Faculty Forum Papers
General Education Models (GEM) Project
OSU Faculty Survey RE: General Education
Report of Findings
The GEM Committee:
Carol Carroll - French
George Carson - History
Richard Clinton - Liberal Arts
Michael Coolen - Music
Lloyd Crisp - Speech Communication
Warren Hovland - Religious Studies
Roger Penn - Student Services
Jack Rettig - School of Business
Last spring the GEM committee distributed to
985 faculty members a survey focusing on the goals
of general education. Specifically the questionnaire
defined ten dimensions often embraced by the concept
of general education and asked each faculty member to
rank each dimension on two scales: A) for its relative
importance to the general education of all students
graduating from OSU and B) for the relative success
we are presently achieving in providing it.
Because research on survey methods indicates a decline
in response rate for every question pertaining to the
respondent's identity, we sacrificed requests for information
that would have enabled us to report rankings by school,
discipline rank and age, etc. Nevertheless, because the
School of Business handled the collection of their questionnaires
separately, and because the College of Liberal Arts faculty had
responded to the same survey the preceding spring, we can at least
provide three displays of results for comparative purposes.
The response rate in the CLA survey, with follow-ups, was an
exceptionally high 74.6% (167 of 224). Among the OSU faculty
at large, without follow-ups, the response rate was a very gratifying
47.6%. These rates are prima facie evidence of the widespread concern at
OSU for the student's education.
The ten elements, dimensions, or goals of general education listed
(and defined fairly specifically) on the questionnaire were:
|Aesthetic ||Communication||Historical/Cross Cultural
Obviously all ten items are important, some would say equally
important, aspects of a general education. It is, indeed, a
frustrating task to try to rank such a list of "essentials".
Nevertheless, some patterns of greater need for certain dimensions
that for others could exist among OSU students, hence the rationale
for surveying those who are in the best position to have observed such
It should be recalled that the questionnaire was originally designed
for use within the College of Liberal Arts, hence it omitted dimensions
falling outside the purview or CLA (such as Mathematics, Science, Technology, etc.).
Unquestionably these dimensions are of crucial are of crucial importance to
an adequate general education in today's world, but because of our university's
structure they fall within the bailiwick of the College of Science, which
declined our invitation to join us in reexamining the effectiveness of OSU's
present distribution approach to general education.
The rankings of the ten goals by the OSU faculty are as follows:
|Rank||Business||CLA||Other Schools||All OSU Faculty
|3||Synthetic||Synthetic||Ethical||Tie: Ethical & Synthetic
|4||Reading||Ethical||Synthetic||Tie: Ethical & Synthetic
The consensus on what constitute the most essential dimensions or
goals of general education for OSU students is striking; all agree that
the six areas of greatest importance are 1) communication, 2) analytical, 3)
ethical, 4) synthetic, 5) reading, 6) citizenship.
The internal consistency of these responses is shown to be high by the
reoccurrence of the same six dimensions in the top six places in the section
of the questionnaire that asked the faculty to list the five most important
goals of general education. The rankings there for all OSU faculty were:
|1. Communication||7. Value
|2. Analytical||8. Ecological
|3. Reading||9. Others (usually science - and
|5. Synthetic||10. Historical/Cross Cultural
|6. Citizenship||11. Aesthetic
It is sometimes debated whether general education refers more to
the development of certain basic skills or to the acquisition of
a certain core or body of knowledge and values. Astutely, we think,
the OSU faculty rejects this as a false dichotomy. At OSU general
education is clearly conceived as embracing skills (analytical,
communication, synthetic, reading) plus substantive knowledge (ethics,
citizenship, and, somewhat less centrally, ecology, history, and aesthetics).
The questionnaire also asked the faculty to make a judgement,
based on the students each has known, concerning how well or
poorly each dimension is presently being provided at OSU.
For a variety of reasons, many declined to hazard an answer
to this question. The somewhat puzzling results of the responses
received follow (ranked according to declining success):
|Rank||All OSU Faculty||Rank||All OSU Faculty
Perhaps the most significant inference supported by the data from
this section of the questionnaire is the very low degree of success
currently being achieved at OSU in the communication dimension of
general education, the dimension that everyone considered the single
most important element of the general education complex.
Those of us working on the revision of OSU's general education
program are very grateful to all the many faculty members who
contributed their time and thought to respond to our questionnaire,
especially to those who wrote additional comments. We are
encouraged by your responses, for we understand that the goals
of general education will not be met in any specific set of
courses but must be achieved in part in every class a student takes.
Again, thank you for your assistance.