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General Education Assessment Processes Supporting Student Choice


Assessment of learning is a critical institutional practice to evaluate student demonstration of learning towards established outcomes at the program level. In the case of General Education, many institutions will treat it like a program and assess learning outcomes over a series of General Education courses in a prescribed order. This enables assessment of learning outcomes at higher learning levels across courses, allowing the institution to monitor whether students are gaining competence and demonstrating learning at progressively higher levels as they persist. Institutions that want to allow students more freedom in which courses they take and when, need an alternative way to assess student performance and show progression of learning to measure student growth and competence. In addition, institutions must develop a systematic process to gather, analyze, and interpret assessment data to identify any gaps in student learning that may drive curricular improvements or additional student support.

This paper aims to share one institution’s process for assessing learning in General Education while allowing students the freedom to choose most of their courses. This is particularly important for institutions serving adult learners. Topics covered include developing General Education Student Learning Outcomes that represent essential 21st Century Skills, using Bloom’s Taxonomy to design course assignments at increasing levels of rigor within a course, designing authentic assessments that align to Course Student Learning Outcomes and map to General Education Student Learning Outcomes, and developing a systematic process for collecting, analyzing, and responding to General Education student learning assessment data.

General Education Assessment Processes Supporting Student Choice: How to assess and show progression of learning in General Education courses without prescriptive scheduling

General Education Assessment Processes Supporting Student Choice: How to assess and show progression of learning in General Education courses without prescriptive scheduling


Briana Houlihan

Briana Houlihan, MBA, is Dean for the College of General Studies at University of Phoenix. Houlihan is a strong advocate for first generation and underserved working learners. She has made it her mission to enhance the skills focus within General Education coursework to bring value to Undergraduate students from day one of their program. She has served non-traditional online learners in higher education for over 21 years, holding positions in Student Services, Academic Affairs, and College and Campus Operations. Her diverse experience and authentic leadership style has allowed her to develop high performing teams that put students at the center of everything they do. She holds a Master of Business Administration and Post-Graduate Certificate in Project Management from the University of Phoenix. She resides in Phoenix, Arizona.

Jacquelyn Kelly

Jacquelyn Kelly, Ph.D., is an Associate Dean at University of Phoenix with more than 15 years of experience in science and math education. Her expertise is in translating STEM education research into practice at institutions of higher education. Kelly earned her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction with a specialization in Science Education from Arizona State University. Her master's degree is in Materials Science and Engineering from Arizona State University. Her undergraduate degree is in Physics and Chemistry from California State University, San Marcos. She has been principal investigator and co-principal investigator of multiple federal grant projects to develop science education support for rural area K-12 teachers and to develop student government science officer roles in K-12. Kelly’s previous positions include science teaching, teacher evaluator for the county education service agency, and program director for professional development programs for science and math educators.

Susan Hadley

Susan Hadley, Ph.D., is an Associate Dean at the University of Phoenix. She has oversight of the Bachelor of Arts in English degree as well as the non-STEM general education catalog, including ‘first year student experience’ courses. Hadley has spent over 20 years in higher education serving in various dean roles, as a faculty member across degree levels, and as a consultant for dozens of colleges and universities. She has advised higher education institutions throughout the country regarding academic program structure and design, accreditation, and academic policies and procedures incorporating operational and educational best practices. Dr. Hadley earned her doctorate in psychology from Saybrook University, a Master of Arts in English from Emporia State University, a Bachelor of Arts in English from Hastings College, and a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from Bellevue University.