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Why Assess the General Studies Program?

Just like any academic or co-curricular program on campus, the institution regularly assesses achievement of the learning outcomes that it claims in the General Studies Program.  The General Studies program, including the faculty who teach within it, use the information gained from assessment to improve student learning at MSU Denver.  

The ultimate goal is to make the General Studies Program assessment easy, yet meaningful for faculty, and to enhance student learning in all General Studies courses across campus.  Some of our new student learning outcomes are aspirational and are going to take some brainstorming and effort to achieve.  We look forward to working together as a community to take our courses to the next level. 

The purpose is to learn about student learning in the General Studies program, not to focus on individual faculty, students, or even individual sections of courses.  Data analysis and the conclusions drawn from the data will inform discussions around the areas where the program shines, and areas that could use some reflection, discussion, or improvement. 

For example, one of the new Natural and Physical Science student learning outcomes is, "Evaluate the credibility of scientific information and interpret the impact of its use or misuse in society."  This outcome is so important, but it's also brand new and challenging.  Hypothesis:  students will rate low on this SLO.  Data collection and analysis may conclude that this hypothesis is true.  If it is, think of the neat discussions we could have across the Natural and Physical Science faculty about how we might address this better in our wide variety of courses!

The General Studies Advisory Board has created a new approach to General Studies assessment. 

Spring 2020

Arts and Humanities

  • MUS 1000 Introduction to Music 
  • PHI 1030 Intro to Ethics 
  • PHI 1010 Intro to Philosophy 

Natural and Physical Sciences

  • MTR 1600 Global Climate Change (+Global Diversity)
  • BIO 1080 General Bio I 
  • CHE 1100 Principles of Chem (+lab)
  • ENV 1200 Intro to Environmental Science 
  • PHY 2311 General Physics I

Social and Behavioral Sciences 

  • GEG 1000 World Regional Geography (+Global Diversity)
  • CHS 1000 Intro to Chicana/o Studies 
  • PSC 1010 American National Government 
  • CJC 1010 Intro to the Criminal Justice System

Written Communication—ENG 3525, ENG 1009/1010, ENG 1020/1021

Quantitative Literacy– MTH 1109/1110/1111, MTH 1112, MTH 1210

Historical– a sampling of Global Diversity courses

Oral Communication– CAS 1010

Fall 2020 and Beyond

To be determined soon!

Updated 1_27_20

Assessment Process

Assessment Process Flow chart

Please note, the following steps are for Arts and Humanities, Social and Behavioral Science, and Natural and Physical Science categories.  The remaining categories may use a different method due to the volume of students in those categories.  Rubrics for all categories can be found below. 

Step 1:  Identify Key Assignment(s) that align with student learning outcomes in the General Studies category

  • All courses undergoing re-designation addressed this in their course proposal in Curriculog under #4 and attached an example in the files.
  • Training workshops will be available to help with this.

Step 2:  Assign and Collect Student Work

  • Faculty teach their course and scaffold the key assignment as they normally would, assign their key assignment to their students and wait for submissions to come in.
  • Both digital or hard copies will work.
  • Last time we collected key assignments/artifacts so that external assessors could rate the student work.  For this round, it’s okay for the professor teaching the course to rate the work.  This means artifacts do not need to be formally collected and given to anyone.  The faculty member just needs to have it long enough to apply the assessment rubric.  Remember, this process is for Arts and Humanities, Social and Behavioral Science, and Natural and Physical Science categories only.  

Step 3:  Assess Key Assignments by applying the category rubric

  • Faculty will be asked to apply General Studies category rubrics to all students’ key assignment(s) in their course.
  • Rubrics were built for growth throughout the undergraduate experience, so we are expecting General Studies students will mostly get 1’s and 2’s (introductory and developing).  0's are assigned in cases where no evidence is provided in the artifact by the student.
  • Training workshops will be available to help with this and to develop inter-rater reliability.  

Step 4:  Report Findings to General Studies Program by handing in an Excel file or Word document

  • Add up how many students achieved a 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4 on the rubric and report these totals in the spreadsheet or document.
  • Add any comments you have.  You might reflect on anything related to the data collection.  Perhaps you have a comment about patterns you found with the students, reasons why students landed where they did, the ability of the assignment to be used against this rubric, or comments on the rubric are welcome.
  • Email this document to the Academic Effectiveness Data Manager, Bev Andes: . 

Step 5:  Data Analysis and Sharing of Findings

  • The General Studies Program leads will aggregate and analyze the data.
  • Conclusions will be shared with faculty teaching in General Studies and reports will also be shared with leadership and accrediting bodies.


A proposed policy helps faculty understand how their data will be used.  This policy should be in place by spring 2020, but the General Studies program will follow the following draft policy regardless of approval status.  

Policy Draft

Purpose:  The goal is to collect authentic data that leads to the enhancement of student learning in General Studies courses. This policy will ensure the privacy and ethical use of General Studies assessment data to encourage widespread participation and accurate reporting.

Policy Statement:  Faculty who teach General Studies designated courses may be asked to rate artifacts of their own students in a General Studies course to measure student learning as part of the assessment process.  Once individual course data is reported by General Studies instructors to the Office of Academic Effectiveness, the only people with access to individual course section data will be the Academic Effectiveness Data Manager, the AVP of Academic Effectiveness, the Director of General Studies, and the AVP of Curriculum and Policy. The following people will not have access to individual course section data:  faculty not teaching the course section, chairs, other directors, associate deans, deans, the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, the Provost, the President, the Board of Trustees, or anyone involved in performance evaluation and retention, tenure, and promotion decisions.

General Studies assessment data may be used to improve student learning in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Aggregated data will be used to reflect on how the General Studies program as a whole is serving students. This type of data will be reported to accrediting bodies. 
  • Conclusions drawn from aggregated data will be used to prompt faculty reflections on student learning and discussions within the General Studies Categories. This type of data by General Studies category will also be reported to accrediting bodies. 
  • Academic programs or departments may use data to show growth from General Studies through the major. They may use this data in their program assessment, review, and accreditation.  If the sample size is large enough to not enable identifying individuals, reports can be used to focus on learning in individual courses.  These reports will be run by the Office of Academic Effectiveness when asked, but only reports that maintain faculty and student anonymity will be shared with programs.
  • If data is collected in a way that identifies the students, data may be disaggregated by student demographic or subgroup, depending on population size, with the intention of informing student learning.

General Studies assessment data may not be used in any way that is either punitive or rewarding for individual faculty. In contrast to Student Rating of Instruction (SRI) scores, General Studies assessment data shall not be directly used in tenure/promotion materials.  Although Faculty will know how their students performed as well as what the aggregated data looks like, they shall not discuss ratings of their sections in any tenure/promotion materials.  In these materials, faculty are encouraged to reflect on how they implemented teaching strategies in their courses to improve student learning, but they shall not compare their numbers to any aggregate numbers made available. If such information is included, it shall be ignored at every level of review. If the Director of General Studies is also faculty, they shall recuse themselves from any Retention, Tenure, Promotion (RTP) or post-tenure review (PTR) committees. 


  1. Faculty assess student learning in their own courses by applying a rubric to key assignment(s) submitted by their students.
  2. The data is reported to the Data Manager in the Office of Academic Effectiveness.
  3. The Data Manager, AVP of Academic Effectiveness, or the Director of General Studies run reports to aggregate the data and analyze the data.
  4. Faculty are invited to reflect on the aggregated data by category and implement any pedagogical changes they’d like before collecting more data.
  5. When appropriate, aggregated data is reported to accrediting bodies. If asked, the Data Manager, with the help of others in the Office of Academic Effectiveness, may create reports for individual programs or courses, as long as they can maintain faculty and student anonymity.

Updated 10/29/19


Step 6:  Discussion and Reflection on findings to enhance student learning in the General Studies Program

  • General Studies program leads will reach out to faculty teaching in the program to discuss findings and reflect on things that went well and areas that need more attention.

Faculty teaching the courses selected for General Studies data collection will be invited to training workshops to help them choose their key assignment(s), develop inter-rater reliability by practicing with the rubric, and familiarize faculty with how to collect and report data.  Faculty will be paid for workshops and assessment.  Please email Keah to RSVP or with any questions.  

Spring 2020 Workshops for developing inter-rater reliability in applying the rubric to key assignments

Arts and Humanities Workshop #2, Choose one:

Workshop AHUM 2A:  Monday, March 2, 3:30-4:45 (Central Classroom 303A, Philosophy Conference Room)

Workshop AHUM 2B:  Thursday, March 5, 11:00-12:15 (Central Classroom 210, History Conference Room)

Workshop AHUM 2C:  Friday, March 6th, 12:30-1:45 (Central Classroom 303A, Philosophy Conference Room)

Social and Behavioral Science Workshop #2, Choose one:

Workshop SBS 2A:  Tuesday, March 10th at 12:30-1:45 (Science 2049)

Workshop SBS 2B:  Wednesday, March 11th at 2:00-3:15 (Science 2049)

Workshop SBS 2C:  Friday, March 13 at 11:00-12:15 (Central 210 History Conference Room)

Workshop SBS 2D:  Tuesday, April 28th at 2:00-3:15 (Central 303A Philosophy Conference Room)

Workshop SBS 2E:  Wednesday, April 30th at 11:00-12:15 (Science 2049)

Workshop SBS 2F:  Friday, May 1, at 12:30-1:45 (Science 2049)

Natural and Physical Science Workshop #2, Choose one:

Workshop NPS 2A:  Thursday, March 5, 2:00-3:15 in Science 2005 (Meteorology Classroom)

Workshop NPS 2B:  Wednesday, March 11, 10:00-11:15 in Science 2049 (EAS Conference room)

Workshop NPS 2C:  TBD

Past Workshops

Arts and Humanities Workshop #1, Choose one:
Workshop AHUM 1A: Friday, December 6, 10:00-12:00 (West Classroom 133, the CPS conference room)
Workshop AHUM 1B: Monday, December 9th, 2:00-4:00 (Central 103)
Workshop AHUM 1C: Tuesday, December 10th, 11:00-1:00 (Central 303A, Philosophy conference room)
Workshop AHUM 1D: Wednesday, January 15th 1:00-3:00 (Science 2005)

Natural and Physical Science Workshop #1, Choose one:
Workshop NPS 1A: Monday, December 9th, 2:00-4:00 (Central 312, the CLAS conference room)
Workshop NPS 1B: Tuesday, December 10th, 11:00-1:00 (West Classroom 266, Theatre conference room)
Workshop NPS 1C: Wednesday, December 11th, 9:30-11:30 (Central 312, the CLAS conference room)
Workshop NPS 1D: Wednesday, January 15th 10:00-12:00 (Science 2005)

Social and Behavioral Science Workshop #1, Choose one:
Workshop SBS 1A: Monday, December 9th, 11:00-1:00 (Central 210)
Workshop SBS 1B: Tuesday, December 10th, 2:00-4:00 (Central 210)
Workshop SBS 1C: Wednesday, December 11th, 9:00-11:00 (Boulder Creek building, room 132R, the GITA conference room.  This building is south of West Classroom towards Colfax)
Workshop SBS 1D: Thursday, January 16th, 1:00-3:00 (Science 2005)

Global Diversity Workshop #1, Choose one:

Workshop GD 1A: Tuesday, December 10th, 11:00-1:00 in Science 2049 (EAS conference room)

Workshop GD 1B: Wednesday, December 11th, 12:30-2:30 in Science 2049 (EAS conference room)

Updated 2/26/20

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