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Development of Gen Ed

How We Got Here

M Gate

In 2010 the university’s faculty were asked to design and launch a General Education program that embraced the changing character of the University of Maryland and reflected  the university’s historic strengths and its long-term aspirations.  “Transforming General Education” challenged faculty to create courses that were unique to the UMD experience-- including the I-Series and Scholarship in Practice courses--and to reimagine how students would be broadly exposed to disciplines, become proficient in fundamental skills and to learn more about themselves, about others who are different from them, and about the world into which they will be graduating.

General Education at UMD was designed and implemented over a two-year period (2010-2012) following the General Education Implementation Plan using a collaborative approach among faculty in all colleges and schools led by the Office of Undergraduate Studies and the General Education Implementation Committee.


Implementation of General Education at UMD included significant course design and redesign, as well as a plan for continued assessment and improvement. Faculty committees developed the criteria for course design in establishing learning outcomes for all of the General Education course areas. The Office of Undergraduate Studies launched a process, including an in-house online application site to support review and approval of  all of the courses.

Faculty joined the nine inaugural faculty boards that provide support of development and assessment
Over 3000 courses were developed, reviewed and launched to form the General Education program.

Course offering agreements were developed with all colleges and schools, and transfer policies and articulation agreements  to serve our transfer students - ensuring that  all students would have access to General Education in an appropriate time frame. The General Education expectations were added to all undergraduate degree plans and shared widely with the advising community. Faculty teaching I-Series and Scholarship in Practice courses met with advisors to share information about these unique courses.

To ensure the continued development and improvement of General Education at UMD the Office of Undergraduate Studies  collaborated with the Institutional Research, Planning and Assessment, the General Education Faculty Boards and faculty focus groups to develop and launch a learning outcomes assessment approach. A criterion based approach where faculty would review student work from their courses according to criteria related to learning outcomes shared in assessment rubrics was selected. And a decision was made to represent assessment criteria in rubrics that would serve to guide course development and reveal to students the expectations of general education courses

During 2012-2015 the majority of the rubric development work was completed. This included the design of a  rubric generating process that continues to be used today. The UMD General Education Rubric development process involves review of the course area learning outcomes, selection of learning outcomes to assess, determination of review criteria with references to applicable AACU Value Rubrics, articulation of student performance levels, and validity testing with faculty instructors, followed by revision until the rubrics were approved by the respective Faculty Boards and the Dean for Undergraduate Studies. The Oral Communication faculty board and many oral communication faculty volunteers were instrumental in the design and testing of the rubric design process. Over 90 faculty were involved in the work to develop the General Education rubrics that occurred over a 3 year period (see Chronology of UMD General Education Rubric Development).

The General Education rubrics are made available through the website and the UMD learning management system (ELMS- Canvas). The Office of Undergraduate Studies collaborated with the Division  of Information Technology to define an approach where faculty could access the general education rubrics as a part of their regular work while teaching. UMD was one of the first campuses to develop such an approach that used the Speedgrader tool to present assessment rubrics and collect assessment data. Faculty may review their own aggregated results through the ELMS learning mastery tool and the Office of Undergraduate Studies prepares reports with this data across all general education categories. As of 2021 these reports are available in UMD Reports. UMD was one of the first campuses to take advantage of the ELMS-Canvas tools to engage faculty in General Education assessment.

The central role of faculty within our General Education program has been highlighted at national conferences and was recognized by National Institute of Learning Outcomes Assessment for this approach at the 2017  AACU General Education and Assessment Conference. 

To support faculty engagement in General Education the Office of Undergraduate Studies hosts regular workshops and training sessions General Education Learning Outcomes Assessment, sends regular correspondence (at the start and end of each semester) to faculty with information about General Education goals and the role of faculty including participation in learning outcomes assessment. 

In 2016 the end of semester Reflection Survey was instituted as a method to capture faculty reflections about learning outcomes assessment findings and how these are used for course improvements.

To support engagement of faculty in our unique courses categories the Office of Undergraduate Studies  implemented two Faculty Learning Communities that have met regularly since 2012. The I-Series FLC and the Scholarship in Practice FLC have been highlighted at national conferences and serve to support continued improvement in these unique course categories.

Engaging faculty in designing and implementing General Education spurred a transformation of teaching and learning at UMD that continues today. Each year, the Office of Undergraduate Studies oversees the assessment of General Education and prepares reports to the Senate Educational Affairs Committee and to the Provost’s Commission on Learning Outcomes Assessment. In 2015 the Office of Undergraduate Studies instituted a faculty award where students nominate outstanding faculty for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in a General Education Course. 

Publications and Presentations:

  1. Smith, A. C., Faculty Centered Assessment of General Education, AAC&U’s Conference on General Education and Assessment: Foundations for Democracy Conference, 2018, Philadelphia PA
  2. La Voy, S.A., Smith, A. C., Roberts, D. Promising Practice: Engaging faculty in designing and implementing an outcomes-based general education program. AAC&U General Education and Assessment conference. 2013. Boston MA.
  3. Thompson, Katerina V., et al. "Faculty learning communities: A professional development model that fosters individual, departmental and institutional impact." Transforming institutions: Undergraduate STEM education for the 21st century (2015): 312-324.
  4. Benson, Spencer A., Ann C. Smith, and David B. Eubanks. "Developing scholarly teaching at a research university: Using learning communities to build capacity for change." Cases on quality teaching practices in higher education. IGI Global, 2013. 212-227.

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