General Education Assessment Program Recognized Yet Again

From: Public Affairs

The JMU General Education assessment program continues to win prestigious awards.

The most recent recognition comes from the Association for General and Liberal Studies, which has given JMU its 2009 award for “Improving General Education.”

“For JMU it is a real honor because we can serve as a model and inspiration for other academic institutions,” said Kit Murphy, associate professor of biology and Cluster Three coordinator.

All JMU students are required to complete the General Education program to graduate. Five clusters of study make up the program—Skills for the 21st Century, Arts and Humanities, The Natural World, Social and Cultural Processes and Individuals in the Community. Each cluster has groups of multiple classes that students can pick from to fill their requirement.

On June 15 JMU sent AGLS an eight-page application documenting and explaining the program’s assessment process. AGLS particularly was impressed with the thoroughness of JMU’s outcomes, the logic of the assessment process and the commitment to having a two-day assessment. JMU students are tested before their freshman year and again when they have completed between 45-70 credit hours, typically during their sophomore year. The test consists of multiple choice questions on various subjects.

The assessment process has been refined continuously since JMU implemented the General Education Program. Now in its ninth version, several changes have been made over the years, ranging from the types of questions asked to what the evaluation process looks like.

“The whole idea is to improve the General Education program in Cluster Three in terms of the curriculum itself as well as how well we are addressing our objectives,” said Murphy.

JMU’s assessment program has been recognized several times through the years. In 2008 and 2009 the American College Personnel Association honored JMU for “Emerging Best Practices in Student Learning and Development Outcomes.” In 2008 the Student Affairs Administration in Higher Education gave JMU the “Excellence Grand Gold Award.” In 2006 JMU won the Council for Higher Education Accreditation award for “Institutional Process in Student Learning Objectives.”