that we are going to be able to accomplish this in every core course. Our goal would be to provide support and so when I say all core courses, maybe that was not stated as articulately as I might. Obviously at the present time we provide support for freshman composition and world literature. Isabelle is interested in working with those (of the) faculty teaching in the core, to identify where we can support writing in their courses, and with the current structure and budget and resources, that may not mean every class.
Kathryn Flynn, chair: Alright, that completes the presentation portion of the agenda. At this time I’d like to ask if anybody has any unfinished business? (pause) Any new business? (pause) Hearing none we’re adjourned. [1:23:40]