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Liberal Studies

for the 21st Century

Competencies and Requirements

About Competencies

What is a Competency

A competency defines the knowledge, abilities, and skills that a student should be able to demonstrate upon completion of a course, certificate, or curriculum. Competencies are expressed in learning outcomes, which are observable measures of student competency.

Why do we use competencies within the Liberal Studies curriculum?

The Liberal Studies curriculum at Florida State University is designed to insure that all students develop a range of abilities and habits of thinking that reflect FSU’s mission, which “.strives to instill the strength, skill, and character essential for lifelong learning, personal responsibility, and sustained achievement within a community that fosters free inquiry and embraces diversity.” The Liberal Studies curriculum is structured so that students can become competent in broad substantive areas through a variety of departments and types of courses. Competencies are the same for each substantive area in the Liberal Studies curriculum so that students can take courses across the disciplines while achieving the same foundational competencies as their peers. Having a common set of competencies also helps assure that the Liberal Studies curriculum fulfills the mission of the Division of Undergraduate Studies, which is to “.assure that each undergraduate student at the Florida State University receives a strong educational foundation on which to build a successful academic program.” As such, courses approved to meet student requirements must be designed to foster the development of competencies defined for each substantive area.

In addition, our regional accreditation body (SACSCOC) requires that we assess student learning in General Education courses to assure that the curriculum provides effective learning experiences for our undergraduate students. Instructors of Liberal Studies courses must assess whether students have met each area competency through assignments, tests, quizzes, or other measures of the competency. Instructors must also be prepared to provide outcome data as requested for program evaluation.

How were the Liberal Studies competencies at Florida State University developed?

Competencies were first introduced into the Liberal Studies curriculum with the design and implementation of the Liberal Studies for the 21st-Century program in 2014. The initial competencies were expressed as broad ideals for student learning rather than as observable learning outcomes. In 2015, the Faculty Senate Steering Committee requested that the competencies be modified to better specify what we expect students to learn, to be applicable and interpretable across the disciplines, and to serve as valid and reliable measures of student achievement for assessment of the Liberal Studies curriculum. After thorough review and input on the competencies by the Liberal Studies Evaluation and Assessment Committee (LSEAC), instructors who teach courses in each of the Liberal Studies competency areas, the Liberal Studies Coordinating and Policy Committee (LSCPC), and additional faculty input, a revised set of competencies was approved by the Faculty Senate in April 2016. These competencies identify institutional expectations of student achievement in courses approved for inclusion in the Liberal Studies curriculum. These expectations are described for each general Liberal Studies area as a competency statement followed by a list of learning outcomes that translate each competency into observable measures of student achievement. The competencies and associated learning outcomes are listed below.

Because the LSEAC and LSCPC are faculty-governed and represent a cross-section of disciplines at FSU, the competencies and learning objectives were designed to be interpretable across courses with varied subject matter while providing students with the foundational learning experiences characteristic of a broad and comprehensive Liberal Studies curriculum.


Liberal Studies General Education Competencies and Learning Objectives

Quantitative and Logical Thinking

Students become critical analyzers of quantitative and logical problems. By the end of the course, students will demonstrate the ability to:

  1. Select and apply appropriate methods (i.e., mathematical, statistical, logical, and/or computational models or principles) to solve real-world problems.
  2. Use a variety of forms to represent problems and their solutions.
English Composition

Students become critical readers and clear, creative, and convincing communicators. By the end of the course, students will demonstrate the ability to:

  1. Compose for a specific purpose, occasion, and audience.
  2. Compose in a process, including drafts, revision, and editing.
  3. Incorporate sources from a variety of text types.
  4. Convey ideas clearly, coherently, and effectively, utilizing the conventions of standard American English where relevant.
Social Sciences

Students become critical analyzers of theories and evidence about social forces and social experience. By the end of the course, students will demonstrate the ability to:

  1. Discuss the role of social factors in contemporary problems or personal experiences.
  2. Analyze claims about social phenomena.
History

Students become critical analyzers of theories and evidence about historical events and forces. By the end of the course, students will demonstrate the ability to:

  1. Discuss the role of historical factors in contemporary problems or personal experiences.
  2. Analyze claims about historical phenomena.
Humanities and Cultural Practice

Students become thoughtful patrons of and participants in cultural practices. By the end of the course, students will demonstrate the ability to:

  1. Interpret intellectual or artistic works within a cultural context.
  2. Use a cultural, artistic, or philosophical approach to analyze some aspect of human experience.
Ethics

Students become ethically engaged citizens and logical thinkers. By the end of the course, students will demonstrate the ability to:

  1. Evaluate various ethical positions.
  2. Describe the ways in which historical, social, or cultural contexts shape ethical perspectives.
Natural Sciences

Students become critical appraisers of theories and the facts that support them. By the end of the course, students will demonstrate the ability to:

  1. Pose questions or hypotheses based on scientific principles.
  2. Use appropriate scientific methods and evidence to evaluate claims or theoretical arguments about the natural world.
  3. Analyze and interpret research results using appropriate methods.
E-Series

Students become competent interdisciplinary, analytical, and flexible thinkers and lifelong learners. By the end of the course, students will demonstrate the ability to:

  1. Describe the major questions or problems in the course using various intellectual perspectives.
  2. Discuss or demonstrate the relevance of ideas or findings from the course.
  3. Communicate arguments central to the course using clear, coherent prose that utilizes the conventions of standard American English.
  4. Discuss relevant ideas from the course using sources from a variety of text types.

Note: All E-Series coursed meet the State-Mandated writing requirement. As such, instructors must incorporate the substantive requirements for undergraduate writing courses into their course design.


Liberal Studies University-Wide Competencies and Learning Objectives


“W” (State-Mandated Writing)

Students become clear, creative, and convincing communicators. By the end of the course, students will demonstrate the ability to:

  1. Compose for a specific purpose, occasion, and audience.
  2. Convey ideas in clear, coherent prose that utilizes the conventions of a standard language.
Scholarship in Practice

Students become critical thinkers, creative users of knowledge for professional practice, and independent learners. By the end of the course, students will demonstrate the ability to:

  1. Apply relevant areas of scholarship to produce an original project.
Cross-Cultural Studies (X)

Students become culturally conscious participants in a global community. By the end of the course, students will demonstrate the ability to:

  1. Analyze some aspect of human experience within a culture, focusing on at least one source of diversity (e.g., age, disability, ethnicity, gender, language, race, religion, sexual orientation, social class, or other).
  2. Explore one’s own cultural norms or values in relation those of a different cultural group.
Diversity in Western Experience (Y)

Students become globally aware citizens and culturally literate members of society. By the end of the course, students will demonstrate the ability to:

  1. Analyze some aspect of human experience within a culture, focusing on at least one source of diversity (e.g., age, disability, ethnicity, gender, language, race, religion, sexual orientation, social class, or other).
  2. Explore one’s own cultural norms or values in relation those of a different cultural group.
Upper-Division Writing

Students become flexible and proficient writers for professional purposes. By the end of the course, students will demonstrate the ability to:

  1. Use appropriate evidence from multiple sources to illustrate how a chosen topic is relevant to a particular field.
  2. Convey ideas clearly, coherently, and effectively for a particular purpose, occasion, or audience representative as appropriate for the field.

Note – As of December 2016, the learning objective “Employ different resources (such as words, graphs, charts, and images) to compose in the field” is no longer required.

For Oral Communication Competency Courses
Click here for more information

Students become flexible and proficient oral communicators for professional purposes. By the end of the course, students will demonstrate the ability to:

  1. Deliver original oral messages for a specific purpose, occasion, and type of audience.
  2. Make effective use of both verbal and non-verbal delivery in presentations.
For Computer Competency Courses
Click here for more information

Criteria for courses designated as fulfilling the Computer Competency Requirement are set by the Undergraduate Policy Committee, which also certifies courses as meeting this designation.




Assessing Competencies

What is a competency statement?

A competency is a general statement of what students should know and be able to do once they complete a course. Competencies define the general course goals for student learning across all courses approved for a specific Liberal Studies designation (e.g., Natural Sciences, History, Ethics, E-Series). That is, the competency defines the common learning thread across courses approved for a specific Liberal Studies designation. Thus, competencies for Liberal Studies are overarching statements about the knowledge, skills, and other aspects of learning that students develop in a particular type of course. The attainment of these general competencies is assessed through more specific student learning objectives.

How does one assess a student learning objective (SLO)?

SLOs are measured using the kinds of assessments instructors normally use in their courses, such as tests, papers, quizzes, projects, and presentations. In order to determine which of the SLOs have been achieved, instructors will develop a specific set of criteria to distinguish student achievement of each Liberal Studies learning outcome from other behaviors, skills, and knowledge that are also relevant to the course.

Why do we need separate assessments for each SLO?

Instructors play a critical role in making sure that FSU students graduate having developed competency in the areas deemed important for student success. By measuring and reporting whether students have achieved each SLO we can determine whether the curriculum, as implemented, helps students meet the learning goals that are the focus of Liberal Studies course designations. The aggregated data from these assessments are reported to our accrediting body (SACSCOC) to demonstrate the effectiveness of the Liberal Studies program. In addition, we will use the data as feedback for program evaluation and development in our efforts to continually improve the educational quality of the program.




Substantive Requirements for Undergraduate Writing Courses

Undergraduate writing courses include all courses approved for E-Series, English Composition, “W” (State-Mandated Writing), and Upper-Division Writing designations. In addition to the competencies above, these courses must be designed to meet the definition of college-level writing and the requirements listed below. The syllabus must include descriptions of writing assignments that fit the above description (including the opportunities for feedback and revision) and must also include a set of grading criteria that identifies standards for competent written work.

Definition of College-Level Writing

The definition of “college-level writing” that should guide the design and evaluation of writing assignments, as well as the assessment of the writing competencies, is writing that:

  1. presents a clearly defined central idea or thesis;
  2. provides adequate support for that idea;
  3. is organized clearly and logically;
  4. is presented in a format appropriate to the purpose, occasion, and audience; and
  5. utilizes standard conventions appropriate for study in English.

Because the Upper-Division Writing requirement is designed for advanced students to develop writing that is most appropriate to the discipline, for Upper-Division Writing courses, criterion 5 is alternatively defined as “utilizes the conventions of a standard language.”

The writing process cultivated by the course, the descriptions of the writing assignments as they are presented in the syllabus, and the grading criteria for evaluating student writing assignments, should all reflect this essential understanding.

Substantive Requirements

For a course to be certified in a writing competency area, the course must provide the students with the following:

  1. Two or more substantial writing assignments or the equivalent.
  2. A set of criteria for assessing student performance on writing.
  3. Feedback on student writing. (Feedback may be from various reviewers, but must include instructor response.)
  4. Opportunities for revision.

“Substantial” in requirement 1 should be interpreted as “intellectually substantial as appropriate for the level of the course.” While the LSCPC deliberately opted to not define an arbitrary word count to be associated with “substantial”, the previous expectation of “[together] totaling approximately 3000 words” (double that for English Composition courses) may be used as a point of reference. Examples of student work that will generally qualify as “substantial” writing assignments may include (but are not limited to): essays, project plans, case studies, process papers, lab reports, research papers, reviews, feasibility studies, discussion question responses, reports, portfolios, journals, and in-depth literature reviews. Example of assignments that will not generally qualify as “substantial writing assignments” include: résumés, e-mails, annotations, freewriting, PowerPoint presentations, brainstorming, oral presentations, or annotated bibliographies.

The grading criteria and/or rubric should clearly set forth the expectations for the students while also outlining the standards and categories by and on which they will be evaluated. At a minimum, this rubric should engage all five components of the definition of “college-level writing”. If the criteria are designed to be used as specific grading rubrics which instructors will use for grading assignments on which student learning outcomes data will be measured, they should be constructed such that instructors will be able to measure student achievement of the relevant Liberal Studies competencies independently so that separate data on student learning outcomes for each competency can be collected and reported for the purposes of SACS evaluation.

The request must identify a mechanism for providing feedback in writing courses. Feedback on student writing may be from various reviewers (e.g., instructors, teaching assistants, and/or peers in the course) but must include instructor response. Timely and effective feedback should be feasible given target enrollments. Feedback does not have to be given on the complete assignment; depending on the nature of the class and the assignment, instructors might provide detailed feedback on the initial pages of a larger paper, depending on what instructors deem is most pedagogically effective. To help students learn to write as a process, students must be given opportunities to revise their writing assignments in response to feedback. Thus, the syllabus should specify how students can submit revised writing assignments and any incentives there might be for doing so. Though instructors must offer opportunities for revision, whether they require students to submit revisions or not is at the discretion of each instructor.

Minimum Grade

Syllabi for E-Series, “W” (State-Mandated Writing), and English Composition courses must contain the following minimum-grade policy statement:

To demonstrate college-level writing competency as required by the State of Florida, the student must earn a “C-” or higher in the course, and earn at least a “C-” average on the required writing assignments. If the student does not earn a “C-” average or better on the required writing assignments, the student will not earn an overall grade of “C-” or better in the course, no matter how well the student performs in the remaining portion of the course.

For Upper-Division writing courses, the first line should begin:

In order to fulfill FSU’s Upper-Division Writing requirement, the student must earn a “C- ” or higher in the course.

Substantive Requirements for Other Designations

For Scholarship in Practice Courses

The substantive requirements for Scholarship in Practice courses are captured by the competency: “apply relevant areas of scholarship to produce an original project.” Thus, SIP courses must have the students produce a scholarly or creative project. This project should result from allowing students to participate in the process of applying knowledge, critical thinking, and creative approaches to the pursuit of a tangible project or outcome. Generally, this will take the form of a significant capstone project for the course, but multiple smaller projects spread over the semester are also a possibility. Whatever form this original project takes, the student’s overall grade on this project (or the collective grade for a group of projects) should serve as the measurement of the competency.

Syllabi for Scholarship in Practice courses must contain the following minimum grade statement: In order to fulfill FSU’s Scholarship in Practice requirement, the student must earn a “C- ” or better in the course.

For Diversity (X and Y) Courses

Every diversity course (Cross-Cultural Studies and Diversity in Western Experience) must include some form of substantial assignment (e.g., a substantive paper, a presentation, a multimedia project) for which a significant portion of the final grade is awarded (minimum 25%) and which requires the student to demonstrate having achieved the course competencies. Regardless of the type of assessment, students must submit a draft, plan, or outline for feedback and revision before the final version is submitted for grading. The grading criteria for this assignment should be designed so that instructors can use this assignment to measure and report data on student achievement of the diversity competency learning objectives.

Syllabi must also contain the following minimum grade statement, as appropriate:

In order to fulfill FSU’s Cross-Cultural Studies requirement, the student must earn a “C-” or better in the course.

or

In order to fulfill FSU’s Diversity in Western Experience requirement, the student must earn a “C-” or better in the course.

For Oral Communication Competency Courses

In OCCR courses students will develop effective oral communication skills through instruction and ample opportunities for guided practice in speaking. Through these courses students master the kinds of speaking that are appropriate to their academic or professional majors and future leadership roles. Competence in oral communication is indicated by demonstrating the ability to transmit clearly ideas and information orally in a way that is appropriate to the topic, purpose, and audience. It also involves demonstrating the ability to discuss ideas clearly with others and to respond to questions and critical responses appropriately.

The need for specific oral communication skills (such as formal lecture/presentation, interviewing skills, or group dynamics) will vary from discipline to discipline. Therefore, a minimum level of oral competency is required, but the means of meeting this competency must remain flexible. While the precise method of instruction and examination is the prerogative of the instructor, approved courses must contain the following elements:

  • The course must contain course readings and/or lectures related to instruction in the theory and practice of oral communication.
  • Instruction in the theory and practice of oral communication must be an intrinsic part of the course as evidenced in course objectives, course readings, activities, and evaluation.
  • Competence in oral communication must be demonstrated on multiple occasions spread out through the course of the term.
  • Instructors must provide critique and feedback so that students create oral messages as a process, including guided practice, critique, and revision. Peer feedback is also appropriate in addition to instructor feedback.
  • Grading criteria (e.g., rubrics or other) to assess student competence in oral communication are required. Assessment criteria for the oral communication course and the resulting impact on the course grade should be apparent to the students in the syllabus.

Course types that may be approved for OCC include:

  1. A one- (or more) hour course in which the oral communication component is a significant portion of the course work and final grade.
  2. A one- (or more) credit hour course that has, as a prerequisite, a 0- (or more) or no-credit companion course that provides students with instruction in the theory and practice of oral communication. In the subsequent 1- (or more) credit course, students apply principles of oral communication and are evaluated by an approved instructor to determine whether they meet the requisite oral communication learning objectives. Examples might include undergraduate FIG Instructorships or undergraduate Teaching Assistantships (again, if tied to a course for credit).

In curricular requests for courses of the second type, please include a one-page appendix to the syllabus that describes how the prerequisite course will address criteria 1 and 2 above (those concerning instruction in the theory and practice of oral communication).

The speaking experience in an OCC course must focus on generating “an original oral message”. Thus, courses that emphasize the interpretation or performance of literature do not satisfy this requirement. Oral communication in languages other than English can be approved for the OCCR designation.

For full OCC policy, see here .

For Computer Competency Courses
Click here for more information

Criteria for courses designated as fulfilling the Computer Competency Requirement are set by the Undergraduate Policy Committee.

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