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General Education Assessment Process

The goal of general education assessment is to determine how well and in what ways students are achieving the intended learning outcomes. In addition, the assessment process can provide meaningful information and feedback for faculty who teach general education courses. Most important, general education assessment identifies successes of student learning, areas for improvement, and documentation of evidence-based changes.

Good assessment practices encourage the use of multiple methods to examine student learning outcomes. SDSU’s general education assessment plan incorporates multiple methods to assess student learning as related to the general education curriculum. These methods include:

  1. Review of student artifacts from randomly selected general education courses/sections
  2. Items from the Senior Exit Survey
  3. Items from the National Survey of Student Engagement
  4. Focus Groups

1. Review of Student Artifacts – Process Overview and General Timeline

Direct assessment of the general education student learning outcomes requires faculty to review student work to ensure students are meeting the learning outcomes for each SGR.

The assessment of the general education curriculum and student learning outcomes using the review of student artifacts is structured so that the six goals (and student learning outcomes for each goal) are assessed over a three-year period:

  • 2020–2021 – Goals #1 (Written Communication) and #5 (Mathematics)
  • 2021–2022 – Goals #3 (Social Sciences/Diversity) and #6 (Natural Sciences)
  • 2022–2023 – Goals #2 (Oral Communication) and #4 (Humanities & Arts/Diversity)
Course Selection Process

Courses meeting system general education goals are eligible for review. A sample of courses are randomly selected for review each year from the list of approved courses for the two goals scheduled.

The Director of Institutional Assessment initiates the selection of courses. Course and section selection is conducted in the spring prior to the year of review. For example, the courses/sections included in the review for 2020-2021, will be identified no later than April 3, 2020. A sample of approximately 25% of the available courses on the approved list will be selected for review each cycle.

From these courses and in consultation with the Department Head or School Director, the Director of Institutional Assessment will randomly select a sample of three sections if there are four or more sections of the course (or all sections if three or fewer sections).

In instances where there are a limited number of faculty members teaching all courses for a given goal, multiple sections by one faculty member may be selected for assessment.

Faculty Notification

Faculty who are assigned to teach selected courses and sections will be notified via email by the Office of Institutional Assessment no later than mid-April of each academic year. Faculty and departmental/program leadership will be invited to attend a workshop to learn more about general education assessment expectations and guidelines.

Faculty will also be invited to a rubric norming workshop. The goals of the rubric norming workshop are: 1) Practice using the rubric on samples of student work, 2) Discuss scores and develop a shared understanding of how to apply the criteria, 3) Develop consensus on scoring (reliability), 4) Identify sample work as “anchors” to provide samples of different scores of levels of performance.

Selecting Artifacts

Prior to the beginning of the semester, faculty select student assignments to assess student learning outcomes. Faculty may select multiple artifacts. Any course materials (i.e., papers, exams, daily work, speeches, artwork, lab notebooks, etc.) may be used as evidence of student learning if the materials align with the student learning outcomes.

Rating Artifacts

If appropriate, rubrics will be developed and used to rate the artifacts for all students in the course sections. In some instances, depending on the type of artifact used to demonstrate student learning (i.e., multiple-choice questions), a rubric may not be appropriate. In those instances, faculty will determine the agreed-upon metric to report (i.e., the number of students who selected the correct answer).

Submitting Materials

Faculty who are participating in the assessment of general education for the academic year, submit the following materials to the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment. Faculty should also copy the Department Head or School Director.

  • Course syllabus
  • Completed Course Section Report
  • 2–3 examples of student artifacts

Faculty should send materials by the end of the semester in which they assessed a general education course.

These materials will be reviewed by the SDSU General Education Sub-Committee to ensure adherence to the policy.

Timeline Overview (example)

March/April 2020 • Courses/sections selected for review • Department Heads and Faculty notified via email •General Education Workshops

October 2020 • Rubric norming sessions

January 2021 • Faculty teaching fall courses submit course syllabus, course section report(s), 2-3 examples of student artifacts

May 2021 • Faculty teaching spring courses submit course syllabus, course section report(s), 2-3 examples of student artifacts

Fall 2021 • Materials review by General Education Sub-Committee • General Education Assessment report completed

2. Senior Exit Survey

The senior exit survey is administered each semester to graduating seniors who complete the graduation application. The survey instrument consists of 50 questions in closed-ended response format.

Survey items focus on:
  • Overall experiences
  • General education goals
  • High-Impact Practices (HIPs)
  • Graduate School Aspirations
  • Student Services
For general education goals (SGRs), seniors are asked to indicate the degree they disagree or agree on the following items:
  • I have improved my ability to write effectively and responsibly, as well as understand and interpret the written expression of others.
  • I have improved my ability to communicate effectively and responsibly through listening and speaking.
  • I have improved my ability to understand the organization, potential, and diversity of the human community through study of the social sciences.
  • I have improved my ability to understand the diversity and complexity of the human experience through study of the arts and humanities.
  • I have improved my ability to understand and apply fundamental mathematical processes and reasoning.
  • I have improved my ability to understand the fundamental principles of the natural sciences and apply scientific methods of inquiry to investigate the natural world.

3. National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE)

The National Survey of Student Engagement is a standardized survey tool used to assess the extent to which students engage in educational practices associated with high levels of learning and development. At SDSU, NSSE is administered every other spring (2020; 2022) to first-year and senior students.

Q2. During the current school year, about how often have you done the following?

(Response options: Very often, Often, Sometimes, Never)

  • Combined ideas from different courses when completing assignments
  • Connected your learning to societal problems or issues Included diverse perspectives (political, religious, racial/ethnic, gender, etc.) in course discussions or assignments
  • Examined the strengths and weaknesses of your own views on a topic or issue
  • Tried to better understand someone else's views by imagining how an issue looks from their perspective
  • Learned something that changed the way you understand an issue or concept
  • Connected ideas from your courses to your prior experiences and knowledge
Q6. During the current school year, about how often have you done the following?

(Response options: Very often, Often, Sometimes, Never)

  • Reached conclusions based on your own analysis of numerical information (numbers, graphs, statistics, etc.) 
  • Used numerical information to examine a real-world problem or issue (unemployment, climate change, public health, etc.)
  • Evaluated what others have concluded from numerical information
Q8. During the current school year, about how often have you had discussions with people from the following groups?

(Response options: Very often, Often, Sometimes, Never)

  • People of a race or ethnicity other than your own
  • People from an economic background other than your own
  • People with religious beliefs other than your own
  • People with political views other than your own
Q18.How much has your experience at this institution contributed to your knowledge, skills, and personal development in the following areas?

(Response options: Very much, Quite a bit, Some, Very little)

  • Writing clearly and effectively
  • Speaking clearly and effectively
  • Thinking critically and analytically
  • Analyzing numerical and statistical information
  • Acquiring job- or work-related knowledge and skills Working effectively with others
  • Developing or clarifying a personal code of values and ethics
  • Understanding people of other backgrounds (economic, racial/ethnic, political, religious, nationality, etc.)
  • Solving complex real-world problems
  • Being an informed and active citizen

4. Focus Groups

As needed, the SDSU General Education Sub-committee may conduct focus groups with students and/or faculty to further understand perceptions of general education curriculum and its impact on student learning and development. The faculty focus groups may also identify strategies on how to best support faculty who teach general education courses.