A couple of weeks ago a hundred or so Compass Project participants met on the campus of CSU Los Angeles to check in with the pilot sites and plan next steps. Toward the end of the second day I was talking with two CSU faculty about what might emerge. They’re on both the project steering committee and GEAC, so their musings are more influential than most, but I don’t want to present this as the future. It’s more like the idle chat you enjoy while cleaning up after a party.
But there are enough good ideas in here that I don’t want the conversation to evaporate.
Call it “GE Plus,” the third California pathway after IGETC and CSU GE Breadth. (The other two options stay available.) How they compare:
|IGETC (CSU variety)||CSU GE Breadth||CSU GE Plus|
|39 semester units||39 semester units||1. 30 semester units|
|Golden Four are courses||Golden Four are courses||2. Golden Four are proficiencies across all coursework|
|anyone can teach||anyone can teach||3. ongoing faculty development and certification|
|no high-impact practices||no high-impact practices||4. two high-impact practices required along the way|
|articulation by credit hour||articulation by credit hour||5. articulation by block certification of Essential Learning Outcomes|
1. The 30 units are ten courses each meeting GE Plus criteria. That means they each develop the LEAP Essential Learning Outcomes, adopted in the CSU’s GE Executive Order, and are taught by authorized faculty. (More on those criteria below.) Beyond that, what goes into them is up to the offering institutions. As far as the CSU’s concerned, students can take any ten they want, because they all develop our GE outcomes.
2. Under the current system, the Golden Four courses are those a student needs for transfer admission to the CSU:
Each has traditionally been taught as a stand-alone course. But they appear as well in the LEAP Essential Learning Outcomes, so if we hit those we hit these.
3. Any reform along these lines has to include a provision for large-scale and ongoing faculty development. This is so key that we’d want to restrict the teaching of this curriculum to those faculty (whether full-time or part-time, tenure-track or contingent, college or university) who’ve been trained to do it. And if we can’t find the resources to make this meaningful and continuous, then the rest of the scheme really isn’t worth pursuing.
But the leaner “GE Plus” approach could save the state three courses per certification, or nine units times a million or so students. That savings could fund some serious pedagogical tune-ups.
4. Two High-Impact Practices reach every student following GE Plus. The faculty development gets everyone teaching to the LEAP Essential Learning Outcomes, but also establishes a shared understanding of the most pervasive HIPs, probably to include learning communities, internships, peer mentoring, and service learning.
5. Block certification by Essential Learning Outcomes may come some day, or never. In the short term, we keep articulating by counting courses, just fewer and simpler.
In the beginning, students would want GE Plus because they get out faster. Later on it may also earn positive word of mouth.
Faculty and sending institutions free up nine units and provide more flexible and distinctive local general education. This could ease creation of class schedules and STAR Act degrees. (The downside is they can’t offer it until they have some certified faculty.)
The state will want it if we can demonstrate the value proposition, that is, that the up-front investment in faculty development and cost of instruction is offset by increased degree production and reduced achievement gaps.
What it would look like (friends in Academic Technology call this the “use case”)
Fred is an at-risk student at Fresno City College. FCC has a local GE that reflects the strength of its faculty in — of all things — American lit. He’s skeptical this’ll have anything to do with his life after college, but it’s close to home and they had room for him. FCC has come up with supplemental instruction that pulls remedial students like Fred up through credit-bearing courses from the start.
These are GE Plus courses, relating the novels of John Steinbeck to contemporary problems in the Central Valley, with a service learning component. The lit has more relevance than he expected, and to his surprise he finishes the course.
But things being what they are, Fred swirls. He ends up at Monterey Peninsula College only nine units into his lower-division college experience. Here the focus isn’t American lit at all; instead MPC uses its proximity to the ocean and its strong science department to encourage low-key undergraduate research experiences in marine biology, as one of its signature High-Impact Practices.
Even though the local flavor is different, Fred recognizes the same Essential Learning Outcomes that his education pointed him toward at Fresno City. His GE Plus coursework continues to embed oral and written comm, quantitative reasoning, and critical thinking, using familiar concepts and vocabulary.
As he prepares for transfer, with GE Plus courses indicated on his transcripts from both MPC and FCC, Fred (and his advisors, if there are any left in California) won’t need to slot them into Areas and Subareas, as they would now. Instead they just need to collect any ten. In other words, we still have what’s currently called “pass along,” it’s just easier to implement.
That’s as far as we got.