General Education Assessment

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Special Joint Committee on General Education Assessment

A Special Joint Committee on General Education Assessment is being established to continue progress on General Education implementation and assessment during academic year 2016-2017.

Committee membership:

  1. Associate Vice Provost for Learning Outcomes Assessment – Co-Chair; (B. Masi)
  2. Chair of the Curricular Affairs Committee – Co-Chair; (M. Slattery, former Chair and current Interim Director of the General Education Office)
  3. An associate vice president and associate dean for Undergraduate Education, appointed by the Vice President and Dean for Undergraduate Education; (J. Edmonson)
  4. A member of the Graduate Council, appointed by the Vice Provost for Graduate Education and the Dean of the Graduate School; (O. Tawatnuntachai)
  5. An associate dean from Penn State Libraries, appointed by the Dean of Libraries and Scholarly Communications; (J. Salem)
  6. A student government representative (either UPUA or CCSG), appointed by the Committee on Committees and Rules; (TBD)
  7. Six University Faculty Senators, to represent Commonwealth Campuses and University Park Colleges, appointed by the Senate Committee on Committees and Rules. (K. Shapiro, M. Aynardi, R. Egolf, H. Hayford, S. Linn, M. Miles, K. Shapiro)

The Special Committee has been charged by the Faculty Senate with fulfilling Recommendations 2 and 3 in the Legislative Report passed by the Senate on April 19:

Recommendation 2: The new standing joint committee should recommend the development of datasets to inform general education assessment. Such datasets should include, but are not limited to:

  1. A General Education Curricular Inventory that shows patterns of course offerings, student enrollment, and student grades by major and location.
  2. General Education curriculum mapping that shows the relationship between General Education and undergraduate majors.
  3. General Education course objective mapping that shows the relationship to General Education learning objectives.

Recommendation 3: The new standing joint committee should collect and use data in an ongoing way to examine student outcomes, such as (1) student success (e.g., time-to-degree, graduation rate, and other institutional data) and (2) student learning (e.g., course work, engaged scholarship projects, and other factors that provide evidence of learning). The data should also be used to inform curricular improvement, including but not limited to: (1) decisions about the General Education curriculum, including questions about the efficacy of pathways to support integrative thinking; (3) effective assessment practices and processes, especially those that can be shared across disciplines; and (3) decisions about availability of General Education curricular components across the University, including gaps and trends. The goal should be to develop an analytic assessment plan, supported by data, that informs curricular improvement and evolves over time.

Additionally, the committee should review the establishment of the Integrative Studies requirement, including Linked and Inter-domain courses, the new, 6 credit requirement in General Education for all students, with particular attention to determining whether enough courses and sections are being offered to allow students to fulfill this new requirement.

During academic year, 2016-2017, the committee, in consultation with the Faculty Senate and the Penn State community, will develop a pilot implementation plan for assessment of Penn State’s general education learning objectives including key learning objectives, foundation learning objectives and domain learning objectives. Please return to this site for updates on the committee process.

Key Learning Objectives


The ability to exchange information and ideas in oral, written, and visual form in ways that allow for informed and persuasive discourse that builds trust and respect among those engaged in that exchange, and helps create environments where creative ideas and problem-solving flourish.


The ability to identify, interpret, create, communicate and compute using materials in a variety of media and contexts. Literacy acquired in multiple areas, such as textual, quantitative, information/technology, health, intercultural, historical, aesthetic, linguistic (world languages), and scientific, enables individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, to lead healthy and productive lives, and to participate fully in their community and wider society.


The habit of mind characterized by comprehensive exploration of issues, ideas, artifacts, and events before accepting or formulating a conclusion. It is the intellectually disciplined process of conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.


The ability to synthesize knowledge across multiple domains, modes of inquiry, historical periods, and perspectives, as well as the ability to identify linkages between existing knowledge and new information. Individuals who engage in integrative thinking are able to transfer knowledge within and beyond their current contexts.


The capacity to synthesize existing ideas, images, or expertise in original ways and the experience of performing, making, thinking, or acting in an imaginative way that may be characterized by innovation, divergent thinking, and intellectual risk taking.


The intellectually disciplined abilities to analyze similarities and differences among cultures; evaluate natural, physical, social, cultural, historical, and economic legacies and hierarchies; and engage as community members and leaders who will continue to deal with the intricacies of an ever-changing world. Individuals should acquire the ability to analyze power; identify and critique interdependent global, regional, and local cultures and systems; and evaluate the implications for people’s lives.


The ability to assess one’s own values within the social context of problems, recognize ethical issues in a variety of settings, describe how different perspectives might be applied to ethical dilemmas, and consider the ramifications of alternative actions. Individuals should acquire the self-knowledge and leadership skills needed to play a role in creating and maintaining healthy, civil, safe, and thriving communities.

Foundation and Domain Learning Objectives


  • Demonstrate rhetorical and analytical skills as they explore, compose, interpret, and present a variety of texts
  • Communicate effectively and persuasively to a range of audiences
  • Demonstrate capacities for critical thinking, listening, and generating ideas
  • Demonstrate proficiency in composing processes
  • Employ the conventions of both spoken and written communication with sensitivity to context and venue


  • Use mathematical, statistical, or computational models, principles, and processes to integrate, synthesize, generalize, or make judgments about real world problems
  • Recognize patterns, establish mathematical relations, apply problem-solving skills, and think logically and critically
  • Develop, explore, analyze, and reason about multi-variable relationships using quantitative tools
  • Use probability to reason and make judgments based on data that exhibit variability
  • Communicate and explain mathematical and statistical ideas.


  • Explain the methods of inquiry in arts fields and describe how the contributions of these fields complement inquiry in other areas
  • Demonstrate an expanded knowledge and comprehension of the role that the arts play in various aspects of human endeavor
  • Demonstrate competence in the creation of works of art and design
  • Demonstrate competence in analysis, critical thinking and interpretive reasoning through the exploration of creative works
  • Identify and explain the aesthetic, historic, social, and cultural significance of important works of art and critically assess creative works, their own or others’, through evaluative processes of analysis and interpretation


  • Explain the methods of inquiry in humanities fields and describe how the contributions of these fields complement inquiry in other areas
  • Demonstrate competence in critical thinking about topics and texts in the humanities through clear and well-reasoned responses
  • Critically evaluate texts in the humanities– whether verbal, visual, or digital– and identify and explain moral or ethical dimensions within the disciplines of the humanities
  • Demonstrate knowledge of major cultural currents, issues, and developments through time, including evidence of exposure to unfamiliar material that challenges their curiosity and stretches their intellectual range
  • Become familiar with groups, individuals, ideas, or events that have influenced the experiences and values of different communities


  • Explain the methods of inquiry in Health and Wellness fields and describe how the contributions of these fields complement inquiry in other areas
  • Describe multiple perceptions and dimensions of health and wellness (emotional, spiritual, environmental, physical, social, intellectual, and occupational)
  • Identify and explain ways individuals and/or communities can achieve and maintain health and wellness
  • Describe health-related risk factors and explain changes in knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, activities or skills that have the potential of improving health and wellness
  • Disseminate knowledge about health and wellness and demonstrate behavioral practices needed to engage in healthy living across the life span.


  • Explain the methods of inquiry in the natural science fields and describe how the contributions of these fields complement inquiry in other areas
  • Construct evidence-based explanations of natural phenomena
  • Demonstrate informed understandings of scientific claims and their applications
  • Evaluate the quality of the data, methods, and inferences used to generate scientific knowledge
  • Identify societal or philosophical implications of discoveries in the natural sciences, as well as their potential to address contemporary problems


  • Explain the various methods of inquiry used in the social and behavioral sciences and describe how the contributions of these fields complement inquiry in other areas
  • Identify and explain major foundational theories and bodies of work in a particular area of social and behavioral sciences
  • Describe the ways in which many different factors may interact to influence behaviors and/or institutions in historical or contemporary settings
  • Explain how social and behavioral science researchers use concepts, theoretical models and data to better understand and address world problems
  • Recognize social, cultural, political and/or ethical implications of work in the social and behavioral sciences.