Liberal Education for all FHSU students

As we contemplate learner outcomes for Liberal Education at FHSU, one question has been raised several times: how do provide a liberal education to all our students- not only to our native Kansans, and not only to our on-campus students, but to our international students as well?

According to a new report  by the Institute of International Education and backed by the State Department:

“In 2014/15, there were 88,874 more international students enrolled in U.S. higher education compared to the previous year. India, China and Brazil account for most of the growth in international students on U.S. campuses. While China remains the top country of origin of international students in the U.S., increasing by 11 percent to 304,040, India’s growth outpaced China’s this year, with students from India increasing by 29.4 percent to a record high of 132,888.”

In FHSU’s mission statement, we are striving to “develop engaged global citizen-leaders”.  How do we account for the changing demographics of our students to provide the best liberal education, creating forward thinking, world-ready leaders?

Open Doors 2015: International Students in the U.S. Up Ten Percent to Nearly One Million; Highest Rate of Growth in 35-Years; Increases Reported in 44 States. Study Abroad by American Students Picks Up Momentum


The Meaning of Liberal Education by Robert A. Scott

The purpose of this essay is to comment on the philosophy of liberal education and its structure; the goal of general education and how it fulfills the goals of liberal education; and the four key elements of liberal education, including the ‘‘liberating’’ aspects of general education, the need for an emphasis on questions more than on answers, the meaning of a global perspective, and the connections of each of the above to extracurricular experiences and engaged citizenship.

What is liberal education? What is liberal about a liberal education? Does this term suggest a political orientation? Can STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math), so encouraged by policy leaders, be a part of liberal education, and vice versa?

Click here for the full text.

High Impact, Largely Optional

Does FHSU want to have a high impact on student engagement and completion? According to AAC&U, the more engaged the student, the more likely they are to graduate. FHSU Liberal Education needs to not only engage students, but also engage them through a diverse set of liberal education courses, experiences, and observations. As with any data, consider all aspects of the AAC&U’s report and think about how we can implement a Liberal Education program where we have clear learning objectives and assessment in place. See their article here:

Group Collaboration as a Learning Outcome: Important for Career and Society?

We’ve been in discussion in the Liberal Education Committee regarding learning outcomes. One of the learning outcomes that is mentioned in both the DQP and LEAP models is group and collaborative work.  I don’t know about you, but I think group work is one of the learning methods that students seem to like the least.  I remember, as an undergrad, getting frustrated with these groups at times, and just doing most of the work myself.  As we know, when you move into the work setting, where group work is common, this is not a workable way to solve issues within the group.  No one has the time to do all the work.  But I think the importance of productive and satisfying group work affects more than our careers.  Listed below are the LEAP objective for Group/collaborative learning goals.  They are ambitious, but I like them.  They make me think about political discourse these days.  Although it is not always true, we seem to either be passive and not discuss our differences, or be aggressive and refuse to actively listen to one another.  If we could teach our students the art of civil discourse, would that not help them in their careers and as citizens of a community or even country.  I’m intrigued by the possibility.  What do you think?


Group/Collaborative Work: Goal and Objectives

Goal: Learning to work cooperatively and productively with others, including sharpening one’s own understanding by listening actively and seriously to the insights of others, especially those with different backgrounds and life experiences, and arriving at compromises that incorporate a variety of points of view.


Contributes to team meetings

Helps the team move forward by articulating the merits of alternative ideas or proposals

Facilitates the contributions of other team members through active listening

Constructively builds on or synthesizes the contributions of others

Notices when others are not participating and invites them to engage

Engages team members in ways that facilitate their contribution

Makes individual contributions to the group effort outside of group meetings

Completes all tasks by assigned deadlines

Completes thorough and comprehensive individual work, that advances the project

Fosters a constructive team climate

Treats team members respectfully through polite and constructive communication; positive vocal and written tone, facial expression and body language

Motivates group by expressing confidence in the importance of the group task and the group’s ability to accomplish it

Provides assistance and/or encouragement to other team members

Addresses conflict (especially destructive conflict) directly and constructively, helping to manage/resolve it in a way that strengthens overall team cohesiveness and future effectiveness



Novelist Marilynne Robinson warns Stanford audience against utilitarian trends in higher education

In the 2015 Presidential Lecture in the Arts and Humanities, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marilynne Robinson argued that if the American higher education system continues to shift priorities towards training instead of educating, students will be ill-equipped to participate as citizens of a democratic society.

Read the full article here:  The Stanford News

Listening Tour Stop #1

Thanks to everyone who came out to our first stop on the listening tour for Liberal Education at FHSU.  The lunch hour was spent discussing what we currently do well, what opportunities we have to improve, what makes FHSU unique as a higher education institution, and what skills, proficiencies, and orientations we want to see in our graduates.

To summarize, here are our notes on the event:

  1. What does our current program do best?
  • We teach critical thinking well;
  • Some of our interdisciplinary classes fulfill the goals of diverse knowledge integration very well; Our academic advising is generally strong, and in some cases outstanding;
  • FHSU does a good job in creating a welcoming environment to students who might feel marginalized at other institutions, such as first-generation college students;
  • Generally speaking, FHSU does a good job of “adding value” for student who are on the margins, academically speaking;
  • FHSU has walked the line between serving as a “steward of place” and inculcating openness to the wider world fairly well;
  • Leader in virtual education, although some quality issues remain.
  1. What are the weaknesses of our current program?
  • In terms of understanding and acceptance of other cultures, there are gaps in our “World Ready” nature;
  • There are large gaps between departments in our internationalization efforts (some departments are outstanding, some lagging);
  • We do not always do a good job of inculcating “cultural competency” in our students
  • We do not always “connect the dots” well;
  • Our students do not always relate well to students with disabilities;
  • Some of our IDS classes (not all – see above) do not do a good job of integrating diverse disciplines and subject matter;
  • Many departments “over-prescribe” gen-ed classes, so that they simply become an extension of the specialized major, thus defeating the purposes of a liberal education;
  • In some areas, our teaching of critical thinking is not very good;
  • We often assume that our students know more about technology than they in fact do, and hence neglect their education in this area
  1. What makes FHSU unique?
  • FHSU admits many lower quality students, brings them up to normal academic standards;
  • FHSU is very service oriented;
  • FHSU has served as a good steward of a unique place in Kansas
  • Uniquely friendly and open;
  • China connection offers unique opportunities;
  • Unique virtual programs
  1. What core skills and proficiencies are necessary for inclusion?
  • Knowledge of technology, there are great disparities in student experience;
  • “Reading, writing, and arithmetic” – basics must be addressed;
  • Communication, both at the group and interpersonal level;
  • Critical thinking;
  • Numeracy, in all its many forms;
  • Analytic inquiry;
  • Intellectual curiosity;
  • “Intellectual courage”;
  1. How do we serve students with diverse needs?
  • Use of three separate learning modalities;
  • Recognize that students come from fiscally conservative backgrounds

After reading this brief summary, what do you see as the current general education system’s strengths and weaknesses?  Would you change or add to the list of skills and proficiencies compiled by the attendees at the tour?

Insights from “A Crucible Moment”

If you haven’t taken time to read AAC&U’s 2012 report “A Crucible Moment:  College Learning & Democracy’s Future,” then you should consider reading it now as we contemplate the future of liberal education at FHSU.  As the task force that wrote the report notes, “the report pushes back against a prevailing national dialogue that limits the mission of higher education to workforce preparation and training while marginalizing disciplines basic to democracy.”   Traditional liberal education disciplines are valuable in their own right.  They enrich the human experience and give value and meaning to our lives.  They are crucial for a flourishing democracy.  But they also are essential to preparing an educated workforce.  Liberal education IS workforce preparation.  And as we communicate the value of liberal education to our students and to their families, this is very good news.