General Education Assessment
Education at Agnes Scott College provides a gateway for continued learning in the liberal arts tradition. In 2003 the College established nine liberal education goals for its students, which encompass curricular and co-curricular experiences. This document, published in the Faculty Handbook and in the first section of the Academic Catalog along with the college mission statement, states that in preparation for a lifetime of learning, the successful Agnes Scott student should:
1. Think critically.
The student evaluates the arguments of others for accuracy, significance, and fairness, and develops independent conclusions.
2. Communicate effectively through writing and speaking.
The student uses language clearly and persuasively.
3. Undertake systematic inquiry for learning and problem solving.
The students takes an intentional and systematic approach to research, gathering sources, making observations, conducting experiments, and analyzing data, while recognizing the factors that influence the final results.
4. Act as a responsible citizen.
The student speaks to the connections between global and local events and engages in constructive dialogue about the different kinds of culture, knowledge,and belief systems that shape our world today.
5. Develop or appreciate creative expressions.
The student expresses herself through at least one artistic medium or understands and interprets the creative expressions of others.
6. Appreciate and respond to the achievements of others.
The student demonstrates an understanding of human achievements in the world of ideas and culture and can engage and critique those achievements as she develops her own intellect.
7. Integrate knowledge and perspectives from a broad range of disciplines.
The student acquires and can analyze and synthesize ideas and information from different fields and disciplines.
8. Develop a set of values.
Through an ongoing process of reflection and examination the student develops socially responsible values consonant with an honorable life.
9. Pursue the development of the whole person.
The student recognizes that her education does not occur solely in the classroom. It takes place in a larger community and includes a variety of dimensions:physical, emotional, cultural, and spiritual.
The general education curriculum of the college follows from these goals, comprising courses that ensure the student's exposure to a breadth of knowledge that complements the depth of knowledge she pursues in her major field of study. Within a framework that promotes intellectual independence and informed choice, each student must satisfy three sets of standards: the specific standards assist her in developing specific skills and competencies for further personal and academic growth; the distributional standards orient her to the methods and subject matter of a range of liberal-arts disciplines; and the social and cultural analysis standard allows her to contemplate issues of difference, marginality and social justice.
The faculty developed the following general education rationale, which is incorporated into the Academic Catalog:
The general education program at Agnes Scott College consists of specific, distributional, and social and cultural analysis standards that reflect our mission and values as a community of higher learning for women. The specific standards aim to help students succeed in their studies and become life-long learners, improve their critical thinking and communication skills, acquire proficiency in a foreign language, and appreciate the importance of physical activity for a flourishing life. The distributional standards introduce students to varied ways of thinking and problem solving from multiple disciplinary perspectives. The social and cultural analysis standard ensures that all students include in their academic program a course that reflects the college’s appreciation of diverse cultures and commitment to justice. In selecting from a variety of courses that satisfy these distributional standards, students take an active role in the educational process and are encouraged to think critically about their educational choices and who they will become.
Within the general education program, students craft or analyze creative expressions of our shared humanity; examine the social, political, historical, religious, cultural, scientific and philosophical foundations of the world in which we live; practice systematic observation, quantitative description, and analysis of natural phenomena; articulate problems, and propose imaginative solutions; interpret, analyze, and explain human behavior and social structures; and learn to express their convictions clearly and persuasively while respecting differing opinions.
General education at Agnes Scott thus supports each student’s progress in self-knowledge and embodies the mission of the College to educate women to think deeply, live honorably, and engage the intellectual and social challenges of their times.
In keeping with the overall liberal education goals of the college the general education curriculum is designed to help students:
• Think critically
• Communicate effectively through writing and speaking
• Apply systematic inquiry to learning and problem solving
• Practice or interpret creative expression
• Develop quantitative and informational literacy
• Experience the beneficial effects of physical activity.
The Academic Assessment Committee, in collaboration with the Agnes Scott College faculty, oversees the assessment of this general education curriculum. Student learning is assessed using a variety of direct and indirect measures, extending from evaluation of coursework in general education courses to national surveys. Faculty evaluate student work (essays, quizzes, exams, presentations) in relation to the general education goals appropriate to their courses; in addition, specific departments use national tests or senior seminar evaluations to assess the extent to which students have mastered discipline-specific knowledge, which is related to and thus also assesses general education competencies. All Agnes Scott College seniors take one of three national surveys the spring of their senior year (the National Survey of Student Engagement, the Higher Education Research Institute Senior Survey, or the Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium Survey) which helps gauge the extent to which students have attained the general education learning objectives summarized above.