At a recent meeting with the UK Deans, Associate Deans, directors of undergraduate studies, the department chairs of all undergraduate programs and the UK Core Education Committee, Dr. Ben Withers presented an update on the UK Core Program. We present a summary of this update for you.
Completion of the University of Kentucky’s general education program – UK Core – is required for all students seeking baccalaureate degrees as of Fall 2011. The UK Core Program has ten curricular content areas and is anchored by four learning outcomes – in summary, successful UK undergraduate degree completers should be able to demonstrate:
- an understanding of and ability to employ the processes of intellectual inquiry
- competent written, oral, and visual communication skills both as producers and consumers of information
- an understanding of and ability to employ methods of quantitative reasoning
- an understanding of the complexities of citizenship and the process for making informed choices as engaged citizens in a diverse, multilingual world
State of the UK Core Program as of August 2013
Currently in its third year, the UK Core Program relies on faculty involvement across the colleges and a broad diversity of offerings. The total number of courses approved as of last summer were 236 – with 167 of those being taught in Fall 2013.
The UKCEC and Dr. Withers are calling for more proposals for courses in the following areas within Intellectual Inquiry – Inquiry in the Natural/Physical/Mathematical Sciences, Inquiry in the Social Sciences, and Inquiry in the Arts & Creativity.
As of August 2013 only eight of the twelve undergraduate colleges are represented in the list of those offering approved UK Core Program courses. As one might surmise, the largest and most diverse of these colleges, the College of Arts & Sciences, bears the largest burden of offering UK Core Program courses – offering a total of 155 courses out of the 236 that have been approved. However, the faculty from one of the University’s smallest colleges, the College of Fine Arts, have taken the lead in getting the next most number of courses approved: offering 36 courses in the UK Core Program. The College of Public Health, a professional college which until recently only offered graduate courses, has begun a bold campaign to offer UK Core approved courses to undergraduates in content areas that introduce our students to highly competitive (and lucrative) health career fields.
Each semester students who are enrolled in the UK Core courses must upload to an enterprise server their responses to an assignment chosen by the instructor for assessment purposes. These evidences of student work are then processed for a blind review by UK faculty who are assigned to judge the attainment of the appropriate UK Core student learning outcome from a random sampling of the uploads. Each of the four student learning outcomes are assessed every two years in May.
Four of the ten content areas in the Program underwent assessment in May 2013: Composition and Communication I & II and Citizenship (Community, Culture and Citizenship in the U.S. and Global Dynamics). The next steps being considered by the faculty in light of the assessment results are:
- for the C&C I and II areas: a workgroup to discuss portfolio-based assessment strategies and to coordinate this learning outcome better with the Graduation Composition and Communication Requirement (formerly the GWR) and the instructional resources with the UK SACS Quality Enhancement Plan, the multimodal communications project called PresentationU.
- for the Citizenship areas: to convene teaching faculty of this UK Core Program area to discuss the overall area content and its assessment methods.
Next up for review by faculty evaluators utilizing the area evaluation rubric in May 2014 are Quantitative Reasoning (Quantitative Foundations and Statistical Inferential Reasoning) and Intellectual Inquiry (Inquiry in the Humanities, Inquiry in the Natural/Physical/Mathematical Sciences, Inquiry in the Social Sciences, and Inquiry in the Arts & Creativity). For details on the evaluations done so far – including the pilot in 2010, see the UK Core website’s page.
In the last year’s successful SACS-COC accreditation review report, the new UK Core Program was met with approval. Any fears about the UK faculty’s minimalist approach to the required general education program’s 30 credit hours was set aside with the review team’s comment that they found “no intent… to circumvent the [SACS-COC] gen ed requirements.” However, they added that the review team “strongly suggests that the institution explore the possibility of excluding courses that are restricted” in enrollment for only selected majors.
Ensuring Quality of the Core
The UK Core is overseen by the UK Core Education Committee (UKCEC), a standing committee of the Senate which is chaired by the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education. This committee not only oversees the approval of UK Core courses but also is responsible for the long-term oversight and systemic improvement of the Program. UKCEC is charged with setting policies for transfer or waiver credit for any part of the Program, and the policies are enforced by the UK Core Exceptions Subcommittee. Dr. Ben Withers, as Interim Associate Provost, continues serving as the chair this year.
Financial Model and UK Core
While there have been at least ten years of faculty, librarian and professional staff effort in building the UK Core Program, the funding has often been generous in creating the 236 new or revised courses. At least $5.3 million in central funding has been expended to date to support this innovative curriculum. Yet some questions remain as the University moves into the new financial model implementation. The new budget model incentivizes the colleges’ production of earned credit hours and values both collaboration and quality. The role of faculty governance becomes increasingly important with timely vetting of submitted UK Core courses and approving them based on strong evidence of academic merit. Leadership from the Center for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (CELT) will be ever more crucial in supporting innovative course design, infusing the best of educational technologies, and classroom feedback techniques. At the same time the UKCEC and the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education will need to be watchful in ensuring enough seats in all UK Core courses without allowing a wasteful overcapacity in some.
Ideas and comments are welcome. Please contact Dr. Ben Withers, Interim Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education (257-8450), or Dr. Chris Thuringer, Assistant Provost for Educational Initiatives (257-0042) in the UK Division of Undergraduate Education.