General Education Assessment Pilot

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General Education Assessment Pilot:

Integrative Learning


March 12, 2007

Brad Monsma

Director of the Center for Integrative Studies

GE Assessment Pilot on Integrative Learning Committee Members:

Harley Baker, Associate Professor of Psychology, Chief Assessment Officer

Jeanne Grier, Associate Professor of Secondary Education

Greg Wood, Assistant Professor of Physics

Faculty Participants in Pilot Assessment:

Mary Adler, Assistant Professor of English (Evaluator)

Stacey Anderson, Lecturer English (Evaluator)

Catherine Burriss, Assistant Professor of Performing Arts (Evaluator, Assignments)

Jerry Clifford, Lecturer Physics (Assignments)

Amy Denton, Assistant Professor of Biology (Evaluator)

Phil Hampton, Professor of Chemistry (Evaluator)

Kristin LaBonte, Assistant Professor, Library (Evaluator)

Jill Leafstedt, Assistant Professor of Education (Assignments)

Kathryn Leonard, Assistant Professor of Math (Evaluator)

Alex McNeill, Professor of University Studies (Assignments)

Trudy Milburn, Associate Professor of Communication (Evaluator)

Brad Monsma, Professor of English (Assignments)

Joseph Moreno, Lecturer History (Evaluator)

Nitika Parmar, Assistant Professor of Biology (Evaluator)

Peter Smith, Professor of Computer Science (Assignments)

William Wolfe, Professor of Computer Science (Assignments)

GE Assessment Committee Members:

Joan Karp, Professor of Education (Chair)

Harley Baker, Associate Professor of Psychology, Chief Assessment Officer

JE Gonzalez, Director of Institutional Research

Jeanne Grier, Associate Professor of Secondary Education

Phil Hampton, Professor of Chemistry

Nian-Sheng Huang, Professor of History

Dennis Muraoka, Professor of Business and Economics

Amy Wallace, Associate Professor, Library


Background 3

The Process of Evaluating Student Products 4

Closing the Loop 5

Results 5

Discussion of Results 7

Discussion of Process 8

Recommendations 8

Appendix 1—General Education Student Learning Outcomes 10

Appendix 2—Rubric for GE Pilot Assessment of Integrative Learning 12

Appendix 3—Student Demographic Survey 15

Appendix 4—Validity and Reliability of Results 16

Participation in the assessment affirmed my belief that interdisciplinarity can lead to a powerful synergy of ideas. It also underscored the difficulty of creating that synergy, and the importance of thoughtful instruction for the students we hope will learn to use it effectively.

Faculty Participant


To formulate GE Learning Outcomes, a team of CSUCI faculty and administrators met for two days in August 2006 with consultant Mary Allen, professor emeritus of psychology at California State University, Bakersfield and former director of the California State University Institute for Teaching and Learning. This interdisciplinary group engaged in wide-ranging discussions about how student learning at CSUCI might fully embody the university mission. Ultimately, the group drafted a list of General Education Student Learning Outcomes that was approved without dissent by the Faculty Senate on November 14, 2006 (Appendix 1). Subsequently, the group developed a five-year plan to assess GE Student Outcomes and a committee was composed to devise and implement a pilot assessment of Integrative Learning GE Outcome 7.2 Students are able to integrate content, ideas and approaches from various disciplinary perspectives.

During the Fall 2006 semester, the GE Pilot Assessment Committee developed and implemented a plan to assess integrative learning. The following are among the key decisions and developments:

  • The committee decided to focus the assessment on Upper Division Interdisciplinary General Education (UDIGE) courses for two reasons. First, UDIGE courses function as the “capstone” of GE in which students can be expected to demonstrate interdisciplinary outcomes at the course level. Second, as the culmination of the GE program, it was expected that assessing these courses could also allow us to assess integrative learning at the baccalaureate level.

  • The committee placed a general call for exemplar assignments representing interdisciplinary and integrative learning to faculty of UDIGE courses and received assignments from ten courses from a range of disciplines.

  • The committee researched interdisciplinary assessment and compiled a long list of typical outcomes associated with interdisciplinary and integrative learning. (For example Stowe, 2002) From that list, the criteria were categorized into a useable rubric that focused on Synthesis and Development. (See Table 1) An expanded rubric that includes behaviors and indicators was used for calibrating evaluators. (Appendix 2)

  • The committee developed a student demographic survey that the participating UDIGE instructors distributed to students who turned in the assignments (Appendix 3). The self-reported student demographic survey will be compared to official university records and used to disaggregate data.

  • The assignments and surveys from UDIGE courses were collected and coded to shield student identities throughout the remainder of the process.

  • To create a manageable pool of student products for evaluation, a computer-generated random sample of the student work was selected from each course.

  • A call was issued to all faculty members asking for volunteers to participate in the evaluation session.

Table 1. Rubric for Assessing Upper Division Interdisciplinary Student Work

Rater Evalution






Meaningful and effective integration of disciplines

Meaningful and effective connection of disciplines

Explores connections between disciplines

Limited, forced or no connections between disciplines


Depth and complexity of content and ideas; supported by rich, engaging and/or pertinent details

Depth of content and ideas; supported by relevant details

Basic content and idea development; repetitious and/or underdeveloped details

Little or no content and/or idea development; few and/or unrelated details

The Process of Evaluating Student Products

On January 17, ten faculty members from nine different disciplines met to evaluate 68 student products selected from seven UDIGE courses:


  • COMP 337

  • COMP 447

  • ENGL/ESRM 337

  • ENGL/PHYS 338

  • ENGL 449

  • SPED/PSYCH 345

  • (Of the assignments volunteered, one was deemed not suitable for scoring, and two were not included due to incomplete data or lack of student demographic surveys.)

The process began with a calibration exercise that centered on familiarization and discussion of the expanded rubric that listed many of the various forms synthesis and development might take in the diverse student work that was collected. Faculty evaluators rated and discussed paradigmatic examples to achieve inter-rater reliability.

The method of evaluation consisted of each rater evaluating student work according to the rubric and also rating their confidence level for each designation. Student products were evaluated course by course. Each student product was read and rated by two readers, and a member of the GE Assessment Pilot Committee recorded the ratings in a spreadsheet. When the ratings varied by more than one step on the rubric, a third reader evaluated the student product. The data produced at the evaluation session was then collected and analyzed by the office of the Chief Assessment Officer.

Closing the Loop

On March 7 fourteen faculty participants in the assessment process, the GE assessment team, and the Chief Assessment Officer, met to discuss the preliminary results. As with the evaluation session, it became clear that this discussion was a crucial part of closing the assessment loop. Faculty members reflected on the meaning of the results, the effectiveness of the process, and the value of their personal participation. Following the meeting, faculty members were asked to reflect on how their thinking about integrative/interdisciplinary learning was changed or confirmed as well as about changes they might make to their UDIGE courses. These discussions and reflections form the foundation for the recommendations and other responses to the assessment.


After careful statistical consideration, it was concluded that the instrument and process generated both valid and reliable ratings (Appendix 4).

Distribution of Ratings of Student Work Using Integration Rubric









Little or no content and/or idea development; few and/or unrelated details


Limited, forced, or no connections between disciplines



Basic content and idea development; repetitions and/or underdeveloped details


Explores connections between disciplines



Depth of content and ideas; supported by relevant details


Meaningful and effective connection between disciplines



Depth and complexity of content and ideas; supported by rich, engaging and/or pertinent details


Meaningful and effective integration of disciplines


Some typical responses of faculty participants:

This UDIGE pilot process, from the carefully developed rubric, to the well-planned assessment activity which included a lot of interaction among faculty who are currently teaching UDI courses, to Wednesday’s discussion of the results, made me feel that interdisciplinary/integrative learning is something that is being taken quite seriously here. The honest and productive effort to participate, assess and improve this aspect of our mission is very encouraging and makes me want to develop and teach more of these courses. This feeling was bolstered through reading some of the student essays – I was really pleased to see that many students are making connections between disciplines and using them to generate ideas that are greater than the sum of their disciplinary parts.

I think that it was through the face-to-face experience that we were able to establish campus norms for what we mean by the terms included in the assessment rubric – synthesis and development – as well as interdisciplinarity in general, and integrative learning specifically.

Working with the rubric, especially the detailed indicators of the synthesis component, was very helpful to me. Perhaps due to the nature of the disciplines I teach in, I had not thought as much about what synthesis really means. To me there can be a difference between that which is interdisciplinary and that which is truly integrative. I’m not sure it’s always possible to do both in any given course, but participation in this process has gotten me thinking about how I can stretch my teaching toward the truly integrative.

I enjoyed and learned from the process, and I think that the rubric is an excellent starting place for interdisciplinary/integrative learning assessment.

Not having taught a UDIGE course yet (but having recently proposed several new courses with this designation), I have come to appreciate the need for specificity within the prompts used for assignments in order to have students demonstrate their ability to integrate the different disciplinary ideas and discourses within a course.

Since the workshop where we were given the rubric, I have adapted it for use within a lower division course in order to help me assess a baseline for student synthesis and development of the basic terms within my discipline of communication. I hope to then build on this idea throughout subsequent courses, in order to work towards the integrative learning that the UDIGE rubric differentiates.

Discussion of Results

  1. If level 1 (Limited or no connections between disciplines) is used as a cut-off, the data show that 99% of students show some ability to make connections between disciplines in the area of development, and 93% in the area of synthesis. This cut-off is justified by the inclusion of students at all points in their progress through the three required UDIGE courses. The data also include students of various grade point averages.

  2. Since integrative learning is one of the pillars of the university mission, these results play a key role in assessing baccalaureate-level learning at CSUCI.

  3. Disaggregated results derived from the student demographic survey and a comparison of the survey with university records will yield more specific information about various student populations.

  4. The results suggest that students do better at development than synthesis and that the ability to synthesize depends upon the ability to develop ideas.

  5. The types of prompts seem to have a significant effect on student ability to demonstrate integrative thinking.

  6. It was noted that since the rubric was developed simultaneously with the collection of data, none of the students or faculty knew the standards the rubric would apply.

  7. All of the data took the form of written responses, which seemed appropriate given that a requirement for UDIGE course approval is the inclusion of substantial writing. Still, there is discussion of how writing skills may have affected students’ ability to represent integrative thinking and whether other modes of representation (visual, verbal) should be included in the evaluation.

  8. Since our UDIGE courses are not arranged in progression through successive levels, there is concern that repeated UDIGE experience may not result in higher levels of integrative thinking since the tasks and knowledge bases may be radically different from course to course.

  9. There is concern that students and faculty are not uniformly aware of the interdisciplinary requirements for UDIGE. This was also suggested by the GE Committee review of Category B in Spring 2006. The review revealed that many course syllabi do not list the course as fulfilling GE or UDIGE requirements. Furthermore, many syllabi did not list learning outcomes corresponding to the approved course proposal. This is likely to be the case in other categories.

Discussion of Process

  1. During the evaluation, raters found that they occasionally adjusted their expectations depending on the course and level.

  2. There is discussion of whether an on-line rating system might prove to be more efficient and broaden participation in evaluation among faculty and potentially students. However, many of the participants in this evaluation process felt that their participation in a face-to-face process helped develop a normative culture that increased their knowledge of interdisciplinarity and their confidence in assessing student learning as well as changing current courses and developing new ones.

  3. There is discussion of how the assessment process and the rubric itself struck a balance between detailed expectations about integrative thinking and the necessary freedom and variation across disciplines. This allowed for evaluators to recognize integrative thinking that went beyond the prefixes of cross-listed courses. As one participant put it: For me, the rubric offered an entry point for assessing the interdisciplinary work, and such an entry point was essential. As I became more comfortable with the assessment process, the value of the rubric became the way in which its generality (necessary for any such global measure) failed to capture specifics of a particular work. In other words, once I understood the rubric, its value became in pointing out those aspects of interdisciplinarity that evade general classification.

  4. There is recognition that the rubric is an evolving document that outlines key ideas for ongoing discussion among the faculty.


  1. We recommend that the assessment results be made public via faculty discussion to engage more faculty members in conversation about the meaning of the results and the key terms of the rubric. This will also assist faculty in seeing the importance of identifying courses as interdisciplinary upper division general education courses.

  2. One important consideration has to do with including the large numbers of lecturers and part-time faculty in conversations about the importance of integrated learning for our students and the explicitness with which we need to make it for the students.

  3. We recommend that this year’s assessment team share results and reflections on process with the group that will be assessing the next GE learning outcome. We agree that the process was quite successful in yielding valid and reliable results and providing a foundation for action on behalf of integrative learning at CSUCI.

  4. We recommend that the Center for Integrative Studies host two meetings or workshops: one on the process of assessment, including disseminating and critiquing the rubric for integrative learning, and one on prompt writing for interdisciplinary assignments following assessment of prompts that result in a high level of integrative thinking.

  5. We recommend that the Provost request faculty clearly identify courses as UDIGE and explain to students what this means.

Appendix 1

GE Learning Outcomes

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