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Revising the Focus Hallmarks:
An Example of UHM Faculty Governance

The faculty groups involved in the faculty governance of the UHM General Education Program believe that different forms of on-going assessment and open communication with the larger community are important.

The revision of the Focus Hallmarks is an example of how these two beliefs have been manifested in faculty governance. The initial Contemporary Ethical Issues (E) and Oral Communication (O) hallmarks were revised (see Appendix A). Below is a summary of the assessment and communication activities that led to the adoption of revised hallmarks. Appendix B contains a rationale for the upper-division hallmarks; the E Focus rationale was distributed to all UHM departments after the hallmarks were revised.

Faculty Governance in Action

The Focus Boards and the General Education Committee (GEC) used the initial hallmarks in January and February 2002 to review faculty proposals and to approval Fall 2002 Focus classes. After the designation process ended, the faculty groups undertook a reflective assessment of their procedures in light of the proposals received, the philosophy and goals of the Gen Ed program, and WASC requirements.

During the reflective assessment, the Focus Board members discussed a variety of issues:

  • The philosophy that Gen Ed requirements should be integrated with the studentís major instead of "add-on" components or "something to get out of the way."

  • The need for some flexibility to accommodate late changes in majors.

  • E Board: contemporary ethical issues vary from field to field and it is pedagogically desirable to teach ethical issues in context, preferably in the studentís major (i.e., 300- and 400-level courses) so students will be prepared as professionals in their desired field.

  • E Board: the difficulty of adding or redesigning many upper-division 3-credit classes so that 30% of the course materials are devoted to contemporary ethical issues.

  • O Board: oral communication skills vary from field to field and it is pedagogically desirable to teach communication skills at the 300- and 400-level so students learn to communicate within the context of their major discipline.

  • O Board: the appropriateness of designating an introductory-level language course (e.g., German) as an oral communication course.

  • O Board: the impact of raising the student enrollment maximum in O courses to 30 students in cases where group presentations are the primary type of oral communication.

  • O Board: the need to convey to faculty that oral-communication-related activities, not just the oral performance itself, can be part of the 40% requirement (O Hallmark #1).

Given these issues, the Focus Boards considered hallmark revisions to improve the designation process and better meet the goals of the Focus areas.

In March 2002, the GEC Chair reported to the GEC that the Focus Boards were considering modifying their hallmarks. Discussion:

  • Concerns about whether frequent changes to the hallmarks are prudent.

  • Concerns about how hallmark changes would impact community colleges and within-system transfer students.

  • The need for hallmark revisions from the Boards to be submitted in time for feedback to be solicited and received before summer break.

The GEC agreed that in the spirit of open communication, the UH community should have an opportunity to comment upon the proposed changes.

In April 2002, the GEC discussed the WASC request that nine to twelve credits of Gen Ed be at the upper-division level.1 This might be met by a stipulation that E, O, and some W Focus courses be at the 300- and 400-level.

In late April 2002, the O and E Boards submitted suggested hallmark revisions to the GEC. The GEC responded favorably to the Boardsí proposed changes, and in particular, to the 300- and 400-level restriction because it fit with both the Gen Ed philosophy and WASC requirements.

In May 2002, the GEC reaffirmed its commitment to seek feedback from the UH community. In early May, the drafts of the revised hallmarks were distributed via email to UHM faculty, UH Chief Academic Officers, and UH Faculty Senate Chairs. The drafts were also posted at the Gen Ed website for review and comment.

By mid-May, feedback had been received from both UHM faculty and UHCC faculty. Nineteen people replied, seven community college and twelve UHM faculty. Names were removed and the feedback was emailed to all GEC members. The Focus Boards received the feedback pertaining to their Focus area.

The feedback was reviewed and taken into consideration as the GEC and Boards prepared to make their final recommendations. After discussion and a weighing of alternatives, the GEC voted to accept the E and O revised hallmarks. The primary issues and the GEC and Board reasoning are described in the following table.

Main Issues Raised

GEC & Board Reasoning

Ethical issues and oral communication skills should be fostered at the lower division and complemented by upper division requirements. Ideally, two O and two E courses would be required.

  1. The GEC and Boards believe that UHM has a responsibility to help students learn to communicate and learn ethical deliberation skills in the context of their discipline. Thus, an upper-division requirement is appropriate.

  2. The primary reasons that UHM revised its Gen Ed Program include:

    • The previous Gen Ed had too many inflexible requirements which hampered studentsí graduation in a timely manner. The faculty wanted to make graduation in four years the norm, not the exception.

    • The faculty wanted to "right-size" the campus-wide requirements to allow majors greater leeway with their own requirements.

    Given these goals, increasing Focus requirements for all students is not appropriate.

  3. The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs requested that twelve Gen Ed credits at the 300- or 400-level be required. Thus, requiring E, O, and 2 W courses at the 300- or 400-level is appropriate.1

Transfer students from UH community colleges will suffer if UH CC campuses cannot offer courses that transfer to UHM as satisfying an O or E requirement.

The GEC has taken steps to ensure that students transferring from a UH community college will not suffer delay in academic progress because of Focus requirements.

  1. All transfer students follow a prorate schedule for their Focus requirements based on the number of transfer credits.

  2. UH community college students who particular O and E classes at a UH CC between Fall 2002 and Spring 2004 will have met the UHM O and E requirement. The list of approved classes is available at the UHM VCAA website.

[Note: We estimate that nearly half of the system transfer students will have reduced E and O Focus requirements.]

 

1. The WASC 2001 Handbook of Accreditation states, "The institution has a program of General Education that is integrated throughout the curriculum, including at the upper division level, consisting of a minimum of 45 semester credit hours (or equivalent) . . ." (Standard 2.2, p. 20). UHM received clarification on "including at the upper division level" from WASC. WASC requested that 9-12 Gen Ed credits be at the 300- or 400-level.

 

Appendix A

 

Initial Hallmarks
 

Contemporary Ethical Issues (E)

Revised Hallmarks (revisions are in blue and italicized)

Contemporary Ethical Issues (E)

1. Contemporary ethical issues will be presented and studied in a manner that is fully integrated into the main course content.

2. A significant portion of course materials will be devoted to contemporary ethical issues (a minimum of 30% is required).

3. A significant portion of class time will be spent in discussing contemporary ethical issues (a minimum of 20% is required).

4. The disciplinary approach(es) used in the course will give students tools for the development of responsible deliberation and ethical judgment.

5. Students will achieve basic competency in analyzing and deliberating upon contemporary ethical issues to help them make ethically determined judgments.

1. Contemporary ethical issues will be presented and studied in a manner that is fully integrated into the main course content.

2. The equivalent of one semester credit-hour or 30% of a three-credit course will be devoted to contemporary ethical issues.

3. A minimum of 8 hours of class time will be spent in discussing contemporary ethical issues.

4. The disciplinary approach(es) used in the course will give students tools for the development of responsible deliberation and ethical judgment.

5. Students will achieve basic competency in analyzing and deliberating upon contemporary ethical issues to help them make ethically determined judgments.

6. The course will be at the 300- or 400-level.


Initial Hallmarks
 

Oral Communication (O)

Revised Hallmarks (revisions are in blue and italicized)

Oral Communication (O)

1. Each student will conduct or participate in a minimum of three oral communication assignments during the course. In addition, at least 40% of the final course grade will be a function of the studentís oral communication performance.

2. Each student will receive explicit training, in the context of the class, in oral communication concerns relevant to the assignment.

3. Each student will receive specific feedback, critiquing, and grading of the oral communication assignments.

4. Section enrollment will be limited to 20 students.

1. Each student will conduct or participate in a minimum of three oral communication assignments or a comparable amount of oral communication activity during the course. In addition, at least 40% of the final course grade will be a function of the student's oral communication activities.

2. Each student will receive explicit training, in the context of the class, in oral communication concerns relevant to the assignment or activity.

3. Each student will receive specific feedback, critiquing, and grading of the oral communication assignments or activities.

4. If instructor feedback primarily involves individual or paired students, enrollment will be limited to 20. If instructor feedback primarily involves groups of students, enrollment will be limited to 30.

5. The course will be at the 300- or 400-level.

 

Appendix B

 

Rationale for Upper-Division Hallmark for E & O Focus Courses

In May 2002, the Contemporary Ethical Issues (E) Board and the Oral Communication (O) Board added a new hallmark requiring that the E and O courses be numbered 300- or 400-level. This additional hallmark relates to the pedagogical goal that E & O courses be within a studentís major. An upper-division hallmark has the added benefit of being consistent with the WASC requirement that General Education "is integrated throughout the curriculum, including at the upper division level."

The E and O Boards believe that they can best serve students by providing them with opportunities to develop E & O skills representative of those that they will face in their post-baccalaureate careers. It should be noted that this hallmark is consistent with the upper-division W requirement, which was also put in place to encourage departments to offer W courses in each major. Past and current experience with W courses seems to address the concerns expressed regarding the difficulty that some departments are having with offering an E and O course for their majors. According to the W experience, these concerns were alleviated with development of courses over time.

To facilitate the introduction of new upper division E & O courses the Boards have begun to offer workshops on the development and teaching of these courses and have been creating web content to aid the faculty in achieving the goal mentioned here.

In addition, the E Board further revised hallmarks to allow departments and majors more flexibility in creating courses that might fulfill the E requirement. Departments might, for example, offer a one-credit discussion lab, or change existing courses to four credits without compromising the integrity of the content of the course.

Rationale for level of all General Education courses

It has also come to the attention of the GEC that there may be some confusion about the course level required for Foundations courses (i.e., Written Communication, Symbolic Reasoning, and Global & Multicultural Perspectives) and Focus courses (i.e., Writing Intensive, Contemporary Ethical Issues, Hawaiian, Asian & Pacific Issues, and Oral Communication). Foundations courses are not meant to be taken throughout the undergraduate experience, including at the upper division level. In fact, just the opposite is true. The General Education Requirements document passed by the Manoa Faculty Senate in 1999 indicates that students should complete the Foundations courses before the sophomore year to prepare them with basic skills and knowledge needed for more advanced course work. Therefore, Foundations courses are limited to 100 and 200 level courses. E, O, and some W Focus courses, because they reflect disciplinary differences and should be taken in the major, are required to be at the 300- or 400-level.

 

Updated August 2, 2004; report errors to gened@hawaii.edu


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