Chapter 3: Teaching and Learning
UIS consistently and explicitly focuses on teaching and learning in its mission, its planning, its assessment, and its engagement with constituencies and the broader community. Faculty, students, and staff cooperate in a consistent cycle of reflection on and improvement of teaching and learning as the institution moves toward a vision that integrates undergraduate and graduate education, the liberal arts and professional programs, and lifelong learning and engaged citizenship.
Chapter 3 begins with an overview of teaching and learning within the UIS mission, and continues by analyzing recent planning efforts that provide a coherent vision of the institutional academic focus. The second section of the chapter focuses on the learning that takes place at UIS and how the campus measures and supports it. The third section explores the ways in which UIS collaborates with internal and external partners, engages with students and the community, and communicates its educational mission. The final section evaluates the strengths and challenges associated with teaching and learning.
THE FUTURE-ORIENTED ORGANIZATION
This section of the chapter demonstrates the consistency of the focus on teaching and learning in the UIS mission. The institution’s recent planning efforts exhibit a remarkably unswerving vision of the future, a future that has already been partially realized by recent new initiatives. Analysis reveals that the past and the future of UIS are closely connected as the campus builds an identity and develops the means to realize it.
Teaching and Learning is the Cornerstone
UIS has a rich tradition of excellence and innovation in teaching and learning. In the 1970-71 Sangamon State University Catalog, the first catalog of the new university, President Robert Spencer explained that the academic programs were established at SSU “to respond to the age-old mission of the university as a center of teaching, of scholarly inquiry and criticism, and of an institution which is an authentic representation of culture and humane learning.” One of the most distinctive aspects of SSU/UIS throughout its history, and perhaps most forcefully expressed in the last 10 years, has been the continuity of its commitment to these goals of teaching and learning.
The new UIS mission statement clearly expresses the dedication of the institution to high-quality teaching and learning. A key component of the university’s mission is that “the University of Illinois at Springfield provides an intellectually rich, collaborative, and intimate learning environment.” The mission further states that
UIS serves its students by building a faculty whose members have a passion for teaching and by creating an environment that nurtures learning. [Its] faculty members engage students in small classes and experiential learning settings. At UIS, the undergraduate and graduate curricula and the professional programs emphasize liberal arts, interdisciplinary approaches, lifelong learning, and engaged citizenship.
UIS provides its students with the knowledge, skills, and experience that lead to productive careers in the private and public sectors. (UIS Strategic Plan)
The mission indicates that UIS has a particular conception of what teaching and learning means. Teh campus is committed to liberal education in the sense defined by the “Statement on Liberal Education” from the Association of American Colleges and Universities:
Liberal education requires that we understand the foundations of knowledge and inquiry about nature, culture, and society; that we master core skills of perception, analysis, and expression; that we cultivate a respect for truth; that we recognize the importance of historical and cultural context; and that we explore connections among formal learning, citizenship, and service to our communities.
For UIS, such a definition encompasses both the liberal arts and professional degree programs; it involves commitment to civic engagement and public affairs; it encompasses a commitment to preparing students to be productive, ethical, and open-minded citizens in a pluralistic society, whose work and professions are informed meaningfully by a commitment to service. In practical terms, UIS is committed to a teaching and learning environment in which classes are small and focused on collaboration and active learning. Experiential and applied learning, as well as interdisciplinary and integrative learning, are infused in the general education program, in the honors program, in degree programs, and in undergraduate and graduate internships.
Effective Planning for the Future
Strategic planning efforts at UIS have traditionally reaffirmed the primacy of teaching and learning as a cornerstone of the institution’s purpose and mission. Since the early 1990s, those planning efforts have included a commitment to:
- a four-year baccalaureate degree;
- lifelong learning;
- a public affairs emphasis or focus;
- an integration of liberal arts and professional studies;
- a teacher-scholar model for the faculty; and
- concern for the quality of the students and the institution.
While planning is never complete, UIS’ strategic planning efforts have resulted in enhancing curricular and co-curricular offerings, expanding the faculty base, and creating new opportunities for teaching and learning on campus. The most recent strategic plan provides a blueprint for moving ahead in the future while staying true to the UIS mission.
Strategic Planning Process (1992)
Faculty and administrators involved in the planning process placed primacy on the need to serve a student body that was then composed mainly of commuters. The faculty recognized, however, that the population was changing, with a growing number of younger, full-time, and residential students (“Toward 2000: A Strategic Plan for Sangamon State University,” p. 4), and the institution had begun to look ahead to a possible lower division, although the report concludes that the time for conversion to four-year status is somewhere in the future (p. 7). The document also takes on the task of promoting teaching excellence, although not at the expense of scholarly activity, a passage that looks forward to the “teacher-scholar” model proposed by the Development Planning Committee (p. 6). It also recommends changes to undergraduate admissions standards to promote a higher quality student body and an assessment plan to “monitor student achievement” (p. 11). Many of the recommendations produced in the project were refined and strengthened by the work of the Development Planning Committee.
Development Planning Committee (1995-96)
The Development Planning Committee (DPC) produced a series of important recommendations for the institution as it moved forward as part of the University of Illinois system. The DPC produced a specific vision for improvement of teaching and learning at UIS. Some of the most significant elements for teaching and learning in the DPC Final Report include:
- Enhancing teaching and learning programs by adding a lower division and a Doctorate in Public Administration;
- Restoring the faculty base by adding new faculty lines;
- Achieving and maintaining accreditation of specific degree programs;
- Fostering inter- and intra-campus collaborations;
- Building external partnerships;
- Encouraging curriculum review that responds to societal change; and
- Developing an administrative structure for graduate education.
Over the last 10 years since the DPC Final Report, UIS has realized most of the improvements suggested by the committee, and those changes are discussed throughout the self-study report. Two examples of those improvements include the development of new initiatives and the restoration of the faculty base. UIS has realized its plans for both the lower division and a Doctorate in Public Administration, and the institution is beginning to see evidence for the way these new initiatives have impacted teaching and learning (see later sections of this chapter). In the process of implementing and expanding the lower division and the doctorate, UIS has increased its faculty base significantly. Concern for restoring the faculty base resulted originally from a decline in FTE faculty as a result of budget cuts. The total number of faculty dropped nearly 10% between 1993 and 1995. In academic year 1996-97, UIS employed 161 faculty, 81% of whom held doctorates. In academic year 2006-07, UIS employed 199 faculty, 91% of whom hold doctorates. Most of the new lines were added as a result of new initiatives, including the Capital Scholars Program, online degree programs, and the new general education and freshman program expansion. The new lines have added significantly to the faculty base and allowed programs to add courses to the curriculum. Nonetheless, maintaining academic program and faculty commitment has been challenging for programs that are dependent on other academic units across campus, such as the Capital Scholars Program, the Online Liberal Studies Program, and even the Doctorate in Public Administration.
A third example of strategic planning identified by the DPC Final Report concerns the accreditation and reaccreditation of specific degree programs to ensure quality education at UIS. The campus has actively engaged in maintaining accreditation of the programs overseen by external quality assessment processes. UIS has been successful in regularly renewing accreditation in the following programs:
- Chemistry Program accredited by the American Chemical Society;
- Clinical Laboratory Science accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences;
- Human Development Counseling Program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs and the Illinois State Board of Education;
- Human Services Program accredited by the Illinois Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Professional Certification Association;
- Educational Leadership Program accredited by the Illinois State Board of Education;
- Master of Public Administration Program accredited by the National Association of Schools of Public Administration and Affairs;
- Master of Science in Public Health with an option in Risk Sciences accredited by the National Environmental Health Science and Protection Accreditation Council (EHAC);
- Social Work Program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education; and
- Teacher Education certification and certificates in Educational Leadership and School Counseling accredited by the Illinois State Board of Education following the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) standards.
During the 2006-07 academic year, UIS successfully pursued two new accreditations for academic programs and colleges. Human Services received certification from the Council for Standards in Human Services Education, and the College of Business and Management became accredited through the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. As noted in a 2007 press release, “only about 10 percent of business programs worldwide and about 28 percent in the U.S. presently have this accreditation.” The accreditation required several years of planning and commitment from college personnel and the institution, so the successful pursuit of that honor by UIS demonstrates an ability to plan strategically and realize a vision.
Campus Master Plan (2000)
The creation of a Campus Master Plan relates specifically to teaching and learning in two ways: the enhancement of academic space through the construction of a new classroom-office building and the creation of a living-learning community in Lincoln Residence Hall, neither of which were built at the time of the last accreditation self-study in 1997. A shortage of academic space was partially addressed with the opening of University Hall in fall 2004. Academic programs, as well as Admissions, Registration and Records, and Financial Assistance, moved to University Hall. The new building—intended as a crossroads for the university community to promote ties between residential, academic, services, and recreational areas of the campus—is designed as a showcase of instructional technology, with wireless access to the Internet and the most up-to-date “smart” classrooms. University Hall has caused a migration of faculty and programs from the “temporary” buildings on the east side of campus to the center. Uses for those buildings have changed, and the Student Affairs Division has particularly had room to expand. The Child Care Center, for example, now includes infant care for UIS students, faculty, and staff as a result of having added space in the WUIS Building. UIS now has a Visual and Performing Arts Building that offers studio and practice space for art, theatre, music, and forensics. The Visual Arts Program is the one academic program still housed in the East Campus because of the equipment and studio space available in the building. The building of University Hall has not, however, had the anticipated effect of easing the space limitations of the library because of growth in both the number of faculty and in student enrollments.
As the residential population has increased on campus, UIS Housing and Academic Affairs have developed a dynamic collaboration through the living-learning community in Lincoln Residence Hall (LRH). LRH opened in fall 2001 for freshmen and sophomores in the Capital Scholars Program (CAP Honors). The building was specifically designed as a living-learning community. It has two seminar rooms and a multipurpose great room that have been used to teach classes in CAP Honors. In addition, the honors program offices are in the residence hall, providing easy access for students to administrative services and promoting close links between faculty and students. Close cooperation between CAP Honors and housing has promoted the development of a peer mentoring and tutoring program that cooperates with the housing resident assistants to provide student development and academic support. A new residence hall, approved by the Board of Trustees in March 2007, will open in fall 2008 and will continue to integrate living space and academics through a flexible classroom space of more than 2,500 square feet.
National Commission on the Future of UIS Report: A Vision for All Seasons (2003)
One main element of the National Commission on the Future of UIS convened by Chancellor Richard Ringeisen in March 2003 was the participation of external constituencies in the discussion of teaching and learning at UIS. More than 100 alumni and friends of the institution participated in task forces that produced a vision emphasizing high-quality degree programs that promote the liberal arts, public affairs, and professional education; faculty as teacher-scholars; a heterogeneous population of students that is more traditional-aged, more full-time, and more residential; and a broader array of campus life activities and student support services. (For a more detailed description of the Commission, see Chapter 1.)
UIS Strategic Plan (2006)
The UIS Strategic Plan promotes a detailed map for directing the future of teaching and learning on campus. Teaching and learning pervade the entire document but are specifically addressed in the first three goals of the strategic plan: Academic Excellence, Enriching Individual Lives, and Making a Difference in the World. In the sections below, some of the major initiatives related to teaching and learning under each of the first three goals are identified:
Excellence in teaching and learning continue to take pride of place in the vision for the future, just as it has in all of [UIS’] recent strategic planning processes. The strategic thrusts and action steps of this goal speak to concerns about organizational structure, faculty development, assessment, coherence in the baccalaureate experience, online learning and support services, and the fostering of undergraduate and graduate research. Early progress on strategic planning initiatives in this goal includes:
- Creation of an Office of Undergraduate Education and hiring of an Associate Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education to provide organizational coherence, track data and assess student learning, promote faculty development, and insure the smooth implementation of the new general education curriculum;
- Hiring of an Associate Vice Chancellor for Graduate Education and Research to continue developing and improving processes for graduate admissions, graduate assistantships, assessment, and data management;
- Analysis of historical course evaluation data to determine the validity and reliability of the faculty evaluation form currently in use;
- Creation of a single set of baccalaureate skills outcomes, that incorporate the general education outcomes developed in the curriculum-building process;
- Strengthened learning support services available through the Center for Teaching and Learning by adding two clinical instructors and five graduate assistants, as well as adding a writing specialist to the honors program;
- Increased funding for faculty and staff development and scholarship by 67% from fiscal year 2006 to fiscal year 2007;
- Faculty development forums sponsored by the Office of Undergraduate Education and the Colleges of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Public Affairs and Administration related to advising, pedagogy, and teaching in the new general education curriculum; and
- Faculty development forums sponsored by the Office of Technology-Enhanced Learning and Information Technology Services to promote improved online teaching and use of new technologies in the classroom.
Enriching Individual Lives
Under this goal, strategic thrusts involve creating rich intellectual and cultural campus environments through collaboration between units. UIS plans to stimulate academic and co-curricular programming, including an Annual Campus Dialogue, and develop a master plan for the arts. In addition, the institution intends to emphasize tolerance, respect for diversity, and intercultural awareness through the curriculum as well as campus activities and to enhance civic engagement opportunities for faculty, staff, and students. Finally, UIS commits to developing a program for students in transition, especially first-year students, and to improving intercollegiate athletics. Early progress on strategic planning initiatives in this goal includes:
- An administrative committee established to set policies and guidelines for the Annual Campus Dialogue that will be implemented in the 2008-09 academic year;
- Establishment of several funds to bring speakers to campus, including the Distinguished Visitors Program;
- Substantial remodeling and expansion of the visual and performing arts spaces and the creation of a visual arts computer laboratory;
- Hiring of a service-learning coordinator and approval of service-learning courses as part of the general education curriculum; re-designation of Applied Study Office as Office of Experiential and Service-Learning;
- Hiring of a coordinator for the English as a Second Language program to increase international diversity of student body and support services to that constituency; and
- Beginning dialogue with UIS Study Abroad exchange partners (such as Charles Darwin University) regarding articulation of coursework.
Making a Difference in the World
Making a difference in the world encompasses active and applied learning, civic engagement, and experiential learning. The planners saw implementation of the general education curriculum, with its Engaged Citizenship Common Experience (ECCE) as a key component of this goal, but they were also cognizant of the importance of a “broad range of activities that result in reflection, dialogue, and action on public policy and civic culture.” Strategic thrusts in this goal focus on dialogue and transformative action surrounding public policy, civic culture, and engagement. Early progress on strategic planning initiatives in this goal include the approval of more than 30 courses in the four categories of ECCE to date by the General Education Council and the implementation of the Speakers Series that is part of ECCE.
Colleges and other units on campus have also produced strategic plans linked to the campus document and impacting decisionmaking about curriculum, pedagogy, faculty development, and student support services. Campus faculty members and administrators are developing a detailed mechanism for tracking the ways in which the strategic plan will be implemented and assessing the effectiveness of efforts to implement the action steps.
A Responsive Curriculum
Through a variety of envisioning exercises and strategic planning initiatives, UIS consistently demonstrates a concern for the future, which includes a concern for the future of the constituencies it serves. Constituencies associated with teaching and learning include students and alumni, government, schools, businesses, higher education partners, and others. UIS seeks to work internally and with external partners to create an organization that fosters students who can “live and work in a global, diverse, and technological society.” UIS recognizes that to serve those constituencies effectively, it must create a set of curricula that anticipates the future in a variety of ways. Those curricula must be accompanied by learning outcomes and assessment processes that evaluate the way students are learning and how external constituents are benefiting from and valuing their collaboration with UIS.
The UIS general education curriculum was explicitly developed to meet the future needs of the students it serves. The curriculum was partially influenced by the monograph Cultivating Humanity by Martha Nussbaum and the Association of American Colleges and Universities publication Strong Foundations: Twelve Principles for Effective General Education Programs and is designed to help prepare students to be twenty-first century citizens. The curriculum is based on two major principles: lifelong learning and engaged citizenship. The lifelong learning component includes discipline-specific courses (English, communication, life and physical sciences, mathematics, humanities, and social sciences) that are designed to help students acquire knowledge and develop skills in critical thinking, written and verbal communication, and quantitative, scientific, and information literacy that they can take with them well beyond the four years of the baccalaureate degree.
The Engaged Citizenship Common Experience (ECCE) is a set of courses that are designed to help students become aware of their roles in a complex, interdependent set of communities. Upon completion of this portion of the curriculum, students will be better prepared to make a difference in the world by recognizing and practicing social responsibility and ethical decisionmaking, respecting diversity, valuing involvement, and distinguishing the possibilities and limitations of social change. The learning outcomes based on these two principles have been infused throughout the course approval process developed by the General Education Council. A rigorous application and review process ensures that courses meet the needs of students as citizens of a diverse, pluralistic democracy. Each category of the curriculum has a separate set of course approval criteria with clear definitions and learning outcomes.
In recent years, faculty members in various professional programs have changed coursework in the major to respond to industry demand and accreditation requirements. One example is the undergraduate core curriculum in the College of Business and Management, which consists of six courses in the areas of organizational behavior, finance, marketing, management information systems, operations management, and strategy and leadership. The college revised its curriculum in 2003 to comply with the curriculum practices recommended by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business and to ensure coverage of foundational knowledge, to establish a common body of knowledge that informs the majors in the college, and to identify the multiple perspectives that provide contexts for business. Since 2004, the college has been using the Educational Testing Service major field test to evaluate student learning in the new curriculum. UIS average scores are on the upward trend of improvement over three years of testing as an increasing number of students are responsible for coursework in the new curriculum, and in most of the discipline-based areas, UIScompares favorably with national averages. (See Overview and Summary of ETS Scores.)
The Psychology Program has also made significant changes to its curriculum to respond to a changing marketplace for graduates. For the B.A. in psychology, all majors must complete two core courses that address the problem solving, critical thinking, and communication skills common to all social sciences and to all areas of psychology. Beyond these core courses, the curriculum has been redesigned to accommodate students’ varying interests and career goals by providing several course concentrations that reflect some of the most popular areas of emphasis within psychology and allow students to develop knowledge and skills with specific personal and career goals in mind. Concentrations include clinical/counseling, developmental, educational, and experimental psychology, and an individualized track. The program assesses its core courses using pre- and post-testing and evaluates learning within the major concentration using portfolios prepared in a capstone course that assesses specific complex competencies. Students also complete an exit survey assessing their perspectives on academic advising, course scheduling, and various dimensions of the curriculum and quality of instruction.
The Doctorate of Public Administration (DPA) was authorized by the IBHE in 1996 as a Doctorate of Public Affairs. It was designed as a practitioner-orientated doctorate for individuals serving as public administrators in state and local government who plan to return to government service. According to the DPA website, the mission of the program is “to educate students for careers in high levels of public service in state government and management or for careers in academia.” The degree emphasizes the theory, analysis, evaluation, and practice of public administration and public policy. Graduates of the DPA program are equipped to contribute and utilize significant new knowledge about state government and agencies.
Recently, faculty and students in the doctoral program have begun to identify structural and curricular issues that need to be addressed. With the help of an external evaluator, the Dean, the Public Administration faculty, the college faculty, and the doctoral students have begun to reshape the degree, with decisionmaking and planning based on lessons learned and the evaluations of faculty and students within the program. A proposal is making its way through the college and campus approval process that would redefine the degree in its original mode as an interdisciplinary Doctorate of Public Affairs that utilizes faculty from multiple departments. Instead of being housed and administered by a single program, the DPA will be a freestanding program within the College of Public Affairs and Administration, administered by a director. This transition will expand the faculty base that participates in both the curriculum and the dissertation stage. Students will be accepted for the degree in cohorts of 15 students and a new cohort will be admitted every two years. The implementation plan for the newly revised doctoral program anticipates admitting the first cohort of students in spring 2008.
The cyclical review process of all academic, research, and public service units at UIS enhances program strength and provides opportunities for reflection and improvement in teaching and learning. Program review guidelines explicitly ask the programs to address both the progress made in the last eight years as well as future needs, thus providing for both consistency and change over time. The Undergraduate and Graduate Councils oversee a process of continuous improvement for academic units through the program review process, ensuring that programs are prepared to meet the needs of both current and future students. Recommendations for the next eight years are shaped initially by the program, but are reviewed and revised by the Undergraduate and Graduate Councils. The recommendations are reported to the Campus Senate and are then shaped into Memoranda of Understanding with the programs, which can then be reviewed regularly by the programs and colleges, as well as at the next program review, so that continuous improvement is encouraged and properly monitored. Assessment of learning outcomes in the academic programs must be specifically addressed in the program reviews. The Assessment Task Force has begun tracking the progress of program assessment through a set of hallmarks devised in academic year 2003-04.
Student and faculty support services help prepare students and faculty to meet the challenges of a changing world through increased attention to information literacy. Brookens Library has identified the ways in which it can meet the needs of the future through its strategic plan. Strategic Goal Two calls on the Library to provide “Services that Anticipate and Respond to User Needs, Preferences, and Trends in Higher Education” by accomplishing the following action steps:
- Discern real user needs and respond to them in a timely and efficient manner;
- Design services that anticipate user needs and preferences;
- Monitor trends in higher education and scholarly publishing for innovative practices the Library should adopt;
- Promote Library services through a vigorous, active, and ongoing marketing campaign; and
- Enhance outreach to the local and regional community.
For more information on Brookens Library and its responsiveness to constituencies, see Chapter 4, Scholarship.
Information Technology Services (ITS) aims to respond to the current and future technology needs of faculty, staff, and students. In its recent strategic plan, ITS states, “We support our students, faculty, staff, and an ever-growing global community with customer-oriented service and a robust and reliable environment that encourages innovative ways of using technology in all facets of teaching, learning, research, and service.” Goal Five, for example, indicates a desire to “provide an environment that encourages the use of technology to facilitate and enhance learning.” A list of technology resources that support student learning, along with performance indicators, is available in the Institutional Snapshot. (See Supplement B)
Preparing students for productive careers once they leave UIS is a key part of the institutional mission, and the Career Development Center (CDC) has undergone extensive re-organization and transformation in the 10 years since the last self-study. CDC works to “conduct research and increase [its staff’s] knowledge in areas such as career development theory, interventions, resources, technologies, recruitment strategies, marketing of services, data collection, program evaluation and best practices, in order to [remain] current with national trends” (Student Affairs Strategic Plan, p. 56). Goals for CDC include:
- Enhancing formal avenues of networking with alumni and employers to promote career opportunities and information exchanges while intentionally tracking and reporting placement data;
- Utilizing constituent feedback to identify student needs not being met relative to academic programming and service delivery; and
- Providing career advising and counseling to clarify prospective students’ educational and career goals.
UIS also has developed new graduate certificates targeted at meeting the needs of particular segments of the market that employ UIS graduates. In 2002, the Graduate Council developed and approved “Policy Recommendations for Graduate Certificates.” These policies were based on a discussion and review of existing UIS graduate certificate programs and related materials prepared by the UIS Provost’s Office, the Council of Graduate Schools, the Illinois Board of Higher Education, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. These guidelines address the recommended minimum and maximum number of semester hours in certificate programs, the relationship between certificate and degree program requirements, and the administration of graduate certificates. The recommendations also include an outline of items that departments should address when preparing a proposal for a graduate certificate.
Recently developed graduate certificates demonstrate the institution’s ability to respond to changing markets and new social and legal trends. Two of the new graduate certificate programs were developed in recognition of the critical need for professionals to understand the legal aspects of their work environment. The Legal Studies Program developed a graduate certificate in Law for Human Services and Social Workers, and the Educational Leadership Program developed a graduate certificate in Legal Issues for Educators. In recognition of the need to prepare professionals for administrative positions in public education, the Educational Leadership program has also developed a post-master’s certificate program, the Chief School Business Officials’ endorsement. Graduate certificate programs also have been developed in recognition of the need for more specialized knowledge related to security issues. The Computer Science Program, in conjunction with Center for Systems Security and Information Assurance (CSSIA), developed two new graduate certificates, one in Information Assurance and the other in Systems Security. Additionally, the College of Public Affairs and Administration has developed a graduate certificate in Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, which is housed in the Environmental Studies Program.
THE LEARNING-FOCUSED ORGANIZATION
UIS has always maintained a culture that focused on teaching and learning. Faculty members experiment with student-centered and active learning strategies to create intimate and collaborative learning environments for students. Team-teaching has been used consistently as a way of fostering interdisciplinary and integrative thinking. The liberal arts and liberal education are valued in academic units throughout campus, both in the programs that offer traditional liberal arts curricula and those that provide applied and professional degrees. A history of involvement in public affairs and professional education has led to the development of an extensive array of experiential learning opportunities for students.
In the last 10 years, UIS has developed an assessment structure that helps the institution focus on what students should learn and whether that learning has taken place. Assessment efforts in recent years have focused on the construction of appropriate and measurable student learning outcomes. In addition, faculty and staff have expanded systems, units, resources, and data collection that support effective teaching and learning and create effective learning environments.
A Student-Focused Learning Environment
From its inception, UIS has emphasized the importance of interaction between faculty and students in the educational setting. Small class sizes and one-to-one student-faculty interaction are critical to a student-centered educational process. As a result, UIS carefully monitors its student-to-faculty ratios. The institution sees these ratios as a manifestation of its identity as a small, public university committed to positive, productive relationships between faculty and students and academic excellence. The student-to-faculty ratio is one of the factors that UIS is using as a measure of institutional effectiveness, and it is discussed in some detail as a competitive advantage in the UIS Strategic Plan (pgs. 18-19), as well as in the benchmark analysis conducted by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in the completion of its own strategic plan. As noted in Table 3-1, student-to-faculty ratios are remarkably consistent over time.
Student retention rates are also important indicators of UIS’ educational effectiveness. Over the first four years of the Capital Scholars Program (2001-2005), the average freshman-to-sophomore retention rate was 84.1%, a figure that points to some success in meeting the needs of this population. Transfer student retention rates are slightly lower. For example, at two years out the retention rate for the incoming class of 2004 transfer students was 74%. As the UIS Strategic Plan notes, data such as student-faculty ratios and freshman retention rates demonstrate that:
UIS tends to “look like” the private universities in terms of the U.S. News variables, but clusters with the regional public universities in terms of tuition. These data clearly have marketing implications (e.g., “value for the dollar”), but also prompt consideration of how much could be achieved toward the goals of the strategic plan by a tuition strategy that moved UIS up in comparison to the other publics.
Thus, data related to teaching and learning are driving both the refinement of the institutional identity and strategic planning and budgeting for the future.
Student Satisfaction Inventory (SSI) data indicates that UIS has been successful in establishing a supportive learning environment that promotes academic excellence (see SSI Data Summary). UIS student perceptions on items that relate to the institution’s “concern for the individual” and “student centeredness” have consistently been higher than that of students at other four-year institutions.
A Culture of Assessment
The assessment initiative at UIS now has a twenty-year history that mirrors the national trends of assessment during that time period. When assessment first developed at UIS, the Board of Regents and the Illinois Board of Higher Education both laid out a fairly rigid template for assessment. Consequently, the campus assessment initiative began with a mandate that assessment would occur at entry, mid-career, and exit; it would involve multiple methods; and it would encompass general education skills, baccalaureate skills, and discipline-based skills. Like many institutions, UIS struggled with acceptance of the assessment program among both students and faculty, and a set of guiding principles were established (see Guiding Principles for Academic Assessment. These principles have been revisited a number of times since their development and, to date, remain the foundation of the assessment initiative at UIS.
Because of the nature of the UIS mandate, along with its upper-division status, implementation of entry assessment occurred at the junior year. Faculty with expertise in English, mathematics, library skills, and critical thinking developed assessment tools internally, and the results were integrated into the student advising and program review processes. The Office of Assessment (housed in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences) was established to oversee the entry/exit processes of assessment and assist programs in the development of discipline-based assessment. The director of this office (a faculty member) led the Assessment Task Force until 1999, when the activities of the office became mostly administrative. In 2001, the Assessment Task Force (ATF) was reinstated, overseen by the Associate Vice Chancellor, with representatives from all academic colleges and student affairs. In the following years, ATF began to strengthen program-based assessment as the institution moved away from an institutionally-driven assessment process and toward a more course/program-imbedded approach. As a result, in 2003 the Assessment Office was closed and institutional assessment of baccalaureate and general education skills was terminated. Today the focus of assessment of student learning at UIS is at the program level and all efforts center on the strengthening of this process at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, with institutional coordination achieved through ATF.
The UIS Principles of Assessment delineate the institutional concern for maintaining broad participation, ownership, and responsibility for students and their learning. They form the foundation for establishing and maintaining a culture that encourages faculty and student participation and ownership in the UIS assessment initiative. In the last decade, the development of ATF has assured broad representation in the UIS assessment initiative. The work of ATF has been instrumental in sustaining faculty and program development activities, reviewing and evaluating program assessment plans, and developing materials designed to assist and support assessment activities.
During the last 10 years, the campus has undergone a transformation that has significantly impacted the development of institutional student learning outcomes. Because of its upper-level status, the institutional learning outcomes have traditionally been focused on the development of baccalaureate skills, while general education learning outcomes focused on the core experience of UIS’ upper-level students. These outcomes were closely connected with the institutional mission and emphasized (1) reading, writing, critical thinking, and research skills; (2) lifelong learning; (3) public affairs; and (4) applied study.
With the addition of the lower division in 2001, the lower-division learning outcomes were operationalized entirely within the Capital Scholars Program and focused on the program’s curriculum, which is interdisciplinary and integrated. With the shift to honors program status, the learning outcomes were reassessed and now reflect the burgeoning four-year nature of the curriculum. CAP Honors has been measuring student learning directly and indirectly. In fall 2006, a CAP Honors assessment report documented that 83.01% of students in CAP 111 Honors Composition reported having an understanding of the basics of integrating research with arguments. A recent direct assessment effort, with a very limited population of students in CAP 111, indicated that students effectively formed critical arguments in their final projects but had more difficulty examining and analyzing cultural factors and providing their audience with substantial evidence and reasoning in support of their conclusions or inferences. The assessment report indicates how the honors program faculty will attempt to address those concerns in CAP 111 next fall.
At the campus level, UIS revised its baccalaureate skills outcomes in academic year 2004-05. With the development of a broad-based general education curriculum, specific learning outcomes were developed for general education at UIS and were implemented in 2006. These learning outcomes reflect a blending of a new general education initiative with that of some of the traditional elements of the UIS/SSU mission.
During the academic year 2006-07, the Assessment Task Force (ATF) initiated a process to combine the baccalaureate skills outcomes with the general education learning outcomes developed by the General Education Working Group. ATF developed goals for baccalaureate education that are partially adapted from the criteria for scholarship used in the faculty tenure and promotion process, criteria based on Ernest Boyer’s Scholarship Reconsidered. This link creates a synergistic relationship between the learning that students do and the learning that faculty do. Each of the five goals of baccalaureate education contain learning outcomes or competencies that are measurable (see Goals and Learning Outcomes for Baccalaureate Education). The goals and outcomes were approved through the governance process in spring 2007. The new goals and learning outcomes have been incorporated into the general education approval documents and will be assessed initially within general education. Over the next year, ATF will begin helping the Office of Undergraduate Education and the academic programs determine methods for assessing the goals and learning outcomes throughout the baccalaureate experience.
Even before combining general education learning outcomes with baccalaureate skills outcomes, ATF implemented a number of programmatic efforts to assist programs in refining and strengthening their own stated learning outcomes. These efforts have involved the strengthening of assessment data analysis in program reviews; mentoring workshops for selected programs; and mentoring follow-ups for selected programs.
In academic year 2003-04, the progress of the assessment initiative was evaluated through a review of assessment reports. Each program’s assessment practices were analyzed based on the extent to which the following hallmarks of assessment were present:
- Program recognizes the essence of assessment is looking across students ;
- Program states goals in terms of student outcomes, rather than faculty goals;
- Program identifies specific assessment activities;
- Program links assessment activities to student learning outcomes;
- Program has a system (or a routine) for analyzing assessment data;
- Program documents ways in which the assessment process has affected curriculum, admissions policies, etc.;
- Program has undertaken curriculum mapping;
- Program uses multiple points of assessment;
- Program quantifies the assessment data; and
- Program uses technology in the collection, storage, or analysis of the assessment data.
Two readers reviewed the materials that were submitted and rated each hallmark for each program using the following scoring system: (1)not present, (2)somewhat present, or (3)clearly present. Following the initial scoring, the readers met to compare results and discuss differences. A single set of scores was then established for each program. This evaluation noted that:
- Approximately two-thirds (68%) of the programs submitted information that indicated that they have identified one or more assessment activities.
- At least one-half of the programs submitted information that indicated the presence of the following assessment components: identification of student learning outcomes, the use of multiple points of assessment, and the recognition that assessment involves looking across students.
- About one-third of the programs submitted information that indicated the presence of the following assessment components: linking the assessment activities to specific student learning objectives and using assessment findings to make program improvements.
- One-fourth or fewer of the programs submitted information that indicated that they have a system or routine for analyzing assessment data, they utilize a quantitative analysis of assessment data, they have undertaken curriculum mapping, or they are using technology in their assessment process.
These findings indicated that assessment of learning outcomes at UIS had come a long way, but also highlighted directions for expanding institution-wide understanding of strategies to be used in conducting an effective assessment program. Specifically, as a next step, all programs need to clearly recognize that assessment of learning outcomes involves looking across students, objectives need to be stated in terms of student learning rather than program or faculty goals, and assessment activities need to have strong logical connections to the desired outcomes. Additionally, more programs should begin to make headway on developing a system or routine for analyzing assessment data, quantifying assessment data, and using technology in the collection, storage, and analysis of those data.
In academic year 2004-05, a follow-up to the 2003 analysis examined progress on the specific items highlighted as critical to an effective assessment program. This analysis examined whether programs assessed skills across students, provided student learning objectives, incorporated assessment activities into their initiative, linked their assessment activities to learning objectives, and had developed an assessment system and used assessment results in their evaluation of their curriculum. Improvement from 2004 to 2005 was found in all areas except in the use of assessment results in program improvement.
For academic year 2005-06, ATF developed a new protocol for programs reporting on assessment labeled “Annual Student Learning Report” in an effort to focus faculty attention on the subject of assessment efforts. Program administrators were asked to report specifically on progress made from the last assessment report using some of the hallmarks of assessment developed during the 2003-04 review process describe above. The protocol also kicked off a learning outcomes project, in which programs were encouraged to select one outcome and develop a plan for measuring student learning in relationship to that outcome and use the results to make curricular change. Analysis of the data from the Student Learning Reports was still occurring during the preparation of this self-study. Implementation of the learning outcomes project has been delayed from its original deadline but will continue in the 2007-08 academic year.
In spring 2007, ATF determined through analysis of the 2003-05 data and some preliminary analysis of the 2005-06 material that the assessment reports were not entirely successful in supplying the committee with the information it needed to do meta-analysis of assessment initiatives on the campus. ATF members designed web-based surveys (see Resource Center) for undergraduate and graduate programs that were deployed in late spring. Preliminary review of the results indicates that the surveys have produced a rich set of analytical materials on assessment, and ATF will analyze the results and disseminate its findings in fall 2007.
One of the challenges for ATF and for the assessment initiative on the UIS campus is organizational structure and coordination. In the last three years, leadership of the ATF, which used to be jointly organized by the Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Planning and the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has shifted yearly within the Provost’s office. ATF has recommended that the institution create a position for Coordinator of Assessment, who would provide structure, logistical operations, data collection, and project management, and serve as a resource for programs enhancing their assessment plans. The coordinator would serve as staff support for ATF and be guided by the initiatives established by them. The Provost has agreed to find funding for the position, and ATF is moving forward with approval of a job description.
Evidence of student learning can also be gleaned from nationally-normed instruments, such as the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) (see NSSE Data Summary). UIS has now compiled five years of NSSE data that provide evidence of student learning as related to institutional learning outcomes. NSSE items evaluate a student’s perception of the extent to which the institution has contributed to their knowledge, skills, and personal development in:
- Acquiring a broad education;
- Acquiring job or work-related knowledge and skills;
- Writing clearly and effectively;
- Speaking clearly and effectively;
- Thinking critically and analytically;
- Analyzing quantitative problems;
- Using computing and information technology;
- Working effectively with others;
- Learning effectively on one’s own;
- Understanding people of other racial and ethnic background; and
- Solving complex real-world problems.
Overall, UIS compares favorably to its selected comparison group (Benchmark) and national normative data on these items. Further, mean scores from 2002 to 2006 reflect an upward trend in student perceptions on institutional contributions to their knowledge, skills, and personal development in these areas.
The Student Satisfaction Inventory (SSI) also provides a strong indicator of UIS’ educational effectiveness (see SSI Data Summary). A consistent finding of the SSI across 2001, 2003, and 2005 is that students identify the quality of their educational experiences at UIS as strong. Specifically, they report high levels of satisfaction with the content of courses in their major, the knowledge of faculty and advisers, instruction, the campus’ commitment to academic excellence, and their ability to experience intellectual growth as a student at UIS. These findings indicate that students are comfortable with UIS’ efforts to facilitate their learning and that the campus provides an effective learning environment. (see Table 3-2)
Further evidence regarding the quality of education at UIS can be analyzed using local survey data. In the 2004 UIS Faculty Satisfaction Survey, over 91% of the respondents ranked the quality of teaching in their department as good or very good. In other measures, 64.9% of the respondents ranked the Capital Scholars Program as good or very good, and 58.4% of the respondents ranked the quality of graduate students as good or very good. Undergraduate student quality was not ranked as highly (only 46.8% of respondents ranked the quality of undergraduates as good or very good), and those figures likely reflect lower admissions standards for undergraduates, particularly in the on-campus population, as opposed to the online population. UIS must continue to find new ways to recruit high quality students.
Alumni surveys of both undergraduate and graduate students one year after graduation reveal that students perceive the quality of their UIS education quite highly (see Alumni Survey Data Summary). From 1997 to 2004, 93% of undergraduates and 91% of graduate students responding have rated the quality of education in their major as good or very good. Indicators of student perception of the quality of teaching at UIS are also positive. Table 3-3 represents the total percentages of students using a ranking of good or very good for selected indicators on alumni surveys from 1997 to 2004.
To use the assessment data the campus has gathered most effectively, the Assessment Task Force will need to triangulate data across multiple measures of student learning and prioritize action steps for improving specific areas.
Creating Lifelong Learners and Engaged Citizens
As stated earlier in this chapter, lifelong learning and engaged citizenship are key components of the campus mission and the new general education initiative. Those goals resonate in all the academic programs on campus, both undergraduate and graduate and in the student support services that have grown toward maturity in the years since the last self-study report.
UIS has always valued lifelong learning, a concept that has been part of the mission of the campus for many years. With its commitment to serving non-traditional and returning students, UIS provides opportunities for working adults to gain promotions or pay raises by completing a degree, a certificate, or additional college credit. For example, the graduate-level Educational Leadership Program serves the professional growth and in-service needs of Illinois educators, including classroom teachers, State Board of Education personnel, central administrative staff, and school board members. Concentrations allow students to seek an administrative certificate, become a master in teacher leadership, pursue a post-master’s degree superintendent’s endorsement, or obtain the new Chief School Business Official endorsement.
The Capital Scholars Honors Program curriculum uses interdisciplinary courses and case studies to foster critical and integrative thinking, information literacy, problem-solving skills, and an appreciation for diversity, among other learning outcomes. Central to the curriculum are the four team-taught, interdisciplinary humanities and social science courses, called the “Question Courses” by students because of their thematic titles: How Do You Know, Who Am I, What is Good, and What is Power. Also part of the curriculum have been an interdisciplinary two-course sequence in the biology and chemistry of the environment, an art and music course, and a course on “Information, Technology, and Society” (although the last course, an interdisciplinary social science course, has changed titles and topics since the beginning of the program). The cohort-driven nature of the curriculum, in which students take the same set of courses, fosters a learning community and a strong sense of camaraderie among faculty and students, teaching collaborative communication skills that students can take into the workplace or graduate education. Some indication of the success of the program in fostering a learning community is evident in the NSSE data (see NSSE Data Summary). Table 3-4 identifies the NSSE questions most closely related to the evaluation of the Capital Scholars Honors learning community.
The data generally reveal success with the living-learning community in the Capital Scholars Program, although the most recent classes, the 2004-05 and 2005-06 cohort of freshmen, generally demonstrate flatter scores than previous classes on many of the indicators. The 2005-06 cohort was larger, at 137, than previous years, the largest cohort otherwise having been 116, and the size of that class may have affected the intimacy of the living-learning community. The data are being monitored by administrators to determine whether the flatter numbers represent a trend.
The new UIS general education curriculum is also central to lifelong learning and engaged citizenship, particularly since those two core principles inform the curriculum. The curriculum fosters the first learning principle through discipline-based categories, such as written and oral communication, math, science, humanities, and behavioral and social sciences. Courses in those categories are designed to fit easily into the Illinois Articulation Initiative’s General Education Core Curriculum, so that students may easily transfer into and out of UIS. Other desirable outcomes of lifelong learning, such as information and technological literacy weave throughout the curriculum. Faculty report these outcomes in their syllabi of general education courses and through a general education checklist; both the syllabus and the checklist are assessed in the curriculum review process by the General Education Council.
Through UIS’ general education curriculum, a substantial array of 100- and 200-level courses has been added in a variety of areas that were not available at the time of the last self-study. In addition to the general education courses, academic degree programs have added coursework for majors, particularly at the 200 level. Highlights of those curricular additions include:
- Freshman composition courses;
- Oral communication course (i.e., public speaking);
- 100-level math courses, including College Algebra, Quantitative Reasoning, and Mathematics for Everyday Life;
- Interdisciplinary humanities and social science courses;
- “Bridge” courses (prerequisites) in the majors and minors, including Financial and Managerial Accounting, Introduction to Psychology, Introduction to Social Work, and Introduction to Education; and
- Coursework designed to foster engaged citizenship and service-learning.
There are three notable features of the lifelong learning section of the general education curriculum. First, two of the lifelong learning courses intersect with the engaged citizenship part of the curriculum. Students enrolling at UIS with fewer than 30 credit hours of college coursework are required to take two 100-level Comparative Societies courses, one humanities and one social sciences, in the first year of the baccalaureate.
Second, students enrolling at UIS with fewer than 30 credit hours of college coursework are required to take at least six hours (two courses) of math. The General Education Working Group exchanged lively debate about the advisability of requiring six hours of math, three more than the minimum required in the Illinois Articulation Initiative’s General Education Core Curriculum. The committee ultimately decided that quantitative literacy should be valued as much in today’s world as written or oral communication, and that value should be represented in additional coursework in general education. Students may count coursework required in the major toward the six hours of math, provided the courses contain sufficient quantitative material and are approved by the General Education Council.
Finally, all undergraduates are either encouraged or required to take a course in the general education category entitled “Visual, Creative, and Performing Arts.” This category maps, in part, to the Illinois Articulation Initiative’s Humanities-Fine Arts coursework, but it was specifically designed to allow a choice between appreciation courses and courses that develop skills, such as music or theatre performance or creative writing.
Course-embedded assessment of general education learning outcomes in the 100- and 200-level courses will occur initially in composition. The English faculty member coordinating the composition program will use electronic portfolios to track the writing progress of students throughout the four-year baccalaureate, beginning in ENG 101: Composition I; the study will begin in fall 2007. More learning outcomes will be added and rotated each year, as the Office of Undergraduate Education and the Assessment Task Force develop processes appropriate for each outcome.
One other means of assessing lifelong learning is the UIS alumni survey. The alumni survey indicates student perceptions of how UIS has contributed to their learning. Alumni surveys of both undergraduate and graduate students one year after graduation reveal that students perceive the quality of their UIS education quite highly. Table 3-5 represents the total percentages of students from 1997 to 2004 who rank UIS positively on selected indicators.
UIS must continue to find ways to provide its students with experiences that promote lifelong learning skills. More research with UIS alumni may reveal ways of enhancing such skills. In the UIS Strategic Plan, such research has become an action step under the first goal of academic excellence. UIS intends to “establish a process for soliciting feedback from alumni about strengths and limitations of their programs’ curriculum.”
Engaged citizenship, the second major goal of undergraduate education at UIS is met primarily through an array of interdisciplinary categories in the Engaged Citizenship Common Experience (ECCE):
- Comparative Societies (100 level humanities and social science courses; six hours)
- U.S. Communities (200-400 level; three hours)
- Global Awareness (200-400 level; three hours)
- Engagement Experience (200-400 level; three hours)
- ECCE Elective (200-400 level; three hours)
- Speakers Series (300 level; one hour)
One of the key elements of ECCE was the decision by the General Education Working Group to embed diversity, ethics, and civic engagement throughout the curriculum, rather than isolate those learning outcomes into a single course. The intent behind this is that multiple exposures to the values UIS wants its undergraduates to develop will enhance the effectiveness of the learning experience and prepare students more thoroughly for a rapidly changing world. The new curriculum continues to emphasize components of the traditional academic culture of UIS: interdisciplinarity, lifelong learning, and engagement. In fact, the requirement that all undergraduates have an engagement experience, in which students participate in “structured opportunities to integrate knowledge, practice, and reflection” harkens back to the SSU requirement that all students complete an applied study term. The new requirement, however, is informed by the growth of service-learning as a reflective practice in higher education and by an interest in globalizing students’ understanding of community service and engagement.
Academic units at UIS contribute substantially to fostering a learning environment in which students master skills for lifelong learning and practice engaged citizenship. Programs and departments reflect these principles in their goals, objectives, and learning outcomes and in their curricula. As might be expected of a liberal arts program, the English Program includes critical thinking, writing, oral communication, information literacy, and collaboration among its learning outcomes. Degree programs in every college on campus, however, espouse the values of liberal education. A recent fall 2006 forum hosted by the Provost at UIS on the liberal arts and their significance revealed the depth of commitment to the liberal arts not only from programs in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences but also from professional programs and public affairs majors. The College of Business and Management, for example, lists as two of its objectives (1)emphasizing conceptual knowledge and the development of analytical and problem-solving skills and (2)nurturing a sense of personal, professional, and social responsibility.
A number of undergraduate programs on campus require or recommend that students complete internships, and the new ECCE curriculum has led to a re-examination of those internships, particularly in professional programs, to determine how internships promote engaged citizenship as well as building professional skills. Students may now use the Engagement Experience and the ECCE Elective to complete internships, when those internships meet the educational objectives of the ECCE categories. The Applied Study Term Program is undertaking a revision of the handbook for the internship program, and students completing a six-hour internship that fulfills both the Engagement Experience and Elective categories of ECCE must now include an additional learning outcome for their placement that puts the internship in a context of social responsibility.
Assessment of learning outcomes is essential to measuring the ways in which programs promote student learning in these areas. When UIS began analyzing annual assessment reports in 2003-04, the reports indicated that about two-thirds (67%) of the undergraduate programs and one-half (53%) of the graduate programs submitted clearly-stated student learning outcomes. For all programs combined, 60% of the programs submitted clearly-stated student learning outcomes. In that same year, the Assessment Task Force began a series of workshops designed to help programs move forward in their assessment initiatives. The workshops focused on helping programs develop and find ways to articulate and measure learning outcomes.
The assessment survey completed by programs in spring 2007 asked programs to indicate whether they had outcomes, to provide examples of those outcomes, and to identify methods by which those outcomes are assessed through student work. Preliminary analysis of the survey results indicate that virtually all programs at UIS have created learning outcomes, so substantial progress has been made over the last three years. To assist programs with implementing an effective assessment plan, from development of learning outcomes to using assessment data to drive decisionmaking, the Assessment Task Force created a web page called the How-To’s of Assessment that explains the steps of the assessment process and encourages programs to “close the feedback loop” by analyzing data and using it in curricular decisionmaking.
Preparing Students for Productive Careers
The new UIS Mission Statement indicates a renewed commitment to preparing students for productive careers in the public or private sectors. The strategic plan includes action steps that signal the directions for future development in this area, including encouraging faculty to involve students in professional organizations (Goal 1, Strategic Thrust 1, Action Step 1e) and expanding the Career Development Center’s Employer Relationship Program, “which actively develops relationships with current and potential new employers of UIS students while supporting the environment (virtual or face-to-face) that brings students and employers together”(Goal 2, Strategic Thrust 4, Action Step 22).
Programs and units across campus participate in helping to build students’ skills, knowledge, and experience for productive careers. Academic programs involved in the professional development of students are not limited to the “professional programs,” which include Accountancy, Business Administration, Clinical Laboratory Science, Computer Science, Criminal Justice, Educational Leadership, Environmental Studies, Human Development Counseling, Human Services, Management, Management Information Systems, Public Administration, Public Affairs Reporting, Public Health, Social Work, and Teacher Education. All programs identify the careers available to students after the degree is complete. The Liberal Studies Program posts on its website an extensive list of possible careers for students with this interdisciplinary major, as well as a list of recent employers of program graduates. The History Program indicates that it provides students “with research capabilities, analytical methods, and communication skills that are useful in many fields. The curriculum prepares students for careers in history, politics, government, law, journalism, writing, and administration.” Legal Studies also provides students with information about potential career opportunities:
Knowledge of the law and legal system is important for individuals in a wide array of careers including social workers, lobbyists, union representatives, personnel administrators, law enforcement officials, claims adjusters, librarians, probation officers, corrections personnel, human resource managers, and governmental agency and court administrators. Many professionals, especially in the public sector, need a comprehensive understanding of what the legal system is, how it works, how it interrelates with social change, and how it assists people in asserting their rights.
A number of academic programs have learning outcomes related to career-building skills and knowledge, such as Criminal Justice and Clinical Laboratory Science at the undergraduate level and Human Services and Educational Leadership at the graduate level.
UIS tracks the effectiveness of its ability to prepare students for successful careers through alumni survey data. One year after graduation, students are asked to evaluate the results of their UIS education using a variety of indicators. Table 3-6 represents the total percentages of students with a positive view of the selected career indicators from 1997-2006.
Both undergraduates and graduate students indicate that UIS has provided a firm foundation in ethics within the major. The composite percentages at both levels are also similar with regard to interest or involvement in public affairs. The percentages suggest, however, that only a little over half of both undergraduates and graduate students have become interested or involved in public affairs as a result of a UIS education. Students involved in the above set of surveys took the former upper division general education curriculum. The new Engaged Citizenship Common Experience is designed to increase the number of students interested in engagement, public policy, and civic culture (all of which are part of public affairs; for more information, see below). Differences between undergraduate and graduate education account for some of the differences between the composite percentages. For example, since the master’s degree or doctorate is a terminal degree for many students, the composite percentage of students who are interested in pursuing additional academic work after the master’s degree is less than after the bachelor’s degree. The close relationship between graduate education and career goals may explain the higher composition percentage of graduate students who view UIS as helping them meet career aspirations.
UIS also uses empirical data to evaluate the ways in which it prepares students for productive careers. Included in those data are the percent of undergraduate degree/certificate recipients either employed or enrolled in further education within one year of graduation, and that information is submitted annually as a performance indicator to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees in the UIS Performance Report.
Central to the preparation for successful careers are two support units, the Experiential and Service-Learning Program (EXS-L) and the Career Development Center. EXS-L includes both the Applied Study Term Program and the Service-Learning Program. Applied study and the internship program have a nearly 40-year history at UIS. The program was initiated when the institution started, and UIS is one of the founding members of CAEL, the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning. The Applied Study Term (AST) has traditionally been one of the ways students fulfilled the 12 hours of upper division general education called “UIS Requirements.” In the new general education curriculum, AST is one of the primary ways students can fulfill both the Engagement Experience and the ECCE Elective. AST is an individualized field experience providing students with the opportunity to apply theory, expand knowledge, determine additional learning needs, explore careers, and develop a public awareness and an appreciation of diversity while earning academic credit. AST can take the form of internships, projects, travel, or study abroad for academic credit. Many of these opportunities have been extended to UIS’ online students. Service-Learning is a relatively new unit at UIS. Formerly housed in the Division of Student Affairs, the office is now located in Academic Affairs under EXS-L. A new clinical instructor is not only developing service-learning courses from within the unit but also providing faculty development to increase the number of service-learning courses taught within the academic programs. Service-Learning received a $5,000 internal grant for a faculty development workshop in summer 2007. The strategic plan for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences identifies plans to strengthen service-learning on campus but notes that “our historic and current achievements are insufficiently recognized” in an area that has recently become popular in higher education but has been a long-standing part of the UIS baccalaureate experience. Both AST and Service-Learning offer students the opportunity to gain experience working in the community, which can enhance students’ job prospects. Frequently, internship opportunities actually result in offers of full-time employment.
The Career Development Center (CDC) provides a full range of office-based and online services including career exploration and development, job search assistance, guidance with graduate school preparation, and career transitions. One of its primary services is career counseling that can assist students with deciding on a major, choosing a career path, or simply learning about various occupations. CDC counselors help assess students’ interests, personality traits, work values, and skills so they can make informed decisions about their major choice and career goals. CDC has a particularly rich array of online services, available to both campus and online students, including:
- The Virtual Career Development Center Website, which includes information on a variety of topics that students frequently request;
- WinWay, a résumé software system;
- UIS-Success, a customized job posting and information exchange system (linking students with employers);
- CareerSearch, which provides fast access to over 6.5 million key contacts, addressing company descriptions, addresses, names, titles, and many e-mail addresses;
- DISCOVER, a developmental guidance system containing databases of occupations, college majors, schools and training institutions, financial aid/scholarships, and military options;
- Vault, an online career library containing over 80 Vault guidebooks, over 3,500 company profiles, over 1,500 career advice articles, and an archive of over 2,000,000 message postings; and
- Perfect Interview, an innovative learning tool that can enhance job interviewing skills by creating a realistic simulated interview experience with over 1,500 interview questions and answers, putting the student in the “hot seat” and making them think on their feet quickly and effectively.
CDC hosts a Career Fair at UIS each year with over 100 employers, including in recent years Archer, Daniels, Midland (ADM); Ameren; Caterpillar; Horace Mann Insurance; the Office of U.S. Senator Barack Obama; United Parcel Service (UPS); and many state and federal agencies. For more on CDC, see Chapter 2.
Supporting Teaching and Learning
UIS has developed a number of support units that relate directly to its mission of creating an “environment that nurtures learning.” At the time of the last self-study, UIS reported 13 units that provided support services, about half of which were related fairly directly to teaching and learning. In the last 10 years, the number of support services and the units providing them has expanded significantly, primarily as a result of expanding the population to include a higher percentage of traditional-aged, residential, or distance-learning students. Regardless of the impetus for providing additional support services, all UIS students have the opportunity to benefit from the enhancements.
Center for Teaching and Learning
The Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) opened in 1995 and was designed both to provide academic services to students and “to develop faculty members as teachers.” CTL is still housed in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, although it serves students and faculty across all four academic colleges. The staff and graduate assistants provide one-on-one tutoring in writing, grammar and usage, mathematics and statistics, science, reading, studying, and test taking. In addition, until February 2006, CTL provided ESL (English as a Second Language) intake testing and classes. The UIS Assessment Office was housed in CTL until it closed in 2003. The CTL staff estimate that 50% of their appointments are for help with writing, 20% are for help with math (typically statistics), and 30% involve computer training for students, staff, or faculty. It is estimated that 50% of the demand for computer help comes from graduate students (e.g., GPSI, GAs), 30% from UIS staff, and 20% from faculty. (See the CTL Task Force Report)
Staffing in CTL has seen both stability and change in recent years. At the inception of CTL, an external hire for the director position produced a candidate who was not a good fit for the institution, and CTL has been run by existing faculty and staff leadership since that time. Faculty and clinical instructor positions in CTL have provided continuity as CTL’s focus has changed in recent years. In the last two years, clinical instructors in math and writing have added substantially to the ability to develop supplemental instruction and tutoring services for students.
In 2005, a task force on CTL was convened by the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The CTL Task Force was charged with addressing the following areas within the context of new initiatives for the campus:
- Expansion of services to a larger group of lower-division students;
- The scope of services to graduate students;
- The provision of online tutoring services;
- The scope and location of intake placement testing for entering students (e.g., math);
- The provision of ESL testing and ESL course delivery;
- Whether any component of , CTL’s existing mandate should be transferred to another entity;
- Staffing needs to accomplish recommended changes; and
- The administrative location and reporting relationships of CTL.
The CTL Task Force concluded in October 2005 with a report in which it analyzed the current structure and effectiveness of CTL and made 17 recommendations. Surveys of both students and faculty conducted by the task force indicated the general usefulness of the services offered by CTL, although the visibility and accessibility of CTL’s location may need to be addressed. The task force, in collaboration with the staff in CTL, recommended that it should narrow its focus and concentrate its resources on serving a larger population of students with expanded services.
One of the recommendations of the CTL Task Force was to provide supplemental instruction for general education, and that recommendation began implementation in fall 2006 with math, English, and science studios. During summer and fall 2006, students were placed into studio hours by faculty analysis of student performance, either in high school (for math) or in college (for English and science). The studios were provided to students free of charge, and students were not required to sign up for course credit for the hours. Students could be assigned to either one or two hours of studio per week. Graduate assistants working under the leadership of CTL staff worked with students in the studios. The studios were designed as supplemental instruction, but with a view toward using them as a possible alternative to developmental instruction, which UIS does not support currently. The focus of the studios was to address specific assignments and learning issues as they occur in the associated class.
Writing studios were convened to provide supplemental instruction primarily for ENG 101, the first semester of composition. Faculty whose courses were served by the CTL writing studios perceived them as valuable not only for helping students improve their grades as a result of attending, but also for helping students pass the course. The effectiveness of the studios is also assessed by surveys given to students participating in the studios. The data from both faculty feedback and the student surveys will be used to determine who best to maintain and utilize these studios.
CTL also conducted math studios to provide supplemental instruction for MAT 111 Quantitative Reasoning and MAT 112 Mathematics in Everyday Life. Math faculty identified 35 students from both courses as needing supplemental instruction. While attendance at the math studios was not required, the midterm and end of semester evaluations indicate that the studio was beneficial to those students who did attend. Additionally, science studios providing supplemental instruction for CHE 103 Nanotechnology and BIO 106 Environmental Biology were conducted in CTL.
In 2007, UIS began using COMPASS placement tests in writing and math, and placement into studios for academic year 2007-08 is occurring as a result of faculty and advisors analyzing placement test results along with ACT subscores. The Office of Undergraduate Education and the academic programs involved have created 0-credit hour, 0-billable hour, credit/no credit courses for the studios through math, English, biology, and chemistry. The aim of having students sign up for the studios as courses during summer orientation is to promote better attendance and improved motivation. In addition, all faculty are now incorporating attendance in studios as part of participation in the content course. Assessment data and analysis compiled by the clinical instructors in CTL has led directly to changes in the management of the studios. Evaluation of the effectiveness of studios will continue through the next academic year. A decision about the relationship of supplemental instruction and developmental coursework will also be made in the next year.
The Undergraduate Academic Advising Center (UAAC)
Advising at UIS has traditionally been the province of the faculty, but the expanding student population and the new general education curriculum have necessitated the development of a professional advising unit on campus. As part of the budget plan for the lower division expansion, UIS committed itself to establishing an advising unit with 1.5 FTE for academic year 2006-07. In fact, due to increasing recognition of the time and energy needed to create an effective advising center, the FTE rose to 2.5 by September 2006 and to 3.0 by June 2007.
The Undergraduate Academic Advising Center (UAAC) opened in July 2006 and began serving students and faculty immediately. The two advisors hired initially met with each academic program on campus to create a collaborative framework under which the UAAC would work with programs. The UAAC serves freshmen and sophomores, undeclared majors, students transferring from one campus program to another, and faculty with questions about transfer student and general education advising. The current staff size does not allow for extensive advising of transfer students who have declared a major, and those students are directed to the major program for advising. All contact between advisors and students are tracked in a confidential database. In addition, advisors began developing four-year advising guides for majors in cooperation with faculty. Advising guides for first-year students and available four-year advising guides are posted on the general education website and will be posted to the upcoming advising website in development.
The UAAC is responsible for implementing the Early Warning System (EWS), devised by the Undergraduate Council from a proposal offered by the Enrollment Management Task Force in 2001. One of the three advisors was hired to administer the program. The EWS is a key component of UIS’ retention strategy for first-year students. In fall 2006 and spring 2007, the EWS was administered via an electronic survey to faculty twice each semester. Faculty were asked to identify students who were having trouble with a range of issues, including attendance, performance in courses, behavioral problems, and personal concerns. Faculty surveys were analyzed by the Office of Undergraduate Education and the UAAC. Students were contacted in multiple ways to seek guidance from the EWS advisor and/or another UAAC advisor. During academic year 2006-07, 53 students were identified through the EWS. The system proved an accurate predictor of difficulties in the first semester as all but two of the freshmen on probation at the end of the fall semester had been identified through the EWS. Analysis of the EWS’ effectiveness is ongoing.
Assessment of the effectiveness of the UAAC will occur through periodic student satisfaction surveys and through the annual delivery of the ACT Survey of Academic Advising to a random sample of first-year students starting in spring 2008.
UIS is placing increasing emphasis on faculty development, and the first goal and strategic thrust of the 2006 UIS Strategic Plan calls for the enhancement of a number of services to faculty to encourage innovative teaching practices, including the creation of a Faculty Development Center and a Teaching Academy (Goal 1, Strategic Thrust 1). Currently, UIS offers a variety of faculty development workshops and sessions on an annual basis:
- Each year the university sponsors an orientation for new faculty. This orientation addresses a variety of issues related to teaching excellence, such as the use of technology to enhance learning, the role of a public liberal arts college, and how to be an effective teacher-scholar.
- Several UIS faculty have used the Making the Virtual Classroom a Reality (MVCR) program to complete coursework toward certification in online teaching. (See also Chapter 6.)
- The Assessment Task Force each year offers several speakers and/or workshops on issues related to the assessment of student learning outcomes. For example, during academic year 2005-06, ATF brought in an external speaker to provide a workshop on how to use information obtained from assessment data to make improvements to degree programs. ATF also sponsored a workshop on assessment for programs that were scheduled to write their self-study for program review the following year.
- Each year the UIS technology units sponsor numerous sessions on how to utilize technology to enhance student learning.
- The Strategic Academic Initiatives Grant Program provides funds of up to $5,000 per proposal in support of collaborative professional activities and projects that will promote the development of faculty as teachers and scholars by addressing UIS’ Strategic Plan Goals for Academic Excellence and Making a Difference in the World and related initiatives in college-level strategic plans.
- The Office of Undergraduate Education and the Colleges of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Public Affairs and Administration host faculty development workshops related to advising and teaching in the new general education curriculum and advising.
Recognition of Faculty for Excellence in Teaching
UIS supports excellence in teaching by recognizing the achievements of faculty who devote themselves to developing high-quality and innovative pedagogy. UIS emphasizes the role of excellence in teaching in its criteria for faculty tenure and promotion and in its annual faculty recognition awards. The UIS Faculty Personnel Policy (2006), Article 3, states that “activities related to the academic development of students have the highest priority in the evaluation of faculty.” The university’s criteria for tenure (Article 7) state that “to be recommended for tenure, a faculty member shall demonstrate excellence in teaching.” UIS also offers merit pay as a way of encouraging teaching excellence through the policies and procedures set out by the Academic Staff Handbook.
Each year the university presents a variety of faculty awards that address excellence in teaching. These awards include:
- The Pearson Faculty Award of $5,000 is given to a faculty member whose performance exemplifies the university’s commitment to excellence in teaching. The recipient of this award is recognized for a cumulative record of teaching excellence.
- The UIS Faculty Excellence Award recognizes “sustained, career-long accomplishments at UIS in teaching and scholarship.” The $4,000 award “provides an opportunity to honor colleagues who best exemplify the ideal of the teacher-scholar and whom the faculty recognize as role models.”
- The University Scholars Program provides an award to a faculty member who excels in both teaching and scholarship. The award provides $10,000 per year for three years to be used by recipients to enhance their scholarly work.
- The Capital Scholars Honors Program has recognized excellence in teaching since its inception through an annual faculty award. Voted on by the students, the award recognizes the faculty member who has most consistently and effectively contributed to student learning over the last year.
Curricular and Co-curricular Activities that Support Learning
UIS continues to undertake activities to enhance or complement classroom learning. Discussed in other sections of the self-study is the Emiquon Field Station in which faculty and students are studying the return of farmland to floodplain. Emiquon produces both curricular and co-curricular opportunities. (For more details on the Emiquon Field Station, see Chapter 4)
The Global Experience Program through the Office of International Programs adds to the curriculum by providing study abroad opportunities through courses offered by UIS faculty in foreign locales. Faculty members have taken students to England, Scotland and Ireland, Poland, Jamaica, and other countries (see also Chapter 5).
In fiscal year 2005, UIS established a new Pre-Law Center to assist students who are interested in taking the LSAT exam and applying to law school. In fiscal year 2006, a faculty member was hired with a part-time assignment to oversee the operations of the Pre-Law Center.
In the last six years, the visual and performing arts have become more prominent on campus through academic coursework, as well as co-curricular and extracurricular programming. Performance courses are now offered in theatre and music, and students can receive college credit for participation in instrumental ensembles, chorus, and the speech and debate team. Students can fulfill one category of general education through performance courses. The Visual Arts Program is developing a digital media minor in cooperation with the Communication Program.
The Graduate Public Service Internship Program (GPSI) had a record high number of participants (141) in fiscal year 2006. Under this program, students work in a state agency for 20 hours per week (full-time in the summer) and receive a tuition waiver and stipend. The public sector work environment allows the students to apply what they are learning in the classroom to what they are experiencing and observing in the workplace. GPSI also offers a chance for students to bring to their course work the realities of administrative life and policy-making (for more information on GPSI, see Chapter 5).
Several academic programs offer practicums that enhance learning opportunities for students in the major. Public Affairs Reporting structures its master’s degree using a theory and practice model: students learn in the classroom first then apply what they have learned in external settings. The bachelor’s degree in Social Work includes field work that consists of an intensive 400-hour experience in a social agency, where a student learns to assess and improve his or her own social work skills under supervision.
Facilities that Support Teaching and Learning
Brookens Library is the primary facility that supports teaching and learning on the UIS campus. The Library mission statement demonstrates its centrality to academics: “At the heart of the intellectually rich, collaborative, and intimate learning environment of UIS, Brookens Library selects, organizes, preserves, and provides access to and instruction in the use of information resources for research, discovery, and lifelong learning.” The Library fosters a culture of inquiry both physically, through its substantial collections and its faculty and staff, and virtually, through its array of databases, online instructional services, and memberships and partnerships that extend resources throughout the world to faculty, staff, and students. The Library has made substantial progress in recent years to make the physical space more approachable and appealing to users, but the physical space in the building has limitations and the building’s age and capacity for growth have created challenges, as the recent Brookens Library Strategic Plan notes. Funding renovations for Brookens Library has become a top priority in institutional budgetary planning. (For more information on Brookens Library, see Chapter 4).
Active learning in labs across campus is a much more visible component of learning today than it was 10 years ago. Lab facilities allow students to learn with hands-on experience and can be used for instruction, projects, research, and practical training. The Psychology Program now provides experimental and research laboratories and a computer lab. The large multipurpose psychology laboratory is equipped with a variety of instruments to help students understand how experimental studies are conducted in the fields of memory, perception, learning, and other major areas. This equipment allows students to gain experience with some of the traditional evaluative and assessment procedures used within the discipline. Psychology also has several small lab rooms for research purposes. The computer lab houses approximately 12 computer stations specifically for psychology student use in conjunction with supervised lab exercises and course-related assignments.
Similar to the psychology labs is the multimedia lab in the Human Development Counseling master’s program that allows students to enhance their counseling skills under supervision.
New labs in music and science further students’ practical skills. The music lab allows students to explore computer music software. MUS 181 Introduction to Music Technology takes advantage of the lab space to help students understand the role of music technology in contemporary performance practice, composition, and computer-assisted learning.
THE CONNECTED ORGANIZATION
In a connected organization, integration and collaboration serve as conceptual frameworks for communication between the university and its constituents and between the university and the broader community, local to global. UIS serves the common good by deliberately fostering and evaluating the connections it makes. The heritage and thriving culture surrounding public affairs and engaged citizenship provide a vehicle for connections, and the campus prizes the institutional collaborations that create a community of service and promote healthy internal communication. UIS communicates with constituencies by learning from students and the community about our educational process and by conveying our educational mission in a variety of formats.
Experiential Learning and Engaged Citizenship
The 2006 UIS Strategic Plan notes that “With its location in the state capital, UIS has always had a special emphasis on public affairs, citizen engagement, and effecting societal change.” Recently, with the creation of a comprehensive general education curriculum, UIS has also begun promoting “engaged citizenship,” a phrase common in higher education today. The Association of American Colleges and Universities’ report, Greater Expectations: A New Vision for Learning as a Nation goes to College notes the importance of creating responsible learners who:
[t]hrough discussion, critical analysis, and introspection … come to understand their roles in society and accept active participation. Open-minded and empathetic, responsible learners understand how abstract values relate to decisions in their lives. Responsible learners appreciate others, while also assuming accountability for themselves, their complex identities, and their conduct. By weaving moral reasoning into the social fabric of life and work, they help society shape its ethical values, and then live by those values. (Greater Expectations, Ch. 3)
While the phrase “engaged citizenship” is part of recent innovations in curriculum, UIS has long been a leader in engaged learning through a variety of experiential learning opportunities available in academic classes, internships, study abroad, and student life. Also part of experiential learning and engaged citizenship is the preparation for specific careers through professional degree programs.
UIS has always fostered practice-oriented education for students in all its forms and has supported the integration of applied and academic learning. Experiential education is central to the institution’s public affairs emphasis within the framework of a liberal arts curriculum. This practice-based education stresses practical experiences, professional development, and experiential learning. UIS fulfills this role by providing academic and non-academic sponsored work-based learning experiences that give all degree-seeking students an opportunity to learn from the community—about its everyday tasks, its professional life, its problems, and its unmet needs. Experiential learning can involve hands-on experience such as part-time jobs, internships, service, or volunteering that relate to a student’s major and supplements a student’s education. Their experiences are important to clarify or confirm students’ career goals.
Experiential education is active learning, combining learning from books or lectures with experiential learning in the field. UIS requires students to test theory and challenge premise by putting them to the test in the real world. As mentioned above, the Engaged Citizenship Common Experience (ECCE) section of the UIS general education curriculum requires all UIS undergraduates to do an Engagement Experience. Engagement experiences generally occur off campus and offer students structured opportunities to integrate knowledge, practice, and reflection. Students may fulfill this requirement through an internship, credit for prior learning, service-learning, research, study abroad, or a group project course. Courses approved as engagement experiences must meet selected learning outcomes for the category:
- Make valuable contributions to their communities;
- Conduct research in one or more disciplines and learn the methodologies of such research;
- Develop core skills and techniques in a laboratory, field, or professional situation;
- Offer possible explanations for and approaches to address social, political, cultural, environmental, or economic issues;
- Explain the importance of participation in the democratic process;
- Develop or apply their leadership skills with or without a formal position;
- Recognize other people’s talents and the importance of collaboration, utilizing them in accomplishing a shared agenda and facilitating change;
- Demonstrate knowledge, awareness, and understanding necessary to contribute to a culturally diverse world, practicing respectful interactions with others different from themselves;
- Apply academic and disciplinary knowledge and personal experiences to addressing societal problems and/or research questions;
- Reflect on the strength of evidence supporting or refuting dominant hypotheses in their fields and/or communities (local, regional, national or international), while developing their own personal viewpoints;
- Develop core personal values and an ethical framework and apply them in action to research methodologies, public affairs, civic engagement, or leadership issues.
One form of experiential learning is the applied study term (AST) administered by the Experiential and Service-Learning Program (for more information on EXS-L, see the section earlier in this chapter). For the past 14 years, the UIS AST program has received an Illinois Cooperative Work Study Grant from the Illinois Board of Higher Education. The grants funds are used to provide matching money to use with agencies/businesses’ money to pay students a competitive wage for their internships. There are no administrative costs in the grant, and as a result, the students have shared in a total of $1.5 million dollars over the duration of the grant. The AST Program is considered a ‘model program’ by the Grants Administration Office at the IBHE.
Three undergraduate programs require students to complete an AST (political studies, legal studies, and criminal justice). ASTs in these programs have included placements in organizations such as the Downstate Illinois Innocence Project, the White House, local police departments, the Illinois State Police, the FBI, and the Secret Service.
Appendix 5 summarizes the results over the past three years of an AST evaluation form that is filled out by students at the completion of their AST. The data shown cover the past three years (2004-2006) and include responses from 38.2% of the total number of students during those years. For most of the items shown, two-thirds or more of the students rated the various components of the AST as “good” or “very good.” One-third of the respondents indicated that the placement resulted in a job upon completion and three-fourths of the respondents indicated that they were able to network in the job.
One of the keys to the continued success of engagement, service-learning, and internship opportunities is making the AST and service-learning courses accessible to online students. EXS-L has done this by creating online sections of courses, and it works with online students to find successful placements across the country and even outside the U.S. For more information on online students and internship opportunities, see Chapter 6.
UIS offers a variety of professional programs and graduate certificates aimed at providing students with specific skills to enter into or enhance specific professions. Professional programs are offered in all four academic colleges on campus, and nearly all of them require field experience or practicums, including the student teaching required through the Teacher Education Program, the Social Work Program’s fieldwork experience, the Human Development Counseling internship, and the Public Affairs Reporting internship.
The value of the practical experience can be demonstrated through a couple of detailed examples at the undergraduate and graduate levels. At the undergraduate level, the Clinical Laboratory Science Program (CLS) provides opportunities for individuals with an interest in science who wish to pursue a career in a health/medical profession or other laboratory-related field. A CLS education provides preparation for medical and graduate schools and also prepares for employment opportunities outside the hospital setting. Diverse job opportunities include employment in public health, research, forensic, industrial, and veterinary laboratories; pharmaceutical companies; fertility centers; laboratory computer specialization; education; and laboratory consulting. Student learning not only occurs in the classroom but also in clinical practicums in chemistry, hematology, microbiology, and immunohematology. The job placement rate for CLS graduates is 100%. CLS majors face challenges in meeting all general education requirements, both at the lower division and in ECCE or CAP Honors requirements because of the tightly sequenced nature of the curriculum. To meet the challenge, CLS prepares advising guides that show students how to complete the degree within four years.
At the graduate level, the Human Services Program provides an interdisciplinary advanced professional education for multiple roles and settings. Students are prepared to practice competently in four concentrations: alcoholism and substance abuse, child and family studies, gerontology, and social services administration. Within some concentrations, students are able to obtain certification; within others, students may prepare for licensure. Graduates of the program must complete an internship to integrate knowledge and skills into direct practice. The internship consists of intensive work experiences in a human services environment with supervision. A master’s closure project or thesis is required of all graduate majors and creates opportunities for assessing student learning. This project or thesis may focus on a practice issue, an empirical study, or a human service policy review. The Human Services Program has recently developed a rubric for the assessment of its master’s closure project/thesis to connect learning outcomes in the program to actual student performance.
UIS has a rich history of collaborations surrounding teaching and learning. The campus began as Sangamon State University in the premise that disciplinary boundaries were to be challenged while students and teachers focused on active learning strategies that provided alternatives to the faculty-centered classroom. The more recent history of UIS has continued to develop integrative learning, interdisciplinarity, and active learning, even as it moves into the era of online learning, another form of collaboration.
One of the hallmarks of UIS teaching and learning is interdisciplinary and integrative teaching and learning. At this point in the history of UIS, perhaps the most recent and pervasive examples of integration and interdisciplinarity occur in the Capital Scholars Honors Program (CAP Honors) curriculum and the new general education curriculum. The Capital Scholars Program, as it was approved by the Illinois Board of Higher Education in 1999, was always designed as an interdisciplinary and integrated curriculum. The New Program Request for Capital Scholars explains that:
Knowledge of the historical and cultural context of current issues requires that students examine both Western and non-Western intellectual and cultural heritages. Included in this examination will be the fine arts, which are an important aspect of the public life of the society. The contributions of a variety of disciplines, presented through interdisciplinary courses in the humanities and the social sciences and in environmental science, will provide the primary perspectives for exploring diverse intellectual and cultural heritages, as well as an appreciation of the values arising from many cultures.
Additionally, as the CAP Honors website states to students:
In CAP, your general education is as important a part of your college experience as your major. Each of the courses is integrated with the rest so that together they will provide you a broad understanding of the world before you.
Many courses are interdisciplinary, exposing you to the views of scholars from several disciplines. Each course is linked to and builds upon the skills and knowledge you have developed in previous courses.
Instead of having to choose between competing disciplines—history or philosophy, economics or anthropology—the integrated core will expose you to the knowledge and perspectives of each of the major disciplines, helping you to choose a major that fits your interests and to become broadly educated.
Central to the CAP Honors curriculum are the four interdisciplinary humanities and social science courses, the “Question Courses” discussed above. The curriculum of the program was also designed to be integrative: the humanities and social sciences, as well as the sciences, were designed to be sequential, guiding students toward a holistic, but increasingly more complex, set of multiple perspectives. In addition, one of the humanities and social science courses, How Do You Know, has always been connected with one of the composition courses in the program, so that students experience team-teaching and interdisciplinarity in multiple ways. The learning outcomes for the program highlight the importance of the multiple perspectives to be achieved through integration and interdisciplinarity. For example, students who complete the honors curriculum are expected to be able to “analyze issues from multiple perspectives and disciplines, and recognize the value of interdisciplinary integration.” In a survey of the first graduating class of Capital Scholars students (2005), those students identified the ability to recognize, appreciate, and analyze multiple perspectives as one of the main benefits of the curriculum.
CAP Honors now plans to expand its curricular offerings throughout the baccalaureate experience. Curriculum changes are moving through governance during academic year 2007-08 that will create upper division seminars and a closure project (thesis) that will continue and provide culmination for the interdisciplinarity that is the hallmark of the program.
The general education curriculum is more traditional than the CAP Honors curriculum and therefore more segregated into disciplinary categories. Even within the disciplinary-driven lower division, however, there is opportunity for integration. One case in point is CHE 121/122 Materials of the Artist. The course fulfills a science general education requirement, but it is team-taught by faculty from art and chemistry and involves understanding the scientific methodology behind art-making processes.
ECCE, the other part of the UIS general education curriculum, explicitly emphasizes interdisciplinary teaching and learning. ECCE consists of courses at all levels of the baccalaureate experience (100-, 200-, 300-, and 400-level), and all categories involve interdisciplinary coursework. Moreover, the General Education Council has created course approval criteria that explicitly require faculty to demonstrate the interdisciplinary elements of each course submitted for approval. A checklist at the beginning of each set of course approval criteria call upon faculty to signify in their syllabi how their courses “[utilize] an interdisciplinary approach; that is, [they draw] on the content, concepts, and/or methodologies of two or more disciplines with a deliberate effort to achieve integration.” Category criteria explicitly indicate that as a result of these courses, students should be able to “Explain how integration of disciplinary perspectives enhances their understanding of the issues.” Implementation of ECCE and assessment of learning outcomes, including integration of disciplinary perspectives, will begin in fall 2007.
As a result of UIS’ efforts to create interdisciplinary general education, the campus is an institutional member of the Association for Integrative Studies (AIS), “an interdisciplinary professional organization founded in 1979 to promote the interchange of ideas among scholars and administrators in all of the arts and sciences on intellectual and organizational issues related to furthering integrative studies.” Recognition of UIS’ commitment to interdisciplinary and integrative learning is signaled by the election of a UIS faculty member to the Board of AIS. UIS faculty and staff regularly give presentations at the AIS national conference, and UIS will host the thirtieth anniversary AIS conference in 2008 in Springfield.
General education is not the only site of integration and interdisciplinarity at UIS. The campus has a long track record of integrated and interdisciplinary degree programs. The Liberal Studies Program (LIS) and the Individual Option Program (INO) help both undergraduate and graduate students build majors from the academic programs across the campus, integrating the learning experience through a set of defined categories (using the work of Ernest Boyer). The UIS catalog provides a succinct statement about the purpose and structure of LIS:
The liberal studies program structure emphasizes the integration of key learning categories with a variety of instructional methods to form a well-rounded and individualized academic experience…. Liberal studies (LIS) learners design individualized degree plans consistent with the principles of a liberal education…. Although degree plans must be broad enough to meet the interdisciplinary goals of the program, students may choose a thematic focus for their programs. Examples are international studies, women’s studies, African-American studies, or human resource development. In addition, students may have a minor such as philosophy.
Other programs based on an integrative or interdisciplinary model include international relations, environmental studies, and communication. Most of these academic units discuss interdisciplinarity explicitly in their websites and promotional materials. See, for example, the environmental studies website, which explains:
The graduate program in environmental studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield offers interdisciplinary study in environmental planning, policy, and administration; the environmental sciences and risk sciences; the humanities; natural resources and sustainable development; and a graduate certificate in environmental risk assessment.
The goal of the environmental studies department is to enhance society’s ability to create an environmentally acceptable future. Faculty with diverse backgrounds in the social and natural sciences are committed to developing interdisciplinary approaches to environmental problem solving.
Such an approach is consistent with definitions of interdisciplinarity promulgated by leaders in the field of interdisciplinary studies, such as Dr. William Newell of Miami University (Ohio) and Julie Thompson Klein at Wayne State University.
Other forms of institutional collaboration, such as team-teaching and cross-listing of courses, also support academic collaboration between disciplines. Historically, Public Affairs Colloquia and Liberal Studies Colloquia were often team-taught. But the fact that those courses were less frequently team-taught and were less frequently taught by full-time faculty became a factor in the decision made by the General Education Working Group (2003-2005) to replace the university requirements with ECCE. Currently, team-teaching occurs on an ad hoc basis between faculty in different programs, or even between faculty in the same program. The history and English programs have a regular set of courses that are team-taught, including HIS 464/ENG 452: Fedor Dostoevsky and the Church and HIS 469/ENG 469: Shakespeare’s England. UIS needs to further investigate the impact of team-teaching on student learning.
One of the primary sites of collaboration at UIS is the Peoria campus, where UIS degrees are offered on a satellite campus. (See Table 3-7 for Peoria Center enrollment information.) UIS has been serving the educational needs of transfer students in the Peoria area for more than 30 years from the campus of Illinois Central College, with which UIS has a positive relationship. UIS offers a variety of program and elective courses, including those leading to a bachelor’s degree in accountancy, business administration, criminal justice, and management. Academic minors are also available in accountancy, criminal justice, and management information systems. UIS offers the Master of Business Administration by cohort in an accelerated weekend format on the campus of the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria. The program is designed to allow individuals who are employed full-time to complete degree requirements in less than two years.
Peoria students receive instruction from the same faculty as students on the main Springfield campus, thus insuring quality instruction. UIS faculty travel to the Peoria center to deliver degree programs using the same teaching methods and materials and seeking to have students achieve the same learning outcomes. The institution’s long history in Peoria has helped create an active Peoria area alumni association. Delivering general education, particularly UIS Requirements and now the ECCE requirements, continues to be a scheduling challenge, although online course and blended course delivery increase options for Peoria students. The Peoria Center faces increasing competition for students from online and private institutions.
Cross-listings between programs are even more prevalent than team-teaching. Small, interdisciplinary programs such as women’s studies and liberal studies frequently take advantage of cross-listings to create more elective opportunities for students.
The Teacher Education Program also enjoys collaborative arrangements with programs across the campus. UIS does not offer an education degree. Students seeking certification to teach in primary or secondary school settings must declare a major in an academic discipline and complete the minor in teacher education. Academic disciplines that support elementary certification include biology, chemistry, communication, English, history, liberal studies, mathematics, philosophy, political studies, psychology, social work, sociology/anthropology, and visual arts. Majors that support secondary certification include biology, chemistry, English, history, mathematics, political studies, and sociology/anthropology.
Other internal teaching and learning collaborations include the following:
- Public affairs programming coordinated by the Center for State Policy and Leadership in collaboration with UIS academic colleges and other units, such as the 2006 Public Policy Summit and PAC 459 Politics and Religion: Conflict and Coexistence at Home and Abroad, which involved collaboration with faculty in College of Public Affairs and Administration, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and College of Business and Management, and the Office of Technology-Enhanced Learning.
- Collaborations between the Experiential and Service-Learning Program and faculty in the academic colleges to supervise student internships and service-learning opportunities.
- Collaborations within the College of Business and Management to build a set of core courses for undergraduate majors and deliver coursework in the undergraduate majors and in the Master of Business Administration.
- Articulation agreements with community colleges and junior colleges to ensure smooth transfer of students into UIS degree programs in accountancy, business administration, clinical laboratory science, and computer science.
- One of the hallmarks of collaboration at UIS in recent years has been the relationship between housing and the Capital Scholars Program (CAP) administration. The collaboration began in fall 2001 through weekly meetings during the academic year in which the participants coordinate the experiences of the students in the academic program and in Lincoln Residence Hall. Participants initially included the Director and Associate Director of CAP, the Director of Housing, and the Residence Hall Director. In the third year, as a result of NSSE data, CAP satisfaction surveys, and focus groups with students, CAP began a peer mentoring program, and the faculty member supervising that peer mentoring program was included in the weekly meetings. Now, the weekly meetings include additional housing staff and academic staff coordinating the expanded freshman class. The weekly meetings allow staff to respond to student problems and concerns quickly and to work out coordinated responses.
Communicating with External Constituencies
Many of the external constituencies at UIS relate to the campus mission for public affairs activities, and those constituencies are discussed in detail in Chapter 5, but some communication with external constituencies relate directly to teaching and learning. One of the primary vehicles for communicating UIS’ academic missions is the colleges, as the colleges recognize the importance of effective communication with external constituencies.
The colleges at UIS are working to improve communication with external constituencies in several ways. All are updating their websites to provide more information about events and links to their college strategic plans. They work with the Office of Campus Relations to generate news releases about faculty and student awards, honors, and activities of interest to the general public. The deans and many faculty regularly share their expertise with the local and state community though media appearances and availability to reporters.
The strategic plans for each college identify clear directions in their communication with external constituencies. Both the College of Public Affairs and Administration and the College of Education and Human Services plan to reach out to the community through public affairs and public policy programming. The College of Business and Management intends to “strengthen its relationships with external constituents, including area businesses, governmental organizations, not-for-profits, peer and feeder institutions, and UIS alumni in the region and beyond, including internationally.” Like the College of Business and Management, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences aims to globalize the curriculum through direct cross-cultural engagement involving study abroad, international internship experiences for graduate students, and expansion of its pilot program in online courses developed in collaboration with universities in other countries.
The colleges have formed college alumni councils with members representing departments within the college. The councils hold meetings and host educational and networking events. The College of Public Affairs and Administration has developed an alumni newsletter to keep alumni informed of events in the college, upcoming activities, and achievements of graduates. It publishes both print and electronic versions.
Within each college, some departments have their own advisory committees, including community members and alumni, and publish departmental newsletters for both students and alumni. For example, within the College of Education and Human Services, the Social Work Program utilizes an active community advisory board comprised of social service leaders in the community. Within the College of Public Affairs and Administration, the Master of Public Health Program utilizes external agency conduits, such as the intranet at the Illinois Department of Public Health and the website of the Illinois Public Health Association, to send notices. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Online Program Coordination Unit provides communication related to academic and student support services to students and faculty participating in web-based instructional programs. Online coordinators are the voice and face of UIS and their on-call communication is critical to meeting the needs of distant students.
THE DISTINCTIVE ORGANIZATION
UIS has consistently worked to improve teaching and learning, and as part of the accreditation process, the institution values the opportunity to reflect on its performance and accomplishments over the last 10 years. The process involves both recognizing and celebrating strengths and identifying areas that need improvement. This section provides a summary of the assessment of teaching and learning at UIS, along with a discussion of how the campus intends to improve those aspects of the institution in the future.
Reflecting on Teaching and Learning
UIS’ major strengths in relationship to teaching and learning are summarized below.
- UIS has successfully launched a lower division curriculum, which involved implementation of the Capital Scholars Program in 2001, followed by a more flexible general education program, which began in fall 2006 with an expanded freshman class. Through curriculum development and interdisciplinary course offerings, UIS is making lifelong learning and engaged citizenship distinctive characteristics of the UIS graduate. In the process of creating the lower division, UIS has expanded the arts and languages through academic, co-curricular, and extracurricular programs in music, theatre, visual arts, forensics, and modern languages. To provide advocacy and oversight of undergraduate education, UIS created the position of Associate Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education.
- As noted in the 2001 Focused Visit Report, UIS has created and filled an Associate Vice Chancellor position that provides advocacy and oversight for graduate education and research.
- UIS offers students a variety of enhanced learning opportunities, including study abroad, internships, service-learning, and the opportunity to work with faculty on research or other projects. Experiential learning at both the undergraduate and graduate levels has a nearly 40-year history of excellence at UIS and remains a primary element of the educational experience on campus.
- UIS has successfully implemented a faculty-centered structure, the Assessment Task Force, which encourages buy-in across campus and actively supports assessment of student learning initiatives. The development of campus-wide baccalaureate-level outcomes assessment and disciplinary-based assessment at the undergraduate and graduate levels has led to increased focus on the cycle of continuous improvement and the use of assessment data in decisionmaking. Institutional assessment has been incorporated into strategic planning initiatives at both the institutional and college levels, and evaluation of learning outcomes assessment has been incorporated into the program review process.
- Results from alumni surveys and the Student Satisfaction Inventory strongly and consistently indicate academics are a source of satisfaction for students at UIS. The campus recognizes faculty for excellence in teaching and encourages all faculty to be teaching scholars. The UIS Faculty Personnel Policies assert that teaching has the highest priority in the evaluation of faculty for retention, tenure, and promotion.
- With the infusion of technology into curricula and classroom pedagogy across the campus, UIS is preparing students for the future. Technology has led to changes in the methods faculty employ in teaching and in the way faculty teach.
- UIS now offers a broader array of academic student support services through units such as Brookens Library, the Office of Technology-Enhanced Learning, the Office of Disability Services, the Career Development Center, the Center for Teaching and Learning, the Undergraduate Academic Advising Center, the Office of International Programs, and the English as a Second Language Program.
- UIS continues to seek excellence through its accredited degree programs. It has maintained accreditation of programs that were already accredited 10 years ago and has sought new accreditations. In spring 2007, the College of Business and Management received accreditation through the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB); only 28% of business colleges nationwide have achieved accreditation through AACSB.
Areas of concern or in need of improvement are listed below.
- While pursuing new initiatives, UIS needs to maintain high-quality academic programs and sustain faculty commitment to the variety of activities being managed by the institution. UIS needs to strengthen support services for faculty, including the coordination of faculty development programming. Large numbers of new and tenure-track faculty present significant opportunities, but also present challenges in terms of mentoring these faculty and ensuring that they have the resources they need to become effective teacher-scholars.
- In assessing student learning, there has been mixed progress toward closing the feedback loop (integration of assessment results into curricular review) at the program level in part because the institution lacks a centralized unit to provide support and resources for the assessment initiative. The institution lacks systematic and centralized coordination of assessment data collection, storage, and dissemination for institutional review.
- Enrollment numbers for transfer students at the baccalaureate level and graduate students in general present some challenges due to birth trends and increased competition. The institution needs to focus on recruitment and retention of these student populations. UIS needs to expand its communication strategies for non-traditional students and underrepresented groups for recruitment purposes. As UIS expands its lower division and competes in recruiting freshmen, effective strategies must be developed for obtaining high quality applicants and admitted students. The campus seeks to have the academic qualifications of entering first-year students commensurate with its aspirations to become a leading public liberal arts university.
- Learning support units are pressing ahead with new services, but funding, staffing, and physical space availability present challenges to the delivery of those services. New initiatives create increased demand for learning support services, while demand from transfer and graduate students remains steady. UIS needs to manage academic support services to meet current and future needs. UIS needs to focus on retaining students who are academically at risk and developing services for those students. Some programs, such as the Early Warning System and the Student Academic Improvement Program in the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (see Chapter 2), have been initiated, but these must be maintained and consistent.
Building on Strengths and Addressing Concerns
UIS continues to make teaching and learning the primary focus of institutional efforts to improve. The campus must capitalize on existing strengths, solidify the gains made in recent years, and respond to the challenges of rapid growth and change in this area.
Strategic planning and a clear vision for the future have yielded significant changes in the culture of teaching and learning at UIS. New initiatives like the lower division, the doctoral program, and online degree programs have added to the faculty base, generated progressive curricula, built new forums for active, integrative, and experiential learning, and substantially altered the types and delivery of student support services. The liberal arts and professional degree programs have developed a common purpose in the principles of lifelong learning and engaged citizenship. Undergraduate and graduate curricula have actively responded to societal and technological change with new methodologies, new course content, and new pedagogical tools.
UIS has been able to transform its historical identity into a vision for the future, but what may be most striking about the transformation is the pace and scope of change. The challenge the campus faces in future years is to manage and buttress the new structures and curricula and provide adequate support to students and faculty as the institution adjusts to the changes. Strengthening student support services for new, traditional-aged populations as well as for transfer, commuter, and older populations will stretch institutional resources but will also continue to build student satisfaction with the institution and enhance student success. UIS must also develop structures and processes that support faculty as they find better ways to teach the many student populations UIS serves.
Assessment is central to managing change at UIS. The institution has made great strides in developing a faculty-owned approach to assessment, and the Assessment Task Force has helped programs develop learning outcomes and processes for evaluating student learning. In decentralizing assessment, however, UIS now lacks a centralized structure for helping programs “close the feedback loop” and that is the next stage of development. UIS has collected significant data to assess student perceptions of their learning, and the data suggest academics at UIS are strong and students are gaining substantial value from their educational experience. Nevertheless, the campus must address areas of concern expressed by students.
UIS must continually strive for excellence in the quality of its students and faculty and in the quality of its academic programs and support services. As the campus progresses, it must measure that progress using performance indicators for teaching and learning. Some of these indicators include:
- Quality of curricula and academic degree programs, using the campus curriculum and program review processes and the goals for baccalaureate and graduate education;
- Number of degree programs having active programs of assessment of student learning;
- Number of faculty teaching in general education curriculum;
- Satisfaction and engagement of students, as measured by the SSI and NSSE data;
- Number of students retained and graduated;
- Alumni satisfaction with their academic experience at UIS in general and in their degree program in particular;
- Number of students performing successfully on standardized outcome measures (e.g., Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exams, state exams for teacher certification, etc.); and
- Number of students participating in study abroad and exchange programs.
Monitoring these indicators, which include both measures of quantity and quality, will further help UIS identify strengths and areas for improvement in the area of teaching and learning. UIS is moving forward to strengthen the quality of this vital element of the mission by implementing some integral items from the campus strategic plan. The institution has already made progress by engaging in the following actions:
- Creation of an Office of Undergraduate Education and hiring of an Associate Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education to provide organizational coherence, track data and assess student learning, promote faculty development, and insure the smooth implementation of the new general education curriculum;
- Hiring of an Associate Vice Chancellor for Graduate Education and Research to continue developing and improving processes for graduate admissions, graduate assistantships, assessment, and data management;
- Analysis of historical course evaluation data to determine the validity and reliability of the faculty evaluation form currently in use;
- Creation of a single set of baccalaureate skills outcomes that incorporate the general education outcomes developed in the curriculum-building process;
- Enhancement of learning support services available through the Center for Teaching and Learning with the addition of two clinical instructors and five graduate assistants, and a writing specialist to the honors program;
- Sponsorship of faculty development forums by the Office of Undergraduate Education, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the College of Public Affairs and Administration related to advising, pedagogy, and teaching in the new general education curriculum;
- Sponsorship of faculty development forums by the Office of Technology-Enhanced Learning and Information Technology Services unit to promote improved online teaching and use of new technologies in the classroom;
- Hiring of a service-learning coordinator and approval of service-learning courses as part of the general education curriculum; re-designation of Applied Study Office as Office of Experiential and Service-Learning;
- Hiring of a Coordinator of the English as a Second Language program to increase international diversity of the student body and support services to that constituency;
- Approval of more than 60 courses in the lower division general education curriculum and more than 30 courses in the five categories of ECCE to date by the General Education Council, including implementation of the Speakers Series.