Some highlights from Georgetown’s re-accreditation self- study

In February, the Office of the Provost released their self-study for re-accreditation. This study covered four topics: planning, resource allocation, and institutional renewal; institutional assessment; general education; and assessment of student learning. You can find the entire 108-page study here [PDF], and Vox’s coverage of the Provost’s town hall in January can be found here. The majority of the report centers around administrative and institutional practices, but there are some fun bits directly relevant to students.

Gen Eds

A huge issue tackled by the self-study is the general education requirements at Georgetown. In 2009, the standing Committee on General Education has tried to determine exactly what the goals of general education should be, and how can they assess whether those goals are being achieved by the requirements. Currently the only classes that all Georgetown undergraduates are required to take are two courses each in philosophy, theology, and humanities and writing; although, obviously each school has more requirements:

Much of the action taken on the general education requirements (including expanding the number of courses that satisfy the humanities and writing requirement) is a response to the 2007 Intellectual Life report, which basically said that the gen eds exist in their current form because no one bothered to change them in the past 60 years. Through the General Education Working Group the study says that the gen eds “ought to be a visible and distinct aspect of the Georgetown experience (p46).”

However the committee also found that both faculty and students tend to be confused as to their purpose: although most students cite well-roundedness and cura personalis as the rationale for the requirements, there is no consensus. The committee did outline some themes of how general education should function, and how people have been reporting it to function:

And that leads us to two important topics: science and diversity.

Resulting from the “Science for all” working group led by the Provost’s office in 2010, the SFS and MSB are “laying the groundwork for developing possible models for ‘science and society’ courses that would count as substantial General Education science courses (p53).” Obviously the language in the report is  non-committal, but it shows that there is some motion behind an SFS or MSB science requirement that would be useful to the schools. They also outlined the importance of improving “quantitative literacy” in non-science,-math,-or-economics majors (for some background, the Intellectual Life report said that Georgetown specialized in non-quantitative social science, i.e. sociology).

For diversity, the study cites the addition of the “race and ethnic studies” course tag that resulted from 09-10 Initiative on Diversity and Inclusiveness. The study also recommends that the Committee on General Education try to include diversity into as many gen eds as possible and that they revisit the idea of a diversity requirement no later than next year.

Over the past ten years, Georgetown has seen a gradual increase self-reported learning, as measured by the Senior Survey. The percentage of seniors who say that gen eds improved their learning has increased in every category (e.g. oral communication, analytical thinking, quantitative skills, etc) except in “writing effectively.” Consequently one of the recommendations is that the school look at how writing is integrated into general education and whether the best way to do that is the current writing-intensive humanities course or through discipline-specific courses.

Moving forward, the General Education Committee hopes to have codified goals for gen eds by the spring edition of the undergraduate bulletin.

Misc Data

First, here are the retention rates. They’ve decreased slightly, but probably insignificantly over the past decade.

We also have the difference among schools in learning goals (the NHS is a little difficult to distinguish from the College, but as I see it the NHS is closer to the bottom in every category besides science).

Some other findings are more intuitive: language requirement improve language skills, writing requirements improve writing skills, and science requirements improve science reasoning skills.

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