University of Michigan Context
1. What is the status of Quantitative Reasoning programming on your campus?
Since 1994, the University of Michigan's College of Literature, Science and the Arts (LSA) has required students to fulfill a Quantitative Reasoning (QR) requirement for graduation with the BA, BS, and Bachelor of General Studies degrees. Students fulfill this requirement by taking one course (3 credits or more) determined to fully meet the requirement's criteria or two courses (3 credits or more each) designated for half QR credit each. The College's Curriculum Committee evaluates courses that faculty propose to meet the QR requirement.
As of July 2008, 63 courses have been approved to meet the QR requirement for full credit, and 34 have been approved for half-credit. The full-credit courses (QR1) are offered in: Astronomy; Biology; Communication Studies; Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Economics; Mathematics; Philosophy; Physics; Political Science; the Residential College; Sociology; and Statistics. Half-credit courses (QR2) are offered In Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Science; Biophysics; Chemistry; Environment; Geological Sciences; Physics; Psychology; the Residential College; and Sociology.
2. What are the key learning goals that shape your current programming or that you hope to achieve?
As stated in the College Bulletin:
The goal of the Quantitative Reasoning requirement is to ensure that every graduate of the College achieves a certain level of proficiency in using and analyzing quantitative information.
Quantitative Reasoning is the methodology used to analyze quantitative information to make decisions, judgments, and predictions. It involves defining a problem by means of numerical or geometrical representations of real-world phenomena, determining how to solve it, deducing consequences, formulating alternatives, and predicting outcomes.
Since 1994, LSA has developed a diverse set of rigorous courses for use in meeting the requirement. Approved QR courses are offered in a wide range of disciplines representing the natural and social sciences, as well as some areas of the humanities.
In reviewing course proposals for the QR requirement, the LSA Curriculum Committee focuses on quantitative reasoning as "first and foremost reasoning." It is not mathematical manipulation or computation.
3. Do you have QR assessment instruments in place? If so, please describe:
The principal assessment instruments at present are: the course approvals process, involving the department curriculum committees, LSA Curriculum Committee, and the College Executive committee; final grades; and the end-of-term Teaching Questionnaires filled out by students in each class.
In the approvals process, the committee examines how a proposed course meets the following criteria:
1. Processes and analyzes quantitative information to make judgments and predictions.
2. Defines a problem by means of numerical or geometrical representations of real world phenomena.
3. Uses a methodology to solve problems, deduce consequences, formulate alternatives, and/or predict outcomes.
Course characteristics which generally do not count as quantitative reasoning are:
* Use of a computer package to perform a calculation or study, unless the results are subjected to extensive critical analysis, compared with other quantitative data, etc;
* Routine calculations or symbolic manipulations;
* Critical reasoning that involves numerical or geometric ideas in a primarily descriptive way.
Departments are required to use a centrally provided Teaching Evaluation for each course, and may choose from questions chosen from among several broad categories – Student Development, Instructor Effectiveness, Writing Assignments, Reading Assignments, Laboratory Assignments, Other Assignments, Textbook, Audiovisual Materials, Instructional Computing, Exams, Grading, Student Responsibility, and Open-Ended Questions. The following is the full set of questions in the Student Development section that deal with "Knowledge." QR learning outcomes are not covered in the broad evaluation categories, and not directly addressed in these knowledge questions.
120. I learned a good deal of factual material in this course.
121. I gained a good understanding of concepts/principles in this field.
122. I learned to apply principles from this course to new situations.
123. I learned to identify main points and central issues in this field.
124. I learned to identify formal characteristics of works of art.
125. I developed the ability to solve real problems in this field.
126. I developed creative ability in this field.
127. I developed the ability to communicate clearly about this subject.
128. I developed ability to carry out original research in this area.
129. I developed an ability to evaluate new work in this field.
130. I learned to recognize the quality of works of art in this field.
131. I became more aware of multiple perspectives on issues of diversity.
132. I learned to think critically about difficult issues of diversity.
At this time we do not have instruments for directly assessing the effectiveness of the requirement or the effectiveness of the collective set of courses that fulfill the requirement. For QR1 and QR2 classes, however, when these Teaching Evaluation questions are used in the instrument students are likely to respond to most of them with their QR learning in mind. This is especially true of questions 120-123, and 125-129.
4. Considering your campus culture, what challenges or barriers do you anticipate in implementing or extending practices to develop and assess QR programming on your campus?
The University of Michigan follows a decentralized mode of governance. This is reflected in the relative autonomy that LSA departments and their faculty have in shaping the end-of-term questionnaires. The College reviews the performance of departments, including their undergraduate curriculum and instruction, on a regular basis. The Curriculum Committee examines the requirements for graduation over a longer time frame, typically when there is a sense that a requirement requires modification or review. Individual departments, programs, and centers have at times carried out research on specific learning outcomes.
The College has more recently committed itself to creating a culture of assessment as part of its mission. The Associate Dean for Undergraduate and Graduate Education is developing a plan for assessing student learning. The QR requirement is the first of the graduation requirements that will be assessed in this new effort.
5. Considering your campus culture, what opportunities or assets will be available to support your QR initiatives?
The University of Michigan has mobilized faculty and staff across campus for reaccreditation. The College of Literature, Science, and the Arts has committed its resources to an evaluation of all its graduation requirements for undergraduates. The initial focus will be on the general education requirements – examining each individual requirement's articulation of desired outcomes, refining the articulation as needed, and determining how best to assess the achievement of these outcomes. The evaluation process will start with the QR requirement.
The long-term outcome that the College aims to achieve from this comprehensive evaluation is its own transformation to a culture committed to innovation and assessment. In such a culture, both at the College and department levels, the faculty will be in regular, intentional conversation about the curriculum and its specified learning outcomes. Assessment will be a regular and expected process integrated into curricular oversight and change.