Learning Goal Committee focuses on critical thinking

Chrissy Miller, Administration Reporter

The Learning Goal Committee convened to discuss their academic revision proposal.

Learning Goal Committee member Karla Sanders said that the committee’s main purpose at this time is to find a way to implement the undergraduate learning goals in general education in a systematic way. The proposed 12-page document outlines how this can be achieved, Sanders said.

“All of the general education classes will be targeting critical thinking, and then the learning goal associated with the segment that course is in, and then one other of the department’s choosing in terms of what makes the most sense for the content and the discipline of that course,” Sanders said.

Sanders said the committee has to keep in mind what may need to be done later with courses outside of general education. The way to tag classes with writing requirements has been heavily debated, she said. Currently, 72 percent of general education courses are labeled as writing intensive. Most writing-intensive courses, including the ones at UNC Greensborough, have a focus on required revision. Eastern’s writing-intensive courses do not require revision, although they allow revisions to be made.

Luke Young, the Learning Goal Committee student member, said that from a student perspective, the writing requirements of a class would be extremely important in determining for some students whether or not to take a course.

“Some students see that (writing intensive) and with the option between that and one of these others, they’ll go with the other because they know if there is that much writing, they’re going to have a really hard time,” Young said.

After this discussion, it was determined that a plan for revision of the writing labeling system will be presented at the next meeting.

Although the Learning Goal Committee will address in more detail what they plan to do with senior seminar at a later date, committee member Rebecca Throneburg said revisions need to be made.

“The suggestions from the time the NCA reviewers were here were ‘Why do you have a general education capstone at the very end of the career?’” Throneburg said. “I think it would be less contentious to move it down to a rising junior type of thing and tightening it up a bit to make sure the five goals are really taught and are the main topic. It may be a more functional spot for our students’ learning.”

Committee member Dawn Paulson said they would have to consider the impact this would have on study abroad courses. Some of the study abroad programs are also in great need of revision, including the study abroad options that offer three credit hours over a ten-day period.

Committee member Gary Aylesworth said the critical thinking goal should also be addressed, seeing as it doesn’t change in the four years of undergraduate programs.

“To me that’s a bit problematical. If we’re supposed to be helping them improve those critical thinking skills and there is no measurable difference at the end of four years, how can we say we’re improving this?” Aylesworth said.

Aylesworth said that critical thinking is a second-order cognitive ability that is hard to help students achieve without first having mastered first order abilities.

“A lot of students I see appear to me to not be fully developed at the primary level which is going to be a big problem when it comes to that secondary level of critical thinking,” Aylesworth said. “Basic reading comprehension is a big one (first-order skill students seem to lack). Verbal comprehension is the ability to construct coherent sentences and so forth, the ability to read at an appropriate level. If you’re struggling with sixth grade reading skills and comprehension, you’re not going to get very far with critical thinking.”

Sanders said the group will make any last-minute revisions to their proposal next week and then begin the process of showing it to the other committees before submitting it for approval.

“A native freshman will not be able to escape the learning goals,” Sanders said.

 

Chrissy Miller can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]