Campus News

Moving forward

Task Force on General Education and Student Learning discusses status of its recommendations

During the 2004-05 academic year, a 24-member internal task force appointed by the provost examined undergraduate education. Chaired by Del Dunn, vice president for instruction, and Jere Morehead, vice provost for academic affairs, the task force produced a report in August 2005 containing more than 40 recommendations to strengthen general education and create a campus life centered on learning. Now the co-chairs discuss what’s happened since the report was released.

Columns: Are you pleased with the progress that has been made in implementing the report’s recommendations?

Morehead: Many of the recommendations have been implemented. Others are in progress and will come before University Council in the fall. This is a very important period as we move forward with our efforts to improve the undergraduate environment at UGA.

We were very gratified that among the recommendations that have been enacted was the plus-minus grading system, which started during the May term. In my mind, that was the most important recommendation of the task force.

Dunn: Georgia State also will use a plus-minus system this fall. As the students get used to the new system, we think they’ll come to appreciate the better differentiation on performance than we’ve had in the past. An “A” is more of a challenge, but that’s good.

We also reduced the time period for students to drop and add classes, starting this past spring semester.

Morehead: We’re pleased that orientation now puts a greater emphasis on academic life and includes time for faculty to meet with new students. We asked several faculty to participate in orientation, and everyone was very interested in doing so. That set a good tone, and we need faculty to continue to emphasize academic values to students during their first year on campus.

For next summer, we’re moving forward with plans for a common book reading for all incoming new students. We plan to work with the UGA Teaching Academy and other interested faculty on that project. 

Dunn: Another recommendation that was implemented immediately was for an Office of Service Learning. That’s now been open for a year, and there’s been lots of interest on the part of students and faculty.  We’ve also expanded the Learning Communities for freshmen in Creswell Hall and as new construction or renovations are made to campus housing, space is being included for academic programming.

Columns: There’s been a lot of attention to alcohol issues in the wake of the report.

Morehead: Even before the report was released, the president’s cabinet instituted a policy to notify parents of underage students who commit alcohol-related offenses. In the past year, that policy was strengthened and now parents are notified the first time and every subsequent time an offense occurs.

Dunn: President Adams and Vice President for Student Affairs Rodney Bennett sent a letter to parents telling them about the policy. Faculty also get a letter in the fall that includes suggestions on what they can do to counter a culture that promotes alcohol.

Columns: What about the recommendations relative to general education and the core curriculum?

Dunn: The University Council Curriculum Committee studied these last year and will be refining the recommendations and asking for faculty input in the fall to take these to University Council.

Morehead: We need the entire faculty to help us get these recommendations adopted.

Dunn: The Faculty Affairs committee will also come forward with recommendations for a more comprehensive teaching evaluation process. 

Columns: What have been some of the challenges?

Morehead: One of our great challenges remains how to get more tenured and tenure-track faculty teaching lower-division courses. We need a campus-wide conversation on that subject.

Dunn: Another challenge is scheduling more Monday-Wednesday-Friday classes, so students aren’t tempted to start their weekends too early. But we’ve made some progress with that.

Morehead: The bottom line is that we’ve made a lot of progress overall with implementing the report, and we’ve been very encouraged by the level of faculty support for the recommendations.