Index of Topics 2/17/09

    For Approval 3/3/2009;  to Faculty Senate 3/09/09

Proposal to create Committee on Undergrad Education





Regular Meeting  --  February 17, 2009


Chair Roger Thompson called the meeting of the 2008-2009 Academic Coordinating Commission to order at

4:00 pm on Tuesday, February 17, 2009.  There were thirteen (13) members present, the Recorder (1) and five guests (5) for a total of nineteen (19).  Chair Thompson welcomed Maria Paredes Mendez, as Chair of the General Education Requirements Committee; Cornelius Partsch, as Chair of the Committee on the Assessment of Teaching and Learning, and Carmen Werder, as Chair of the Writing Assessment Group.


Approval of ACC minutesMembers approved minutes of  February 3, 2009 as written.

Report from the Chair:   Chair Thompson reported:

·         Recent discussion of X17’s and x97’s was meant to help clarify existing policy.

·         Associated Students have joined the recent discussion about student evaluations (course reaction forms), and the Student Senate will present an information report to ACC.

·         Doug Nord and Susanna Yunker along with Chair Thompson have been working through some issues regarding summer courses, and this will be another item for ACC discussion in the Spring. 

·         Commissioners received and accepted a table of concurrent and co-requisite courses provided by the College of Sciences and Technology and requested originally by the Catalog Coordinator.


Appointments and Elections

Vacancy:  1 Faculty to ACC from Area A for Spring Quarter







ACC Action and notes


GER Committee




Graduate Council


Postponed.  Catalog Coordinator not present at this ACC meeting.  Commissioners will review minutes before approving at next meeting, with some leeway allowed for Fall 2009 catalog.



Proposal to Create Standing Committee

Commissioners reviewed a MEMO which is a result of discussions between various subcommittees of ACC, and which proposes a new Committee on Undergraduate Education that would combine the functions of the present GER committee with the functions of the Assessment Committee (Committee on the Assessment of Teaching and Learning (CATL)).  The proposal is partly in response to recommendations from the Accreditation report.  (For the complete Memo, see the ACC link at )


The following part of the proposal is extracted from the ACC memo:

“One committee will have the functions of curriculum approval and assessment, responsibilities for articulating and promoting General Education, and comprehensive oversight of the Writing Program at Western.  In short, faculty, whose responsibilities are presently divided among committees with overlapping functions and missions (GER, CATL, WAG), will be brought together with representatives from administrative offices (VPUE and OIART[1]) in the Committee on Undergraduate Education.  This ACC standing committee will advise ACC as it carries out its fundamental mission to coordinate Western’s academic programs.”

Commissioners’ Comments in Response

These three committees have plenty of work now, and the work load might be very high when combined.


Some think that the composition of this new committee should be bigger.  (Proposed Membership (11):  One faculty representative from each college (6);  Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education (1);  Director of the Office of Institutional Assessment, Research, and Testing (1);  Director of the University Writing Program (1);  one student representative (1); one ACC representative (1). )


What about assessing writing courses?

·         Committee members were concerned about the writing assessment part of this committee.  If only new courses are assessed at present the work load would be feasible.  An advantage would be that with the VPUE and OIART combined with GER and Writing, it would mean that faculty could more readily access the information from the committees.

·         The Writing Assessment Group discovered that the General Education Committee was not really charged with looking at the upper level writing requirement. WAG has tried to address that and the new committee would help to carry that work forward.


But under this new plan, what experience or guidance would I receive about changing my course to make use of what has been studied in one of these committees?  How as a faculty member how would I learn what has been advanced?

·         Steve VanderStaay responded that he learned from the history that not every one regularly realizes that there are GUR competencies.  VanderStaay suggested that each syllabus should note which of the competencies the course intends to meet. 

·         VanderStaay mentioned an alumni survey which tells us that 85% of seniors are satisfied with what they learn in the majors, but that satisfaction is much lower for freshman as to the GURs, their purpose, and what it is intended that students are supposed to learn.  Focusing on the GUR competencies in the syllabus may improve undergraduate satisfaction.  Perhaps every 10 years courses must come back through ACC as part of a general curriculum overhaul.

·         Others noted that satisfaction about undergraduate education is not the same assessing how we meet those goals.  The meaning of assessment has been changing over past 10 years or so.  In computer science for example, a national test is given, but such a test cannot exist in philosophy.  We are being asked to be more standardized (at least in computer science).  But sometimes all this bureaucratic terminology is obtuse and does not contribute much to what a teacher is doing. It is important to be alive to the fact that just making things uniform or bureaucratized does not necessarily make things better.

·         There are a number of models out there, and the proposed committee would generate discussion on ideas coming out about assessment. In the synergy between administrators who have to answer to accreditors and faculty who have to answer to students, the right model will get the attention it deserves. 


What does the committee need to be thinking about?

·         The committee needs to be thinking about both what we want our students to know and what we want our students to be able to do.  In English everybody is expected to teach writing, but other faculty may not want to teach writing since they are not English majors.  Also students in general education may not be taught the remedial writing they need.  And not everyone agrees that good writing comes just from reading good literature.

·         The wide variety of classes that students can take to meet the challenges of a liberal education exist without a standard required course such as one in Western Civilization; this can be a real challenge to assessment. 

·         Some faculty have to teach seniors what they needed to learn in freshman classes. We need to look at the system we have now and see if it can be made more coherent.

·         Julie Helling reported that in Fairhaven there is a core curriculum, but not GURs.  There is intensive writing for freshmen, including a writing proficiency portfolio which is overseen by a faculty and an advisor, and many Fairhaven students who come to the main campus do better than average. 

·         Sylvia Tag pointed to a survey from a past information technology group which noted a lack in “information searching” in the freshman and sophomore GUR classes.  Faculty frequently assume that when students declare a major that they have been through these basics.  From that perspective it would be very valuable to have a group where a conversation on the topic can take place.

·         Students agreed that doing an assignment because you hope to learn a particular skill, and how or why the skill will fit into your general education would be very helpful.  One member suggested that freshman should read a paper about what employers want at the beginning of every quarter.


Summing Up

VanderStaay stated that the accreditation cycle presents time constraints; he will work with the committee to come up with three approaches to assessing competence and will present them to the campus for revisions.  The idea is to agree and then to implement them next year.  There is an AACU initiative which recommends four main outcomes with suboutcomes that are really clear.  They also do a really good job explaining to students why employers expect a background in liberal arts education.  If we decide to use a portfolio, a capstone, or a final exam, we will figure out how we will we do it.  We have to have a plan by the end of this year.

Commissioners anticipate a broad discussion on this topic, and plan to vote on a possible motion at the next ACC meeting.   


Commissioners Concerns

Some servers or peer to peer connections in a particular dorm have been used to scan exams and make them available to people.  Computing resources that have WWU IP addresses can be shut them down if that is what is going on.  Research is ongoing on the matter since it affects specific courses dramatically, especially with those instructors who do not change their exams. 

Adjournment 5:22 pm

Rose Marie Norton-Nader, Recorder, February 17, 2009




Voting Membership (term ending 2009)



Chair – Roger Thompson 2008-2009



A – Roger Anderson, Biology (SENATOR) rep to UPC



Vice Chair – James Hearne



A -  James Hearne, Computer Science, Vice Chair (4 yr)






A – Spencer Anthony-Cahill, Chemistry (SENATOR)



Ex Officio



D – Mark Kuntz, Theater



Provost Murphy  (v)



E – Yvonne Durham, Economics, CBE



Lisa Zuzarte (Catalog Coordinator) nv



G – Robin Matthews, Huxley



Susanna Yunker, Acting Registrar, nv



H –Marsha Riddle Buly,  Woodring,






Membership (term ending 2010)






B –  Billie Lindsey, PEHR, rep to GER Cte



Steven VanderStaay, VPUE



C – Roger Thompson, History, CHAIR



Maria Paredes Mendez, Chair, GER Cte



E -  Kristi Tyran, Management



Cornelius Partsch, Chair, CATL



F -  Julie Helling, Fairhaven



Carmen Werder, Director, WAG



I –  Sylvia Tag, Library,






S -  Andrea Godard, ASVP-Academics, 2008-2009



Rose Marie Norton-Nader, Recorder



S -  Nikki Brown, AS



Members Present



S -  Chelsea Fletcher, AS



Recorder and Guests



S-   Shanai Lechtenberg, AS



TOTAL PRESENT   February 17, 2009



Members (18):    12 faculty (2yr terms) representing each area with 2 as Senators.  6 more members include:  Provost (nv), Catalog Coordinator (ex officio) and 4 students (1 ASVP).  ACC sends reps:  to UPC and to GER Cte.  Registrar & Recorder are permanent guests








[1] Office of Institutional Assessment, Research and Testing