Success Matters: How General Education Learning Outcomes (GEO) Drive Improvement

Oakton assesses the following General Education Learning Outcomes that are essential for academic, career and personal success:

  • critical thinking
  • literacy
  • responsibility
  • communication

Oakton assesses students after completion of general education courses to make sure they have developed broader knowledge and skills in these key areas, for example:

General Education Math Literacy Assessment
The general education (GE) assessment team collaborated with faculty throughout all divisions in the college to administer a cross-curriculum assessment to gather data on Oakton students’ math literacy. Math literacy refers to the ability to use math as it relates to real-world situations. Over 100 students participated in the assessment. Success rate varied by question, ranging from 44 to 78 percent success rate.

  • The GE team is developing and implementing a plan to help improve these results.

GE Written Communication Assessment
The GE assessment team gathered over 100 expository writing samples to assess written communication in disciplines such as anthropology, earth science, education, English, and humanities. An interdisciplinary group of faculty evaluated the samples in five categories:

  • thesis/focus/controlling idea
  • support
  • organization
  • audience
  • sentence structure, grammar, and mechanics.  

Eighty-three percent of students passed the writing assessment. The majority of students passed all five categories.

  • As a result, a proofreading guide was developed to assist students' writing performance.

GE Responsibility Assessment
The “Murals in the City” is a 50-minute written task developed by humanities faculty. This task assessed the general education learning outcome of responsibility, specifically civic responsibility and cultural/aesthetic understanding. In this assessment, students read about a fictitious diverse neighborhood named Edgeville, and the possibility of its three historic murals being replaced with corporate advertisements to fund community programs. One-hundred-and-thiriteen students in English, humanities, developmental reading, and graphic arts courses took the assessment in spring 2016. Students were asked to respond to two different prompts—one assessed the student’s level of civic understanding, the other assessed cultural/aesthetic understanding. The majority of students showed proficiency in both areas, which is a marked improvement over the same assessment in previous assessment cycles.

  • These results provided the foundation for developing two rubricsl to address areas of lower performance.

GE Nonverbal Communication Assessment
The GE assessment team worked with faculty to record and evaluate student speeches. Speech faculty developed a rubric to evaluate non-verbal communication skills, such as eye contact, body language, vocal inflection, and clarity. Student speeches were recorded across the curriculum, and the GE team evaluated the speeches using the non-verbal communication rubric. Students performed significantly low in all four areas of the rubric.

After sharing the results with the college, the GE team conducted a similar reassessment; however, this time, the faculty shared the rubric with the students in advance of their speeches. The students performed better in all four categories; however, there were still areas for improvement. Results were again shared with the faculty and a second intervention was implemented. During the reassessment, faculty shared the rubric and a video tutorial created by speech faculty and students. The tutorial focused on attire, eye contact, posture, and vocal inflection.  Upon analysis of the data, the areas targeted by the video tutorial saw a 10 to 20 percent improvement. The implementation of the rubric generated excellent improvement, and continued improvement was made with the addition of the video tutorial.  

Since the inception of the nonverbal communication assessment and the associated action plans, students have improved their non-verbal skills by 24 to 48 percent depending on the category. The results will be the basis for further action to improve student learning and non-verbal communication.

GE Literacy (Technology) Assessment
Department chairs and coordinators identified the most important technology skills Oakton students need. The GE assessment team used a software program to develop and administer technology literacy assessments.

The GE team created video tutorials to address Microsoft Word skills that students performed poorly on in the previous years’ assessments. The tutorial addressed five skill sets:

  • using find-and-replace;
  • creating a table;
  • inserting bullets and numbering;
  • spell checking; and
  • saving a file in various formats.

For the five skills where the students had viewed the tutorials, improvements in performance were dramatic, ranging from 32 to 72 percent improvement.  However, there also was an improvement in areas where tutorials were not made. Results will be further analyzed to assess the need for future tutorials and action plans to address the remaining weak areas and to see if the success of the tutorials persists in a second assessment.

General education learning outcomes also are assessed throughout our Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs.  A review of our CTE program learning outcomes indicates that an overwhelming number of their assessments deal with the college’s General Education Learning Outcomes.