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General Education and Essential Skills AAC&U Conference on Integrative Designs for General Education and Assessment February 21-23, 2008 Jean Avnet Morse President Middle States Commission on Higher Education 3624 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104 www.msche.org  jmorse@msche.org

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General Education and Essential Skills

AAC&U Conference on Integrative Designs forGeneral Education and AssessmentFebruary 21-23, 2008

Jean Avnet Morse

President

Middle States Commission on Higher Education

3624 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104

www.msche.orgjmorse@msche.org


MSCHE Standards

  • Standard 12: General Education

    “The institution’s curricula are designed so that students acquire and demonstrate college-level proficiency in general education and essential skills…”

    Characteristics of Excellence in Higher Education (2006)


MSCHE Standards cont’d

  • Standard 11: Educational Offerings

    “The institution’s educational offerings display academic content, rigor, and coherence that are appropriate to its higher education mission. The institution identifies student learning goals and objectives, including knowledge and skills, for its educational offerings.”

    Characteristics of Excellence in Higher Education (2006)


Essential Skills

  • Standard 12: General Education

    Include at least:

    • Oral and written communication

    • Scientific and quantitative reasoning

    • Critical analysis and reasoning

    • Technological competency


Information Literacy

The interrelatedness of the“essential skills” in theGeneral Education standardis what Middle States calls“information literacy,”even though information literacy applies to all disciplines inan institution’s curricula.


Information Literacy cont’d

Information literacy skills “relate to a student’s competency in acquiring and processing information in the search for understanding….”

Information literacy “is an essential component of any educational program at the graduate or undergraduate levels.”

Characteristics of Excellence in Higher Education(MSCHE, 2006, p. 42)


Information Literacy Defined

  • The ability to:

    1. Determine the nature and extent of information needed

    2. Access the needed information effectively and efficiently

    3. Evaluate information and its sources critically and incorporate selected information into his or her knowledge base and value system


Definition cont’d:

4. Use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose

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

Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher EducationAssociation of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) (2000)


AAC&U 2007 Report

  • Principle 3: Teach the Arts of Inquiry and Innovation

    “Immerse all students in analysis, discovery, problem solving, and communication…”

    • Students exercise four information literacy skills in this process:

      • determine information need

      • access information

      • evaluate sources & content

      • use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose


AAC&U 2007 Report cont’d

  • Principle 6: Foster Civic, Intercultural, and Ethical Learning

    “Emphasize Personal and Social Responsibility, in Every Field of Study”

    • Through information literacy, students must:

      • Understand the economic, legal and social issues surrounding the use of information and technology

      • Observe laws, regulations, and institutional policies related to the access to and use of information


AAC&U 2007 Report cont’d

  • Principle 7: Assess Students’ Ability to Apply Learning to Complex Problems

    • Standard 14: Assessment of Student Learning requires institutions to demonstrate that graduates have the knowledge, skills & competencies that the institution has defined:

      • Statements of learning outcomes (e.g., “essential skills”)

      • Opportunities for students to achieve those outcomes

      • Assessment of those outcomes

      • Use of results to improve teaching and learning


Middle States Experience

  • 1921 - The first standards recognized the centrality of the library in an institution’s work (its mission)

  • 1994 - Adopted the concept of “information literacy”

  • 1999 - Participated in ACRL task force to shape the definition of information literacy in higher education

  • 2002 - Emphasized the learning implications of information literacy in a cross-disciplinary experience


Middle States cont’d

  • 2003 – Published Developing Research & Communication Skills: Guidelines for Information Literacy in the Curriculum

    • Practical examples for faculty

    • Moving toward the concept of embedded information literacy and away from the then-current idea that information literacy could be taught effectively in a separate course

  • 2006 – Recognized information literacy as a synthesis of “essential skills” for acquiring and processing information in the search for understanding

    • (Context, Standards 11 & 12, Characteristics of Excellence)


Developing Research & Communication Skills

  • Middle States’ and ACRL’s standards relate to AAC&U’s Principle 3:

    • evaluate information content and sources, and incorporate selected information into one’s knowledge base (discovery & problem solving)

    • use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose (problem solving & communication; applying knowledge to complex problems)


Developing Research & Communication Skills

  • AAC&U Recommendations

    5: Harnessing the power of new technologies

    6: Increasing the level of inquiry and project-based learning

  • Important steps in developing the skills needed for inquiry, innovation, and effective communication

  • Inquiry-based learning is fundamental to information literacy

    • Supported by MSCHE standards


Developing Research & Communication Skills

“Ethical learning” and “ethical responsibilities” in Principle 6 and Recommendation 12 are supported by MSCHE approach to information literacy:(a) understand economic, legal, and social issues(b) access and use information ethically and legally


Teaching Information Literacy

  • Originally taught as a separate course

  • Best when embedded in all courses

  • It is:

    • a synthesis of “essential skills,” transcending curriculum boundaries

    • a strategy for competency in acquiring and processing information on the path to understanding

    • a metacognitive approach to learning and should become what AAC&U calls a “habit of mind”


Teaching Strategies

  • Prepare students by defining learning goals of information literacy

  • Survey student preparedness for lifelong learning

  • Teach students to find and evaluate sources (library skills)

  • Teach students to evaluate and understand content (faculty role)

  • Enable students to produce new information


Student Learning Assessment

  • The process of assessing information literacy:

    • Reflective

      • Concrete feedback for improving instructional design and for students’ own formative reflection

    • Integrative

      • Focuses on institutional and programmatic improvement and sharing data in dialogue with students

    • Iterative

      • Institution may retrace its steps, return to an earlier point, and refine its self-examination


Assessment cont’d

  • A separate instrument for assessing information literacy is not necessary:

    • Various elements are already assessed across the curriculum (in the disciplines and in general education objectives) and in the library

    • These elements should be inventoried and evaluated as a coherent whole


Assessment cont’d

  • MSCHE’s Standard 14 (Assessment of Student Learning) supports the AAC&U Recommendation 13:

    • The use of embedded assessments, linked to essential learning outcomes

  • Information literacy assessment activities:

    • include direct and indirect evidence that can be identified across the curriculum

    • should balance quantitative and qualitative measures appropriate for each learning outcome

    • can be inventoried and evaluated as a coherent whole


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