Assessment of the Baccalaureate Core is a process of shared governance, a partnership between the Faculty Senate Baccalaureate Core Committee (BCC) and the Office of Academic Programs and  Assessment (APA).  APA provides administrative support for the process and the BCC conducts the reviews of the courses.  APA also compiles aggregate data for the BCC to review and consider in the context of the Bacc Core curriculum, the student learning outcomes, and university goals and resources.

What is the Baccalaureate Core?

The Baccalaureate Core is the “core” set of required courses for Oregon State University students.  The purpose of the Baccalaureate Core is to develop a well-rounded student with a broad set of skills and knowledge in:

  • writing;
  • speech;
  • mathematics;
  • fitness;
  • biological and physical sciences;
  • cultural diversity;
  • literature and the arts;
  • social process and institutions;
  • western culture;
  • contemporary global issues;
  • science, technology and society; and
  • difference, power and discrimination.

Thus, students who obtain a degree from Oregon State University should not only be skilled in their major, but possess skills and knowledge that are valuable to employers and to themselves to help them successfully navigate our multi-faceted, complex world.

Baccalaureate Core Category Student Learning Outcomes

The Baccalaureate Core Category Student Learning Outcomes describe the skills, knowledge and values that are developed as a result of completing the Baccalaureate Core courses at Oregon State University. Each category has its own set of learning outcomes.

For more information about the Baccalaureate Core, visit the Baccalaureate Core site.

Why Assess the Baccalaureate Core?

Because the Baccalaureate Core is one of the primary mechanisms to develop key transferable skills and knowledge, it is very important to make sure it is “doing its job.” The only way to determine whether the job is being done, and at the level of excellence expected at OSU, is to identify what teaching and learning is occurring. As faculty, we care about the students and we try our best to provide a great education. We do have confidence that students are leaving OSU with strong skills, but the only way to know for sure is to have well-aligned measures and collect data within individual courses and across the curriculum.

As part of a philosophical grounding in general education assessment, consider the following questions:

  • How do we know that student A is graduating with the same level of expected basic skills and knowledge as student B, who may be in a completely different degree program?
  • Don’t all students at OSU deserve the same high-level of education and development of basic skills and knowledge?

Through course assessment and category-level review of the information (called program level assessment), we can help ensure this is happening.

How is the Baccalaureate Core assessed?

Like any program assessment, the Baccalaureate Core is assessed on many different levels, but ultimately everything begins with the courses and builds from there. Courses are where the “rubber hits the road” and when put together they add up to a student’s education. “Holes” in courses or course offerings equal “holes” in an education. Sometimes the “holes” are small and students still graduate with the desired skills and knowledge, and, thus, there is really no issue. Other times the “holes” are significant and students graduate with gaps. In this latter case, changes must occur. Changes may be at the instructor level (i.e. improved instruction), the course content level (i.e. modifying course content to meet the outcomes), or the curricular level (i.e. adding or deleting course offerings and modifying course sequence).

The only way to determine whether and what changes need to occur is by gathering meaningful data, identifying how the data need to be used, and having a responsible party to evaluate the data and make decisions/recommendations for evidence-based change.

The Baccalaureate Core as a whole is assessed in the following ways:

  • Course Level Review: (considers individual course elements and data and whether a course should be in the Baccalaureate Core)
    • Does a specific Baccalaureate Core course address and assess the relevant Baccalaureate Core Category Learning Outcome(s)?
      • If not, what changes need to occur for those activities to be implemented?
      • If so, what do their assessments tell us about student learning related to those outcomes?
  • Category Review: (considers data across all courses in a category to identify category trends)
    • What percentage of courses in a category meet the Baccalaureate Core Course Requirements?
    • Using category-level data are students as a whole achieving the relevant Baccalaureate Core Learning Outcomes? Or are there any weaknesses?
    • Are there other important trends in a category? (e.g. Challenges common to many courses in a given category? A high representation of courses in a department or college that may impact the resources of a college? More courses needed in a category to help with student registration?)
  • Baccalaureate Core Review: (considers all of the category data together to evaluate the Baccalaureate Core as a whole)
    • Does the sequence and type of courses in the Baccalaureate Core develop student skills to the desired level?
    • Are there important trends across the categories? (e.g. Challenges common to many Baccalaureate Core courses? A high representation of courses across multiple categories in a department or college that may impact the resources of a college?)
    • Are there enough courses within a category to meet student needs?
    • Do the categories and courses contained within them deliver the desired Baccalaureate Core experience and development of knowledge, skills and values intended by the core?
    • What is the load/responsibility distribution across the colleges and departments?
    • Are there specific resources needed to or structural changes that need to occur to help support the successful delivery of the Baccalaureate Core?

Baccalaureate Core Vitalization

In June 2010 the Faculty Senate adopted a Vitalization agenda for the Baccalaureate Core based on the findings of a two-year review of the Core by an ad hoc Faculty Senate committee. The committee’s report is available on the Faculty Senate website. The central findings of the committee were that the overall structure of the Core is sound and is generally consistent with how the campus community envisions the role of general education at Oregon State University. However the implementation of the Core has drifted in the two-plus decades since it was designed and adopted in 1989. In order to vitalize and raise the profile of the Core for students and faculty, the ad hoc review concluded, among other things, that assessment and faculty review of the Core must incorporate evidence of student learning.  This prompted the development of measurable Category Learning Outcomes during 2010-2011. These Category Learning Outcomes now serve as the goals and standards for assessment of general education at OSU.

How can APA help with Baccalaureate Core Course Reviews?

We are here to help make the Baccalaureate Core Category Course Review a smooth and meaningful process for individual instructors and department and college administrators alike. If you would like help with any aspect of this process please contact us.
Some examples of how we can help include:

  • meeting with individual faculty to identify and align existing assessments used in a course to address relevant Baccalaureate Core Category Learning Outcomes;
  • meeting with groups of instructors teaching different sections of a course to help complete the review form or internally evaluate a course for your own curiosity and benefit;
  • helping colleges and departments help their faculty;
  • identifying efficient ways to align program-level (degree assessment) with Baccalaureate Core assessment
  • identifying how the Office of Academic Programs and Assessment can better support colleges and departments in this process;
  • meeting with groups of faculty for Q & A sessions;
  • setting up college- or department-specific workshops on the Baccalaureate Core review process, how to do course-level assessment meaningfully and efficiently, writing-specific assessment workshops, etc.