In both the mid-1970s and the mid-1990s, a system-wide task force was assembled by the UH administration to engage with the national literature on general education and propose a new Gen Ed program. Documentation from these last two periods of major revisions to Gen Ed can be found here.
As an outgrowth of this system level engagement in the mid-1990s, the UHM Faculty Senate appointed a General Education Task Force who spent one year studying Gen Ed scholarship, models, and institutional needs before proposing the current Gen Ed. This proposal was the subject of robust engagement with faculty, students, staff and administrators, and included limited engagement with our community college partners. A fuller description of the process, proposal and rationale are laid out in this document. Special Graduation requirements included Focus and Hawaiian/Second Language, and the latter requirement for 202-level competency was modified with a waiver (approved by the faculty congress and endorsed by the senate in 2000).
Mid-1970s and Mid-1990s Redesigns
Fall 2001 Implementation and Early 2000s Modifications
Our current Gen Ed program was implemented in fall 2001, and together with the General Education Office (formed in 2000 to oversee Gen Ed implementation and administration out of the Manoa Writing Program, which had overseen UHM’s Writing Intensive requirements since 1986), the Faculty Senate General Education Committee and Gen Ed Boards were formed as permanent senate committees (i.e. they included non-senate members and served longer, three-year terms). A Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the GEC and Board chairs and the SEC in 2003, providing a common understanding of shared responsibilities for oversight of the Gen Ed program. Small changes to the Gen Ed program were subsequently made, including the WASC-mandated change from Foundations Symbolic Reasoning (FS) to Foundations Quantitative Reasoning (FQ), proposed by the Quantitative Reasoning Working Group in 2015, and implemented in fall 2018. The “Wild Card” option for students was changed to a Focus exemption (still rarely exercised by students, with no more than a handful submitted each year). Oral Communication course hallmarks were also changed so that they were limited to upper-division courses (over strenuous community colleges’ objections).
After many years of listening to students’ complaints about the Gen Ed requirements, and faculty’s complaints about the time-consuming nature of administrative procedures, the GEO, GEC, and SEC agreed in 2016 to a process whereby our Gen Ed program would be subject to regular, five-year program review, as is every other program on our campus. In January 2017, the GEC unanimously voted for a review process that was created through joint efforts between the GEC and the General Education Office (GEO). The GEC established a Steering Committee composed of GEC and Board members, the Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, and the GEO Assessment Coordinator. The General Education Program Review Steering Committee prepared by attending the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ (AAC&U) summer 2017 Institute for General Education and Assessment, where members formulated a plan for a comprehensive self-study. These efforts, implemented in fall 2017, produced this internal review report. The internal review report was given to an External Review Team, who visited campus and met with many stakeholders in spring 2018. That team of external experts produced this report at the end of the spring 2018 term, recommending substantial overhaul of our Gen Ed governance, operations, and curriculum. The GEC has primary responsibility for considering and responding to the program review recommendations, and has submitted one-year and three-year progress reports detailing its efforts. All of those progress reports and Provost’s responses are available on this page. Given the complexity and scope of the recommended changes, the next program review cycle was delayed by one academic year (from AY 2022-2023 to AY 2023-2024).
2016-2018: General Education Program Review
Fall 2018-Spring 2020: GEC Consideration and (Partial) Implementation of Program Review Recommend- ations
The GEC has created a number of working groups (subcommittees of its members) to tackle the different issues outlined in the program review report since fall 2018. The Assessment Working Group, for example, has worked closely with the GEO’s Assessment Coordinator to oversee development and implementation of a comprehensive 7-year assessment plan for direct assessment of Gen Ed student learning outcomes. The plan, assessment schedule, and updates on its assessment projects can be found here. A Governance Working Group worked to update the GEC and Gen Ed Boards’ governance document to more accurately reflect current practices, including incorporation of some of the recommendations in the program review report (though far short of the governance and organizational structural shifts recommended by the program review team). A revised governance document has been submitted on multiple occasions to the faculty senate, but has yet to receive a hearing in the senate. This document outlines the steps taken to update this document. In the meantime, a new MOU was signed in 2020 that more accurately reflects both current practice and describes shared understanding of Gen Ed governance; it was signed by the leadership of the SEC, GEC, six Gen Ed Boards, GEO, and Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Excellence (formerly named the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs).
A number of operational changes have also taken place during this period, such as the development and operationalization of a full suite of student learning outcomes, a shift to (almost) all course-based Focus designations, the development of online teaching resources to complement the Boards’ program of CTE-sponsored teaching workshops, coordination of Gen Ed SLOs assessment with institutional accreditation and Institutional Learning Objectives implementation and assessment, the development and launch of the Interstate Passport program, the development of Thematic Pathways in Gen Ed (so far, six TPGEs have been launched), a comprehensive report on Hawaiian/Second Language, and much more. However, efforts to redesign the curriculum happened only sporadically, given the complexities of the other efforts and issues named above.
In AY 2020-2021, the GEC formed two working groups, named the “Blue Sky Working Group” and “Tinkering Working Group”, to tackle two different approaches to curricular reform. The former was given license to imagine an entirely new Gen Ed curriculum, while the latter worked on a more conservative approach of updating the current suite of requirements but maintaining the current cafeteria-style curricular model; both worked in close consultation with the Gen Ed Boards. Meeting for one hour every hour week however proved to be insufficient, as both groups made little progress in fall 2020. In January 2021, the SEC and GEO Director discussed the possibility of a system-wide Gen Ed redesign effort to be launched in the summer, in part because of long-standing concerns voiced by other UH campuses that Mānoa would again implement a new curriculum with minimal consultation on other campuses. With the logistical and financial support of the VP for Academic Strategy’s office, and the SEC’s and GEC’s approval, a process was put together that resulted in the 2021 General Education Curriculum Design Team. Following a system wide competencies survey indicating faculty and students’ priorities (results are summarized in slides 12-13 of this presentation), an open call was issued for faculty and students to volunteer to undertake the effort. The GEC pivoted away from curricular redesign, and produced a series of white papers devoted to study of and recommendations related to a list of specific competencies; these too were provided to the Curriculum Design Team in its materials.
Fall 2020 – Spring 2021
Summer 2021: Curriculum Design Team Produces First Proposal
During an intensive month over zoom, the Curriculum Design Team, composed of three undergraduate students and 14 faculty vetted by their respective faculty senates, undertook intensive study of Gen Ed using the national literature, data from across the UH system, and supported by 18 teams of UH faculty who each presented on a competency or curricular area, and led discussion of that area and the many ways it might be included in a comprehensive Gen Ed program. All presentations, scholarship, assessment reports and other materials were (and continue to be) publicly available through links on this page. Discussions and debates continued for several months after the Summer Institute, and the “Place-Based Capacities Proposal for General Education” was publicly released in October 2021.
The rest of AY 2021-2022 was devoted to consultation, and the collection of feedback and recommendations for revisions across the UH system. This included both formal consultation with all ten faculty senates, as well as numerous meetings of faculty congresses (on all campuses except UH Mānoa), open town hall meetings, and meetings with a long list of groups. Feedback mechanisms and a list of public consultations meetings are outlined here. The SEC put the Committee on Academic Policy and Planning (CAPP) in charge of collecting feedback from across campus, the GEC, Committee on Educational Effectiveness (CEE), and Committee on Administration and Budget (CAB). CAPP sent a survey to all department chairs as well, though it declined requests by the GEC to hold open town halls for faculty to discuss the proposal. The GEC submitted this report, which included consultation with the six Gen Ed Boards, GEO, Assessment Office, Council of Academic Advisors, and students.
In spring 2022, an open call for faculty to serve on a Revisions Team was issued, and again, candidates were vetted by faculty senates. (It is worth noting that the Committee on Academic Policy and Planning introduced a resolution to stop the summer 2022 redesign process, but it was defeated by the senate.)
Fall 2021-Spring 2022: Consultation and Feedback Collected
Summer 2022: Revisions Team Produces Baseline Proposal
The Revisions Team read and discussed every word of the feedback and recommendations submitted (all publicly available here and here), and summarized them as part of its work on the 2022 Revised Proposal. While the feedback in general expressed strong support for incorporating KHUA 100 (a Native Hawaiian place of learning course), there was considerable confusion about, and little clear support for other elements of the 2021 proposal. Mānoa’s GEC and Gen Ed Boards issued this report, calling for a more conservative approach to Gen Ed redesign akin to the charge given to its Tinkering Working Group the previous year; this report’s recommendations were closely adhered to in the baseline proposal. The 2022 “Revised Proposal for a General Education Baseline Curriculum for the University of Hawaiʻi System“ also included, per faculty request, detailed implementation plans, a more comprehensive explanation of existing problems with our Gen Ed program, adherence to the President’s guardrails (listed here under Project Parameters) and five guiding principles developed by the 2021 Curriculum Design Team, and rationales for each proposed change.
The Revised Proposal was released at the start of the fall 2022 term, and again was the subject of numerous open town halls, faculty senate and congress meetings (again, on all campuses except UH Mānoa), and discussions in many other groups of faculty, staff, administrators, and student groups. Formal feedback reports were produced by our GEC and Gen Ed Boards, as well as Hawai’inuiakea School of Hawaiian Knowledge’s ʻAha Kūhina, and submitted to the Committee on Academic Policy and Planning, who were again charged with collecting and summarizing feedback on our campus. CAPP also sent a survey to all faculty members on November 16, 2022 (which closed on November 30, 2022). To date, the comments and reports received have not been made public.
Fall 2022: Consultation on Revised Proposal
Spring 2023: Conference Committee
In fall 2022, the SEC inquired of President Lassner if an opportunity to make revisions to the proposed baseline (minimum set of Gen Ed requirements) were possible, and the President agreed. The SEC proposed a Conference Committee be formed to meet in early spring 2023, consisting of representatives from each UH campus, in order to negotiate on final revisions to the baseline before it went for a vote to each faculty senate. Negotiations, unfortunately, broke down from the start; instead, a subset of Conference Committee members proposed to keep Gen Ed requirements, including its current variability on our campuses, as is, with only two minor changes: that FH be added as a third option to existing FG categories, and that UH Mānoa reduce its five WI course requirement to three WI courses. This proposal was subsequently renamed the “Multi-Campus Accord” (MCA). The GEC and Gen Ed Boards were alarmed by the MCA, and their representative submitted this strong dissenting opinion, as well as this supplemental dissent. The MCA has never been publicly distributed or discussed on our campus; nor has the baseline proposal, for that matter. To make the faculty senate aware of these developments, and head off a surprise resolution to endorse the MCA without consultation, the GEC introduced this resolution to the senate floor at its March 22, 2023 meeting. Additionally, the faculty of Hawai‘nui‘akea submitted a strongly worded rebuttal of the MCA to all UHM faculty. Subsequently, the SEC asked the leadership of the GEC and CAPP to work together on a joint proposal for a Mānoa faculty task force to redesign Gen Ed for our campus, so the GEC Chair withdrew the GEC’s motion. After negotiations stalled, the GEC approved and submitted this resolution during the April 19 senate meeting instead, to be discussed and voted on at the May 10 senate meeting (the last of that academic year). During the meeting, the CAPP chair rejected the GEC’s invitation to work together on a Gen Ed redesign task force.
Given the lack of progress, and the absence of any substantive engagement with the faculty, the GEC will refocus its attention on the creation of a new curricular proposal for our campus. Widespread engagement with all stakeholders, including but not limited to the faculty senate, will occur, one way or another.