Standard 4: Programs & Instruction
In keeping with its mission "to provide and maintain an intellectual environment grounded in the liberal arts" while focusing primarily on undergraduate education, Keene State College offers associate's and bachelor's degree programs in professional and vocational areas which best meet the needs of the region and the state. Undergraduate students select from thirty-three majors and thirty minors, while graduate students all earn a Master of Education degree in one of four options. Additional two-year associate degrees and post undergraduate certificate programs are also available. Programs in elementary, secondary, and special education are among the largest majors; Psychology, Management, Communication, Safety, and the Graphic Design option in Art follow education in numbers of majors.
Keene State College offers associate's degrees in the arts and sciences and in general studies. Within the required sixty credits, students must complete a concentration of twenty-four to thirty credits of sequential coursework in one department. The bachelor of arts degree requires 120 credits and the bachelor of science 126. Degree requirements and objectives are stated in the College catalog within the description of each major program. These descriptions specify the knowledge, skills, and (where appropriate) career-preparation practices to be mastered. Course objectives and learning outcomes usually appear on course syllabi and are further elucidated by individual instructors.
The College spends slightly over half its budget on instruction and academic support. Expenditures for salaries, wages, and fringe benefits have risen about 30% over the past five years, and amount to over 70% of general operating expenses. Expenditures for technology and technology support have increased 80% over the same period.
Academic planning takes place at several levels: in the office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs, the Deans Council, at the divisional level, and within individual departments. In 1999 the Deans Council and the Vice President for Academic Affairs drafted a strategic plan for the next three years (see documents in the workroom). This plan outlines steps to be taken to improve retention, reduce the time students take to complete a degree, strengthen academic programs, further the integration of technology into academics, and improve classroom and laboratory facilities.
At the departmental level, planning and evaluation are critical components of the program review process (described in Standard Two), which addresses the relevance of the program to the College's mission, student demand, and need for the program within New Hampshire. Based on this process of review, evaluation, and planning, several changes have occurred: a new major in Communication has been added, and the minor in Women's Studies has taken shape. Majors in Industrial Chemistry and Home Economics have been deleted. The former B. S. in Industrial Technology has been revised to create majors in Industrial Design and Safety. Graphic Design has moved from the Division of Professional Studies into the Division of Arts and Humanities. A new minor in International Studies has been created and the Political Science major has been deleted. A B. S. in Health Science has replaced Home Economics. Programs in elementary and secondary education, special education and early childhood education (grouped together in the ESEC department) were most extensively revised. Students seeking certification in early childhood, elementary, and elementary/special education are now required by the state of New Hampshire to have a major other than education. In keeping with its roots in the liberal arts, the College requires that they complete a second major in an academic field.
Three-year staffing plans created by each department project sabbaticals, retirements, and needs for additional faculty. When faculty positions become vacant through resignation or retirement, they are usually filled on a temporary basis for one year. Faculty in the department must then justify the need for a new hire in that position; a program review or three-year staffing plan may offer supporting documentation of that need. If the need for staffing is greater in another area, the faculty line may be transferred to another department. These plans are also important in departmental planning, since chairs are asked to project potential curriculum changes over the next three years.
When programs are eliminated or requirements changed, the College maintains its commitment to students already enrolled, and ensures that they can complete their program as planned. A list of programs deleted over the past decade will be found in the workroom.
The Division of Continuing Education and Extended Studies provides educational opportunities for students returning to college, seeking professional development, preparing to enter a degree program, or taking courses for personal enhancement. Opportunities are available on a part-time basis through credit and non-credit courses, certificate programs, seminars, institutes, conferences, and workshops. This Division is responsible for the largest transfer population to the College's matriculated student body. Many students begin their college career as part-time, non-matriculated students and later apply for admission to a degree program. The Division also works closely with business, industry, school districts, and governmental agencies to provide customized education and training on a contractual basis. It operates the College's Safety Center in Manchester, which includes the OSHA Education Center, driver education teacher certification program, and other allied safety and health programs. All of the resources and facilities used in off-campus programs are under the direct control of Keene State College.
The Division administers three summer sessions with undergraduate, graduate, and non-credit courses. Seats are available for Continuing Education students in the vast majority of divisional courses. Likewise, the Continuing Education Division sponsors a wide variety of courses each semester with seats available for matriculated students. Courses sponsored by Continuing Education are taught by adjunct faculty as well as full-time resident faculty (using the adjunct faculty pay scale). All faculty and courses are approved by the appropriate department chair and divisional dean prior to scheduling.
Distance learning technology has expanded the reach of Continuing Education. In 1997 the Division received approval and funding to develop, administer and evaluate web-based programs. The office developed a cooperative arrangement for distributing distance-learning responsibilities with the Center for Media and Instructional Technology (CMIT). Distance learning credit programming focuses on the niche of on-going professional development for educators and continues to explore potential markets including safety and non-profit management.
The Division of Continuing Education works closely with community organizations, businesses, and government agencies. It actively participates in external committees such as the Greater Keene Chamber of Commerce Education and Training Committee, and convenes its own advisory boards comprised of local businesses, school districts, and College faculty. The Division has aligned with the NH Community Technical College-Nashua campus to provide technical training to local industry utilizing grant funding through the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, and coordinates regional offerings of various occupational safety programs with the University of New Hampshire and University of Massachusetts at Lowell.
The National and International Exchange Center is one of the most rapidly expanding programs at Keene State College. It recruits and supports incoming national and international freshmen, transfers, postgraduate, and Continuing Education students. It also recruits, advises, and supports KSC students on study-away programs, which may last a summer, a semester, or a year. Students may participate in exchange programs in their sophomore, junior and/or senior years. They are encouraged to first consider attending a program with which KSC has formal exchange agreements. Such agreements exist with four institutions in the United Kingdom, two apiece in Ecuador, France, and Russia, and with all Quebec institutions. We also have formal consortial agreements that access 115 universities in forty-one countries. As a member of the National Student Exchange, the College offers access to 160 colleges and universities in the United States. A student lounge with Internet access to foreign newspapers, and a club, International Friends, support students from other countries and encourage contacts among students of all nationalities. As evidenced by the newest catalog and Viewbook, the study-away programs are a new and powerful marketing vehicle for KSC. National and International Exchange is funded by fees charged to KSC students who study abroad.
To further support our mission statement that we value diversity in our curriculum and our community, Keene State College's programming draws attention to multicultural and diversity issues. While the Vermont and New Hampshire legislatures debated same sex marriage, the College's Women's Studies program and the President's Commission on the Status of Women co-sponsored presentations and workshops by Kevin Jennings on gay and lesbian issues in the K-12 school community. The Holocaust Resource Center is advised by a statewide board and produces lectures and events which appeal to many constituencies within the local community. Its offerings help to foster respect for others and tolerance for ethnic and religious differences. The College often becomes the site or sponsor of events related to multiculturalism and diversity. Last fall Academic Affairs sponsored a symposium on Ethnic Cleansing. Programming in music and the arts includes Latin American and African artists and musicians.Undergraduate Degree Programs
Each of the College's majors is designed to provide substantial and coherent instruction in a significant area of knowledge. Students completing the sixty credits for an associate's degree must complete half their program in general education requirements, and a concentration of eighteen to thirty hours of related/sequential coursework. Experiential learning and computer literacy are strongly recommended.
Students matriculated in a bachelor of arts or bachelor of science program complete a general education program of forty-two credits as described in the College catalog. They pursue coursework in the arts and humanities, including English composition and a literature course designed to develop writing competency, four courses in mathematics and the sciences, one of which must be biology and another a physical science, and four courses in the social sciences. Some majors require or recommend certain choices within general education; for example students pursuing certification in elementary education must complete courses in music, art, and US history within the humanities component of general education. Students are encouraged to supplement classroom study with workplace experience, internships, and service learning opportunities, which are becoming increasingly popular.
The connections many faculty maintain with the workplace create and support a close correspondence between curricular content and current practice in the field of specialization. For example, master teachers from local schools teach for one or two years in the College's teacher education program. Some faculty who teach clinical psychology maintain a clinical practice. Management faculty sometimes serve as consultants to area companies or non-profit organizations. Theater faculty work in summer stock as well as mounting theater productions at the College's Redfern Arts Center. Adjunct faculty bring additional workday expertise into the classroom.Graduate Degree Programs
Keene State College's newly revised Master of Education program was implemented in the 1999-2000 academic year. It requires students to complete thirty-six to thirty-nine credits, depending upon their program. The Graduate Program is administered through the Teacher Education and Graduate Studies (TEGS) Office in collaboration with ESEC faculty, coordinators, and chair(s). The Office of Continuing Education monitors students who enroll in graduate courses but are not matriculated in order to assist them in the admission and course selection process. Upon admission to the Graduate Program, the TEGS Office, after consultation with the student and ESEC faculty, identifies an advisor. ESEC faculty offer courses in a three-year cycle to allow realistic student planning for completion of degree requirements in two to three years. Graduate students are encouraged to work closely with their advisors on academic and career planning. They can access counseling and other students services on the same basis as undergraduates.
The primary themes around which Master of Education Professional Educator Development programs are organized are self esteem and confidence, striving for excellence, social responsibility and ethics, collaboration in a community of learners, diversity, life-span development, families, integration of knowledge, problem solving, and creating and constructing one's own knowledge. The graduate program has four options: special education, school counselor, educational leadership, and curriculum and instruction. The options are designed to address national standards and, where certification is recommended, the standards for New Hampshire professional educators. These standards specify the knowledge and competencies experienced professionals should have, and thus suggest desired outcomes of the graduate option programs. The College also offers post-master's certification programs in educational leadership, school counselor, and special education.Scholarship and Research
Keene State College strongly encourages faculty scholarship and its application to instruction, and research, where appropriate. Scholarship and research are among the criteria for the evaluation of faculty, and faculty are asked to summarize such activities in annual self-evaluations. The College grants each faculty member an annual sum of money for professional development which can be used to attend professional conferences, travel, undertake research, or purchase equipment or books. A Faculty Development Fund provides additional sums as grants to those who seek additional support; further moneys are available for the purchase of technology. Every seven years, faculty are eligible for sabbaticals which may be used to further scholarship and research interests. Undergraduate Research Grants support research undertaken by faculty and students working together. Grant funds may support re-assigned time for research. The College receives grant funding from the New Hampshire Department of Education for special projects. Individual faculty may apply to outside foundations for support of sabbaticals, research, or travel. A grants officer assists faculty applying for external funds. A list of recent awards will be found in the workroom.
Current funding levels attest to the College's commitment to scholarship and research: about $90,000 is allocated to professional development money, $25,000 per year for the Faculty Development Fund, $165,000 for sabbatical replacements, $120,000 for matching external grants, and $20,000 for TALENT grants (Teaching and Learning Employing New Technology).Instruction
Methods of instruction employed by faculty may include traditional lectures and laboratory exercises, but these are most often supplemented by work in pairs or small groups, collaborative projects, and class discussions. Many departments encourage or require an internship or practicum outside the classroom. Classroom teaching methods are chosen by the instructor; however, students usually self-select to find a teacher whose style fits their learning habits. Most classes have forty students or fewer. In the past decade we have moved away from lecture style classes to smaller formats to encourage greater contact between students and their teachers.
Several measures are in place to enhance the quality of teaching. Students evaluate it each semester in every course in written evaluations which are given to the divisional dean, then returned to the instructor after the semester is over. Faculty are encouraged to read these course evaluations and comment upon them in their annual written self-evaluations. Those who wish to do so may design their own instruments for evaluating teaching. In spring 1999 several faculty pilot tested a new course evaluation form as part of an ongoing effort to improve the validity of the instrument. Peer observations in the classroom form part of the review process for untenured faculty or those seeking promotion. A FIPSE grant in the early 1990s created a series of brown bag lunches where teachers from various departments discussed common issues. Learning circles in certain areas have continued this practice of peer support for effective teaching.
An important planning initiative implemented in 1998-1999 re-organized several of the offices concerned with issues addressed in this standard: advisement of first-year students, academic support in writing and mathematics, the use of technology, and the improvement of teaching. These programs formed parts of the Instructional Innovation Center, which had grown in an organic rather than a logical fashion. In 1995, after the hiring of a permanent Vice President for Academic Affairs ended a decade of hiatus in that office, long-range planning began to restructure the services provided by the Instructional Innovation Center. Media Services moved to the Library and became the Center for Media and Instructional Technology. The First Year Experience, revitalized as the First Semester Advisor program and the First Year Council, joined the Aspire Program and Academic Advising in the Elliot Center. The Writing Center is now more closely tied to the English Department, whose advanced students it employs as peer tutors. The Math Department now more directly oversees the Math Center. Dr. David Andrews has been appointed to direct faculty development activities and serve as grants officer.Advisement
Academic advising has been transformed through the creation of the Elliot Center, consolidating in one location Academic Advising, Career Services, and the Registrar's Office, all offices using the same computer program to monitor and serve students. The physical layout increases visibility and student traffic, thus encouraging students to seek advisement when needed, and to plan early for the transition to a career. Staff in the Elliot Center guide students who have not yet chosen a major through general education and urge them to explore various programs.
Advisement of students begins with the First Semester Advisor program, implemented in fall 1998 and supervised by the First Year Council, which consists of faculty, and professional staff from the Divisions of Academic Affairs and Student Affairs. The purpose of the First Semester Advisor (FSA) is to assist first-year students in making a successful transition to college life; in learning to set personal, academic, and career goals; and in developing strategies for achieving those goals. FSAs help students achieve three major objectives: (1) feel connected to the KSC community and find the information they need in order to begin making decisions about their personal, academic, and career paths at college; (2) develop a sense of purpose for being in college; and (3) become familiar with campus resources and expectations, including the add/drop, registration, and declaration of major processes. FSA responsibilities are to: (1) initiate contact and meet with advisees at least twice within the first four weeks of fall semester; (2) provide individualized referrals and support in response to identified problems; and (3) provide support and information about add/drop and spring registration processes, and refer students to an academic advisor in the major or the Elliot Center's Coordinator of Academic Support for continued advising. Entering students who have expressed interest in a particular major (e. g. music) are assigned (when possible) to the summer orientation advising session conducted by a member of that department. Students are encouraged to declare a major (or minor) early in their academic career. Then they are assigned to a faculty advisor in that program, with whom they have the opportunity to develop a mentoring relationship. Upon completion of sixty credits, students must declare a major and be assigned a faculty advisor. This method aims to ensure that they choose a program early enough to complete its requirements within four years.
In fall 1998 the College began the transition to using the Datatel relational database. Though this has been a challenging process for staff, it has produced data that are very helpful in academic planning and scheduling. Staff continue to work with the system to improve services. When implementation is complete, students and their faculty advisors will be able to monitor their ongoing progress toward completion of degree requirements.
Students with special needs or those whose past performance indicates that they are at risk are identified and advised individually through the Academic and Career Advising Office in the Elliot Center and the Aspire Program. They receive extra help such as tutoring or workshops in note-taking or test-taking skills. Individual peer tutoring is offered by the Writing Center and the Math Center; both assist students in completing assignments and work to improve study skills.Admissions and Retention
The Office of Admissions recruits prospective students and plans and manages enrollment. Requirements for admission to Keene State College are stated in the catalog and in the Viewbook.
The College's fall 1999 enrollment was 4,606 students, comprised of 3,900 matriculated undergraduate students, ninety-one graduate students, 154 Continuing Education students enrolled in non-credit courses, and 461 in credit-bearing courses. Eighty-nine per cent of our undergraduates are between the ages of seventeen and twenty-four, while 64% of our graduate students are over age thirty-five. Sixty-four per cent of our current matriculated undergraduates are from New Hampshire, 14% from Connecticut, and 11% from Massachusetts. Most of our students have combined SAT scores between 900 and 1100. In-state students tend to be slightly better qualified; about 43% of the in-state students admitted in fall 1999 were in the top two-fifths of their high school class, as compared to 29% of out-of-state students. Fifty-six per cent of our students are women. Most of our students come from rural and suburban communities, many are first-generation college students, and many come from working class families with annual incomes under $25,000. The percentage of minority students increased imperceptibly from 2.0% in 1993 to 2.2% in 1998; we continue to enroll predominantly white, European-American students. Our latest entering class includes thirty-six students who self-report minority status, reflecting increases in the Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islands groups. About 120 international students, most from our exchange programs in Britain, Japan, and Ecuador, enroll each year. Their presence enriches the cultural environment for all.
The College accepts Advanced Placement credits and those based on College Level Equivalent Proficiency tests. Students with substantial experience outside the classroom can document what they have learned in a portfolio evaluated by faculty to determine what academic credit should be awarded. Undergraduate credits transferred in to fulfill general education requirements are evaluated by academic advisors. Those credits applied to major or minor programs are evaluated by faculty in the appropriate department. Through the New Hampshire College and University Council, students may take up to one year of coursework at another New Hampshire institution and transfer the credits into a degree program at Keene State College.
New initiatives in planning and technology now enable the College to monitor student progress through a tracking system maintained by Institutional Research to follow each entering cohort from enrollment through degree completion. The Assessment Committee and the First Year Council evaluate this data each year. Segmentation analysis identifies subgroups of students having a higher or lower retention rate than average. These committees use such information, and results of the Noel Levitz consultancy in their planning. An increase in first-year retention from 70% in 1996 to 77% in 1997 can be attributed in part, we believe, to such efforts.
In this section, we will briefly address the gains we have made in the area of Programs and Instruction before turning to the more problematic issues of advisement, the definition of learning outcomes and their assessment, the evaluation of teaching, and general education.
During the past decade, College planning and resources have focused on placing academics in the forefront. After a decade of temporary appointments in the office of Academic Affairs, Dr. Robert Golden assumed the vice presidency in 1995, making planning for the long term a reality. The re-institution of department chairs creates the potential for stronger academic leadership within the faculty. New faculty positions in Graphic Design, Psychology, Secondary Education, Communication, Biology, English, and Women's Studies/ Film Studies have been created to meet student demand. The former Lloyd P. Young Student Center (now Rhodes Hall) was converted to academic use to create handsome new classroom spaces, psychology laboratories, computer facilities, and faculty offices for the social sciences and education. Mason Library is undergoing renovation and expansion to seat more patrons and increase space for its collections.
A significant academic initiative is the creation of an Honors and Enrichment Program to begin in fall 2000. Facilitating enrichment activities is a major goal of the program. Under its auspices, our seventeen departmental honor societies will have the opportunity to apply for money from the College's endowment funds to conduct enrichment activities. The major event of the first year will be an Academic Excellence Conference in the spring of 2001.
During the past decade we have significantly increased multicultural offerings within our curriculum. The Communication major offers a seminar in International Intercultural Communication, and the ESEC curriculum identifies diversity as one of its themes. The English major requires two courses in world, multicultural, or continental literature, and the Spanish major requires a course in Hispanic Minorities in the US. The French program includes The Franco-American Experience, reflecting the heritage of a significant number of our students. Sociology offers courses in Race Relations and in Women, Gender, and Culture. We have added a new International Studies Minor. A Women's Studies proposal to place its courses (which address race and class as well as gender) among those satisfying general education requirements has been approved by all three divisional curriculum committees and will go to the Senate in the fall. It will enable our students, the majority of whom are women, to include in their general education program a course focusing specifically on the issues that concern them most.
The College Senate has just passed a modified version of the general education program goals developed by the most recent general education task force. One of these goals, "Cultural Perspectives," states:
During summer 2000, key members of the Commission on the Status of Diversity and Multiculturalism will attend an AAC & U seminar on Multiculturalism in the Curriculum and return to campus better prepared to assist the College in designating or designing courses to address this goal.
Through effective planning and allocation of resources, we have streamlined our graduate offerings and have succeeded in controlling the proliferation of programs, choosing carefully to expand into areas such as Graphic Design or Communication, which fit our mission and values and will attract students for years to come. Some of our most popular majors (Education, Psychology, Film Studies) now have specific entrance requirements to ensure their quality and to limit student enrollments to a manageable level.
The Admissions Office has made major changes in its recruitment, marketing, and financial aid strategies, guided by findings from the Office of Institutional Research. Working together, Admissions and Financial Aid have improved the decision and award process to focus our financial aid scholarship program on students who are the best match for KSC. A second example of collaboration between Admissions and another office is the implementation of a systemic process to move students through Continuing Education into matriculated status. Admissions and the First Year Council collaborated to offer an Academic Showcase for prospective and current students, an event that drew almost 700 people to campus last fall.
The re-structuring of Academic and Career Advising in the Elliot Center and the creation of First Semester Advisors and Orientation II improve these services significantly, supported by new technology and more efficient planning. These innovations may contribute to raising our graduation rate: 57% of our students now complete a degree within six years. Nonetheless, students continue to complain about the availability and accuracy of advisement and the difficulty of completing requirements on time. To help keep students on track for graduation, the College Relations Office and a Management class in organizational development created the "Road to Graduation" brochure. In this project, students looked at organizational issues and participated in problem solving. To address the time constraints of working and commuting students, changes to the schedule of time blocks for classes took effect in spring 2000, and 40% of the classes in each department must now be offered at off-peak hours. The catalog now specifies which semester courses are offered, enabling students to plan better. Departments regularly prepare five-year cycles of course offerings to facilitate institutional planning, although this information is not widely available to students. Despite these improvements in planning tools, students must be realistic about how work hours impact course scheduling, study time, and the time it takes them to complete a degree.
Often advising problems arise for students who have already declared a major, as all are required to do upon completion of sixty credits. Students who have not yet declared a major are advised in the Elliot Center. However, because 52% of our 100-level courses are taught by adjuncts, students have limited contact in their first four semesters with full-time faculty who can advise them. A more serious consideration is that the distribution of declared majors in any program fluctuates with student demand. In high demand areas such as Education, Psychology, and Management, and in areas with too few full-time faculty such as Graphic Design and Communication, one faculty member may have as many as fifty to sixty advisees. Group advising sessions provide some faculty guidance, yet fall far short of meeting the needs of students who want a personal mentoring relationship and individual advice. Furthermore, because students can, to some extent, select advisors they want to work with, some faculty advise over fifty students, while others advise few or none. Thus the distribution of advising workload within a single department (as well as from one department to another) may be very unequal. Some students choose to self-advise and never forge a mentoring relationship. There is presently no systematic way of overseeing or evaluating the quality of advice that faculty give to students. We encourage students to pursue a minor, and some of our programs (Women's Studies, German, Philosophy, Political Science, International Studies) offer a minor only. However, thus far faculty receive no formal credit for advising minors.
To address these problems, the Vice President for Academic Affairs formed the Academic and Career Advising Task Force, which submitted its report (available in the workroom) in July 1999. After considerable faculty input, the report has been modified and is now ready for implementation. It stipulates that faculty advisors contact student advisees during the first two weeks of the semester. New students would be required to obtain an advisor's signature before registering. Each department chair or designee would serve as liaison to the Elliot Center, to assign newly declared majors to their faculty advisors, and to track and assess the efficacy of the department's advisement program.
To address problems with course availability and to distribute enrollments across the time schedule, the College changed pre-registration procedures for summer orientation in 1999. All new students were pre-registered for three courses, based on their statements of academic interests. This proactive strategy greatly reduced drop-adds and the student confusion which often accompanies registration and the start-up of fall semester. Another positive effect was that it created clusters of students who met during orientation and took several classes together. However, one disadvantage of the change was to decrease enrollments in areas which students had not expressed an interest in studying before they arrived on campus, e.g. the physical sciences, foreign languages, and Women's Studies. We used this pre-registration process again during summer 2000, and will monitor its effects on students and on course enrollments.
The definition of learning outcomes and the assessment of student learning appear to be areas where we fall short of compliance with standards 4.3, 4.18, and 4.19. To measure the scope of the problem, we surveyed all academic departments in spring 1999, using language from the NEASC standards to frame our questions. (The survey and responses to it are available in the workroom). We found that most programs identified broad based goals or competencies, which may be used in a few cases to develop learning outcomes. However, most departments do not define specific learning outcomes, nor make clear how certain skills or competencies are acquired and assessed throughout the curriculum. While degree requirements (courses and their sequence) appear in the catalog, on web pages and program planning sheets, few departments identify degree objectives. Of course the clear definition of learning outcomes and degree objectives must precede their assessment.
Much of what faculty responding to the survey defined as assessment would be considered indirect or anecdotal. Thus in response to questions about their assessment of student learning beyond course grades, departments offered the following methods: post-graduation employment and feedback from employers, admission to graduate schools, student success in internships and other experiential learning, portfolios, capstone courses, oral proficiency interviews (Modern Languages), and the (very limited) use of standardized tests. Similar evidence was cited to support departments' assertions that their methods of instruction are appropriate to students' capabilities and learning styles. It appears that little direct assessment occurs, nor are methods of instruction consistently evaluated for effectiveness. Measured by outside agencies, however, many of our programs fully meet professional assessment standards. Programs in education, music, dietetics, and athletic training, for instance, successfully apply for and receive accreditation by professional organizations.
Work remains to be done in the clearer formulation of learning outcomes and plans for their assessment. An informal survey conducted by a student revealed that students sometimes confuse learning outcomes in a major with course requirements. Students were satisfied that they understood objectives and outcomes for their programs, although they said they gathered this information from course syllabi, talks with their professors, and program planning sheets rather than from a single direct source. Some gains have been made in raising faculty awareness of the necessity for stating learning objectives for their courses on the syllabus. Since all syllabi must be submitted to the divisional deans, this could serve as a checkpoint to ensure that syllabi do state learning objectives and how they will be assessed. Another step was taken last fall: as faculty propose program changes or new courses, they are now required to state the intended student learning outcomes. However, this mechanism affects only proposals for changes to the present curriculum, not our current offerings. The College Assessment Committee has studied some of these issues such as how/where/whether programs state their learning objectives and what information is included on course syllabi.
Program review now requires a definition of the program's learning outcomes, yet this new stipulation affects only those now undergoing or preparing for review, which occurs once in seven years. Some programs have grown in directions taken by faculty interest, rather than being shaped by a coherent planning initiative, and it will be difficult to retro-fit such programs with learning outcomes and models for their assessment. A noteworthy exception is ESEC, where extensive revisions to the curriculum proceeded from the definition of learning outcomes and how their acquisition would be sequenced and assessed. (Materials describing these teacher education programs will be found in the workroom). Similar discussions about course sequencing and outcomes have achieved varying degrees of consensus in English, Biology, Chemistry, History, Modern Languages and Management. In fields such as Nutrition/Dietetics, Athletic Training, and Music Education, conformity to standards of professional accrediting agencies has required clearer statements of learning objectives and assessment plans.
Most departments failed to identify specific competencies for oral and written communication, scientific and quantitative reasoning, the understanding of historical and social phenomena, or the knowledge and appreciation of the aesthetic and ethical dimensions of humankind (Standard 4.19). While these competencies are generally considered to be the purpose of general education, our present system of distribution requirements, most faculty concede, is not coherent, integrated, nor is there any procedure for evaluating its effectiveness.
In an attempt to remedy these deficiencies, the College convened a General Education Task Force in 1996 comprised of elected and appointed representatives from the faculty, administration, and students. Over the course of the next two years, the group studied general education at other institutions, formulated goals, drafted a proposal, and gathered campus input from students, staff, and especially faculty through a variety of forums, workshops, mealtime discussions, and meetings with each academic department. The proposal, which will be found in the workroom, conformed to the College's definition of an educated person as expressed in the mission statement then in use, and included a plan for its evaluation and modification. Most respondents agreed with the proposal's goals, but reservations were expressed about how it would be administered, the adequacy of resources and staffing, and how student completion of required writing proficiency and math proficiency courses would be tracked. Another thorny issue was how to monitor student completion of requirements aimed at developing personal and social responsibility.
The Senate Curriculum Committee conducted voting on the proposal, following the procedure used in gathering informational votes for curriculum changes. Faculty voted in open department meetings rather than by secret ballot, casting only a single yea or nay vote for the proposal in its entirety. A majority of the faculty (50-55%, depending on how we count faculty with dual assignments, such as Women's Studies and English) voted for the proposal, but the department tally showed less success. Eight departments voted for it, eleven against, and one (English) split evenly. The split vote in English was instrumental to the proposal's defeat, since that department would have played a vital role in its implementation. Positioning the voting within departments led to defending turf, and in the absence of a secret ballot, some faculty felt uncomfortable opposing their peers. Some opposed the proposal because it did not require coursework or skills in their subject area, such as computer science. Some faculty attributed the proposal's failure to the lack of academic leadership: they needed to hear that the plan was feasible and were skeptical about assurances that resources could be found to make it work (e.g. for staffing writing intensive or math intensive courses). Faculty also needed to hear that the registrar and Academic Advising could track how each student fulfilled the program's components.
At present, many students view general education requirements as something to be gotten out of the way before their real work on a major begins. Some departments use these courses as a way of trawling for students who may pursue a major or minor in the field. Others relegate these "service courses" to adjuncts or newcomers, reserving the senior faculty's time for upper level courses. Students seldom experience the interconnectedness of various academic departments, and no one really knows whether general education courses teach creative or critical thinking.
Despite the defeat of our third attempt in the 1990s to revise general education, we did achieve widespread consensus on the goals of the program, which were approved in a revised form in April 2000 by the Senate Curriculum Committee. Two years of discussion led faculty to re-examine how the material they teach contributes to a student's general education. A foreign language requirement for a degree within the Arts and Humanities Division has also passed the Senate, and will take effect in fall 2001. A Task Force on Quantitative Reasoning is working to support math proficiency in Science Division courses by identifying and assessing math skills needed for specific courses.
Supporting writing proficiency is the mission of the Writing Center, which convenes a Writing Task Force representing all departments, and produces the KSC Guide to Writing, containing descriptions and examples of good student writing for each department. The Center creates workshops for faculty during the semester and the professional enrichment week in May on such topics as commenting effectively on student papers and creating appropriate writing assignments. In 1998-99, its staff of nine trained, peer tutors conducted approximately 1,400 one-on-one tutoring sessions with students from almost every department on campus. Eight or ten classes per semester use the Center for reviewing preliminary drafts of papers. The Writing Fellows program has provided student tutors for classes in Psychology, Biology, Sociology, and English. However, students' use of the Writing Center's services is usually voluntary. In fall 1999 the Writing Center circulated a sample student paper and urged faculty to assign it a grade. While the experiment was certainly laudable, its results showed a lack of common standards for the assessment of writing. Furthermore, the Writing Center's efforts lie outside the core curriculum, and faculty as well as students participate on a voluntary basis.
The evaluation of teaching and the use of results to improve the quality of teaching is another area where our efforts have been more visible than our success. Our present system makes no distinction between a formative evaluation for the purpose of improving teaching and a summative evaluation as a basis for tenure and promotion decisions. Students, who must fill out evaluations every semester in every course, often consider them a waste of time and sometimes respond accordingly. Students and faculty concur that the present form is not conducive to eliciting thoughtful written responses that would help faculty improve. Attempts to develop a better course evaluation form have not found widespread acceptance; some faculty use their own forms, as the KSCEA contract permits. While deans, departmental peer evaluation committees, and the Faculty Evaluation Advisory Committee (FEAC) review course evaluations carefully during the promotion and tenure process, the forms are read in subsequent years only if faculty members wish to do so, or when they come under the five-year review mandated for fully promoted faculty. Of course some scrupulously review their evaluations with the intention of improving their teaching, but others do not bother.
Keene State College has committed financial support to training faculty in the use of computer technology, and purchasing the necessary equipment to support the application of this technology in teaching. This summer, for example, the Center for Media and Instructional Technology offered three one-week seminars to develop technology skills. Each seminar could enroll twelve faculty, who received a $300 stipend. As yet, however, we have not initiated a systematic assessment of the extent of faculty and student use of computer-based instructional materials, Internet sources, or e-mail, nor do we have valid evidence of the effect of such technology on student learning. Faculty Development Grants and TALENT grants for the purchase and use of technology offer financial incentives for the improvement of teaching, but their results are not evaluated.
As of 1998-99, departments were required to evaluate the quality of adjuncts' teaching. Usually the coordinator or another full-time faculty member made one classroom visit and wrote an evaluation. Students also fill out regular course evaluations in classes taught by adjuncts. Such documentation can help deans decide about continuing to hire these teachers.
To encourage the improvement of teaching, the College's Alumni Association annually recognizes a Distinguished Teacher. Some departments use learning circles, brown bag lunches, or discussion groups focusing on teaching; participation is voluntary. As part of faculty development efforts, we need to increase resources to help faculty improve teaching outside the context of formal evaluation. A new faculty development program directed by the College's grants office will replace the professional enrichment activities formerly sponsored by the Instructional Innovation Center.
In the near future, we project improvements in five key areas: advisement, the definition of learning outcomes, the evaluation of teaching, general education, and diversity and multiculturalism.
The College will begin in 2000-2001 to implement the advising plan recently developed by the Academic and Career Advising Task Force. We will continue to monitor the long-term effects on advisement and course availability of our new policy of scheduling incoming first-year students for three courses before they arrive at summer orientation. While we plan no significant changes affecting course availability, we must remain vigilant to ensure that enough seats are accessible in the courses which students need to complete their majors on time. Since ESEC and Physical Education effectively track majors through their programs, we will work to adapt these models to other high-demand programs. We will assess the effectiveness of our current policy of offering 40% of our classes during off-peak hours to see whether it does in fact correspond to students' needs. While we know that accurate timely advisement is key to helping students complete their majors on time, we must also communicate more clearly that their work schedules inevitably impact time to degree.
With the new requirements that proposals for new courses include a definition of course objectives, and that new programs include a statement of learning outcomes and their assessment, academic departments will increasingly attend to these key issues. The College Assessment Committee is comparing the recently approved goals of general education, the College's mission statement, and "Our Plan." The discussion begins from the standpoint of our present majors: based on a particular major, how can we define what competencies and knowledge the ideal graduate of that program should possess? That definition will lead us in turn to see where these competencies and knowledge are developed. The Committee is focusing on English, Biology, and ESEC as models, reviewing their recent self-studies and defining the learning outcomes they need. The three departments chosen represent three different divisions and thus will serve as models in each division.
The KSCEA and the Vice President for Academic Affairs will address the process for designing and pilot testing new evaluation instruments to assess the quality of teaching. We will also initiate more systematic assessment of the application of technology to teaching, and its effect on student learning.
In the area of general education, we will follow up on the spring 2000 approval of goals in the College Senate. We will determine which College body (possibly the Senate Curriculum Committee) should assume responsibility for administering and assessing the effectiveness of general education. To improve chances for the creation of a new general education program, we will ensure that a timeline for designing and approving it be clearly stated, and that voting procedures and funding issues be clarified at the outset. The new general education program must also include provisions for its assessment and modification.
We will enhance the presence of diversity and multiculturalism in two ways: first by addressing the "Cultural Perspectives" goal within general education, and encouraging departments to identify and expand suitable courses to meet this goal. Members of the College Commission on the Status of Diversity and Multiculturalism who return from the AAC&U summer 2000 seminar on Multiculturalism in the Curriculum will spearhead this effort. Second, we will use the Office of National and International Exchange to increase the numbers of minority students on campus. We will re-examine our recruitment strategies in order to set realistic specific targets for the recruitment and support of minority students, faculty, and staff. We will implement the $53,000 fund for tuition assistance to support ten students from developing countries.
In looking ahead into the next decade, we recognize that Keene State College will face the challenge of balancing its identity as a liberal arts college with the need to stay flexible in its program offerings. We must strike a balance between our traditional liberal arts mission and the job market, with its increasing demand for specialized vocations in areas such as elementary and special education, graphic design, and safety. At the same time we believe that our students will continue to need a broad-based grounding in the sciences and humanities to ensure career flexibility in a world whose changing demands no one can accurately predict.