Asee peer logo

An Objectives Based Approach To Assessment Of General Education

Download Paper |


2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Assessing Where We Stand

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.193.1 - 10.193.12



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Robert Pangborn

author page

Renata Engel

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3461

An Objectives-Based Approach to Assessment of General Education

Lori J. Bechtel, Suzanne Light Cross, Renata S. Engel, Ronald L. Filippelli, Arthur L. Glenn, John T. Harwood, Robert N. Pangborn, and Barbara L. Welshofer Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence, The Pennsylvania State University


This paper describes the development of an innovative strategy to assess how students and faculty perceive and accomplish the objectives of general education at Penn State. The University’s general education curriculum is intended to achieve a number of educational goals, including the exploration and development of knowledge domains and skills that are consistent with, and complementary to, the learning outcomes associated with the students’ major programs of study. A diverse team was assembled to evaluate three crucial aspects of general education, namely, its design, delivery and reception. The collaboration began with examination of course- taking patterns and framing of the University Faculty Senate’s expressed objectives for general education in the context of the program goals and learning outcomes for selected technical and non-technical majors. Focused interviews with students and information solicited from course instructors were then used to gain an understanding for how these stakeholders actually view their experiences and course goals/delivery mechanisms, respectively, in terms of this objective- based matrix. A first attempt to implement an on-line methodology was made with limited success. The lessons learned shed light on the challenges and opportunities for scaling up a process that would allow efficient and widespread program assessment, across many disciplines of study, to facilitate academic advising and curricular improvement.

I. Origins of General Education Assessment at Penn State

Assessment of the general education program at Penn State has long been of interest at the University, owing to its prominence as a substantial component of the curriculum and degree requirements. The need for comprehensive assessment was articulated most specifically over a decade ago by a Task Force on Undergraduate Education charged by the provost in 1991.1 A Commission for Undergraduate Education subsequently developed a plan for assessment in 1993, 2 and other reports on curricular coherence and relevance and assessment of educational outcomes followed in 1995 and 1996, respectively. 3,4 These initiatives focused, however, on surveying and encouraging the various motivations and methods for assessment within the independent disciplines, and the first call for broader application across the entire curriculum was issued as a key recommendation of the University’s most recent general education reform effort in 1997.5 The Special Committee on General Education emphasized the imperative to “institutionalize a process for formative assessment that is based on measurable outcomes, recognizes the importance of learning processes and informs continuous curricular

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Pangborn, R., & Engel, R. (2005, June), An Objectives Based Approach To Assessment Of General Education Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14547

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2005 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015