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Georgia College
Project Title:A Vertical Approach to General Education Outcomes: Reinforcing Essential Outcomes through OverlaysInstitution Name:Georgia College & State University Innovation Category:Program Design and Delivery Project Director:Sandra Jordan, Provost and Vice President for Academic AffairsContact Information:(478) 445-4715, sandra.jordan@gcsu.eduWebsite:
Project Description:Georgia College’s vertical approach to general education emphasizes essential outcomes through overlays; requirements are fulfilled through core and/or advanced courses in the major. Overlays carry learning outcomes and foster transferability of skills across the curriculum. The University Curriculum Committee, reporting to the Provost, approves courses for the overlay based on learning outcomes. The GC model was the basis for the University System of Georgia’s (USG) 2009 core curriculum policy, but GC exceeds the minimum USG exposures to these overlays, features required thematic courses to address critical thinking and global perspectives, and adds unique writing and speaking intensive overlays. 

To ensure that students:

  • Attain mastery of essential learning outcomes.  
  • Demonstrate ability to transfer essential skills from the core to new contexts in the major. 

A decade-long GC general education project and a University System of Georgia policy (2009) culminated in a new general education curriculum. Specific learning outcomes exist for the curriculum and 5 overlays. Multiple raters will use a common rubric tied to learning outcomes and evaluate student artifacts from multiple courses. The critical thinking overlay will be evaluated through the CLA exam, administered to freshmen and seniors on a three-year rotation.

  • 85% of GC students sampled will demonstrate effective oral and written communication, scoring at a level of 4 on common rubrics completed by multiple raters.
  • 80% of GC students sampled will be able to evaluate diverse responses of peoples, cultures, societies, and groups to selected historic and contemporary issues, scoring at a level of 4 on a common rubric completed by multiple raters. 
  • GC seniors sampled will collectively demonstrate critical thinking skills, scoring at a value-added percentile rank of 75% on the various components of the CLA exam.
  • Ratings from seniors on the NSSE for academic engagement will increase by 5% within two years of implementation of the new general education curriculum and be at or above those for selected benchmark institutions.
Challenges/Problems Encountered:There was concern about the complexity of the overlay model in terms of advisement and tracking degree progress. We’ve implemented a system to tag the courses carrying the overlay with Banner attributes and to track progress through DegreeWorks. Drafting the outcomes involved numerous constituencies that did not often reach consensus. Assessment coordinators eventually refined outcomes drafted by earlier committees and a university-wide committee approved them. Development of overlay courses required a faculty development program, and faculty were offered stipends to participate. Implementation also allowed individual instructors/courses to address the stated outcomes in a way best suited to their disciplines. 
Evaluation Approach:A university committee drafted outcomes for general education, passed by the University Senate (2009). Shortly thereafter, a new core policy emerged from University System of Georgia that prompted further refinement. In response to new mandates, assessment coordinators revised the 2009 outcomes. A newly formed core revision committee made further adjustments, passed by the University Senate in 2010. The provost’s office, along with Institutional Research and the Center for Testing, oversee the administration of the CLA for the critical thinking overlay outcomes. Assessment of other general education outcomes occurs through degree programs. College coordinators and assessment director manage the process. 
Potential for Replication:Overlays must respond to the institutional mission and focus on essential learning outcomes that demand reinforcement across the curriculum. An institution might select different overlays depending on its mission. No course should fulfill more than two overlays. There should be no more than 3-5 overlays, and completion of overlays should not require a student to complete more hours than required for the general education curriculum. Overlay courses also need to also fulfill distribution/major/other requirements. 
Additional Resources:GCSU core revision task force materials (outline of the core proposal and requirements and overlays) http://info.gcsu.edu/intranet/acad_affairs/core/core.html
CEO-to-CEO Contact:Steve Michael Dorman , Presidentsteve.dorman@gcsu.edu
(478) 445-4444
Date Published: Friday, April 29, 2011