2(a). Support for Student Learning
2.2 (integrated course of study), 2.3 (expectations for learning), Questions 2 (timely completion) and 3 (conducive to learning) under Teaching and Learning, 2.13 (support services), and question 3 (intellectually rich environment) under Support for Student Learning (2)
A decade ago, UC Berkeley issued the report of the Commission on Responses to a Changing Student Body (The Maslach Report). Noting the increased heterogeneity of the student body, the report questioned the competitive "sink or swim" culture that had dominated the campus over the previous 40 years. It made 40 recommendations designed to foster a "mastery" model, which assumed that students admitted through the highly competitive admissions process could achieve prevailing standards of excellence if given the necessary academic support. The Maslach Report identified the educational process, not just the content, as needing attention. Its wide-ranging recommendations included such issues as promotion of faculty-student contact, better integration of academic and support services, and the creation of effective communities of learners. Some of the ways the campus has addressed these issues over the past decade, particularly for undergraduates, are described below.
Recognizing that the University can be both a highly challenging and a richly stimulating environment for our students, we have sought to foster community and academic achievement for undergraduates. A decade ago, the WASC visiting team observed a decentralization of responsibility for the University's undergraduate education mission. As part of a major re-organization of his senior administration in 2000-2001, the Chancellor took steps to align units that support teaching and learning under the aegis of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost (EVCP), the campus's chief academic officer. A key part of this reorganization was the creation of the new position of Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education (VP-UE) in a new Division of Undergraduate Education, which provides for the first time in the senior administration a single point of vision and leadership that spans all colleges, schools and departments. The goals of our re-organized support for student learning include: (1) to provide opportunities for students to engage more directly with faculty members both in and outside the classroom; (2) to develop strong partnerships between faculty, students, and staff in academic support units; (3) to create stronger linkages between academic and co-curricular life, particularly residential life; and (4) to improve retention, time-to-degree, career placement, and related benchmarks for our undergraduates.
Promoting Faculty-Student Engagement
The core of the academic experience at Berkeley is in the interactions between faculty and students. The Smelser Report (at link, the Executive Summary can be found under Background Reports) recommended a significant expansion of freshman-sophomore programs. Two key recommendations of the Maslach Report were to encourage more small seminars at the lower division and more opportunities for student research. The following two programs were developed to bring undergraduates, especially lower division students, into a much more direct relationship with faculty members both inside and outside the classroom (Legislative Report 2000-2001).
2.5 (active involvement in learning), Question 3 (students explore and express ideas) under Support for Student Learning (2).
Freshman Seminar Program. The Freshman Seminar Program (FSP) was developed in 1992 to give entering freshmen a small seminar experience with ladder-rank faculty in classes averaging about 15 students. National studies have pointed to the importance of engaging freshmen with ladder-rank faculty members as early as possible in their academic careers. Four years ago, the Chancellor began offering a research grant of $2,000 to any ladder-rank faculty member (regular or emeritus) who teaches a freshman seminar as a voluntary teaching overload. Since 1997, the number of enrollments in the program has increased 80% from 1,925 to 3,459 in the 2000-01 school year, and the number of seminars offered has increased by almost 90% from 116 to 219 over the same period. The number of departments offering seminars has increased by almost 50% from 43 to 63 between 1997 and 2001. Moreover, FSP has become an important vehicle for involving faculty in the professional schools and colleges in the teaching of undergraduates. Today, over half the freshman class elects to enroll in freshman seminars, with many students taking multiple courses; student evaluations for the courses are consistently enthusiastic. In view of these successes, UC Office of the President is currently exploring the possibility of encouraging other UC campuses to develop similar models.
Question 3 (students engaged) under Scholarship and Creative Activity (2).
Undergraduate Research Programs. The campus has a number of programs in which undergraduates can undertake their own research with faculty mentors, or help professors with faculty research projects in a structured environment. An example of the latter, launched in Fall 1991, and a campus-wide program since 1996-97, is the Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program (URAP) which has shown increasing student participation as the five-year trend data below indicate. Each learning contract represents one student engaged in a research apprenticeship for one semester. The number of individual students is consistently lower than the number of learning contracts because many of our Fall students return to work on the same faculty research project in the Spring. Faculty members receive a modest stipend to support their mentoring efforts, and students can elect to receive credit during the academic year.
Table 2 (a).i: Five Years of Participation Statistics for URAP
Academic Support Units.Although the student-faculty relationship is at the heart of our learning enterprise, academic support units and personnel also play a pivotal role in supporting student learning. As part of the restructuring of the senior administration, the reporting lines for many of the campus's key academic support programs were changed from the Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Affairs (VC-UA) to the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education (VP-UE). The Student Learning Center supports instruction by offering workshops in writing and study skills, study groups for specific classes, faculty and Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) support, and drop-in tutoring for any student requesting assistance to succeed in math, science, writing, statistics, economics, or business administration.
Multicultural Student Development programs (African American, Asian Pacific American, Chicano/Latino, Native American, Cross-Cultural, and Immigrant Student), provide academic support within the context of community-based services to aid retention and help students become part of intellectual communities in their areas of interest. An array of other academic support units serve the needs of special populations, including student athletes, transfer students, reentry students and student parents, students with disabilities, low income, first generation college students, underrepresented minorities, and others.
The Professional Development
Program (PDP) focuses exclusively on supporting students in math and
science. Its goal is to promote "academic excellence and diversity
for underrepresented students throughout the educational pipeline from
middle school through graduate school." The number of bachelor's
degrees earned by PDP students in Mathematics, Science and Engineering
has more than doubled in the past six years, with numbers of students
in the program increasing from 123 in 1991-92 to 225 in 2001-2002. PDP
provides intensive discussion sections for students in calculus based
on a model of active participation and collaborative learning, which has
resulted in better calculus skills for participating underrepresented
students than for similar groups in non-PDP sections (Chin &
Pope, 2000). The PDP workshops are now being incorporated in physics
sections as well as math. Besides its work on campus, PDP serves several
local high schools to increase the number of underrepresented students
who enroll in calculus.
The Library. In response to the growing complexity of the information universe and the need to develop student "information literacy", the Teaching Library (TL) was created in 1993 to bridge the gap between the classroom and the Library's information resources in direct support of undergraduates. A TL survey conducted in 1994 found that although 93% of graduating seniors in Sociology or Political Science rated themselves as fair or better in self-perceived library skills, 63% of them scored poorly or failed questions that tested ability to use library skills. Of those who did well on the survey, at least 62% had taken some form of library instruction. The TL has pursued a multi-tiered strategy to support teaching and learning; one key component is course-integrated library instruction, in which the library staff develops and teaches a session or sessions tailored to a particular curriculum or topical area of study. The bulk of these integrated sessions are developed for lower division courses in the humanities and social sciences which have a library research component and which function as "feeder" courses to other courses in the departments (e.g., Political Science 1, College Writing, African American Studies 1B, English 1B, History 7A/B). In 2000-2001, TL reached 4,860 students through its course-integrated sessions. Over 2,000 more patrons are reached in other special courses in informational technology each year at Moffitt Undergraduate Library alone. Counting the entire library system at Berkeley, almost 12,800 people were served in courses in 2000-2001. Both students and faculty have given the program extremely highly marks in course evaluations.
Building Stronger Linkages between Academic and Residential Life
2.11 (co-curricular activities)
In addition to academic instruction and academic support services, residential life is a critical component of the educational experience. This aspect of undergraduate life is particularly challenging in an urban campus like Berkeley with an extremely expensive real estate and rental market. Since 1992, Berkeley has guaranteed student housing for first year students: for Fall 2000, 95% of all incoming freshmen lived in the residence halls (OSR Fact Sheet). Academic centers have been established in all the residence halls, all fully wired to provide students with consistent and reliable internet and computer access. The high use of these centers (the high level of connectivity in individual student rooms notwithstanding) demonstrates the popularity of opportunities for interaction and collaboration with peers. The academic centers are a natural focal point for residential programming, and many host study group sessions for students with common courses. In addition, a pilot program of communal learning in the residence halls has been expanded; five highly successful Theme Programs incorporate small seminars with faculty, mentoring, cultural symposiums, and social events. They are the African American Theme Program, Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE), Casa Magdalena Mora, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) Theme Program, and the Asian Pacific American Theme Program. All five have strong links to their respective academic programs and relevant academic support units, and all provide a rich opportunity for faculty-student engagement in an environment that is both social and intellectual.
Improving Retention, Time-to-Degree, and Other Measures of Student Success
1.7 (timely completion), 2.7 (outcome evidence), 2.10 (assessing student needs and satisfaction), questions 1 (mentoring students), 5 (retention data), and 6 (using data) under Support for Student Learning (2), 4.6 (assessments undertaken and used)
Using a comprehensive client-server student database system, the Office of Student Research (OSR) provides the campus with detailed analyses of undergraduate retention, graduation rates, time-to-degree, and other measures of student success. Graduation rates and especially measures of time-to-degree have improved significantly over the last decade for both entering freshmen (86% eventual graduation rate) and community college transfers (87% eventual graduation rate). For freshman cohorts as recent as those of the mid-1980s, the four-year graduation rate was just above 30%. It is now over 50% with another 15% graduating at the four and a half year mark.
Our analyses suggest that Berkeley's graduation rates will continue to improve. One, two and three-year retention rates for freshmen overall and for each major minority ethnic group (African America, Asian, and Chicano/Latino) climbed to all-time highs in the years just prior to Proposition 209 taking effect (Fall 1998) and have held steady since. Currently nearly 90% of all entering freshmen are still enrolled (or have graduated) at the beginning of their fourth year.
Our graduation rates and especially our more recent retention rates, both campus-wide and for each major ethnic minority group, are at or very near the top of all highly selective public universities. (The single exception is the University of Virginia, which is the clear "outlier" among public universities.) For a number of reasons (e.g., differences in the relative affluence of student bodies, size, institutional resources), it is probably not possible for Berkeley to match the graduation rates of our private peer universities (Stanford, Harvard, etc.) However, we are committed to narrowing the gap as much as possible.
Student success is also one of the commitments measured in the Quality of Undergraduate Education Assessment Project (QUEAP). The framework for QUEAP is a statement of ten campus commitments to undergraduate education adopted by the Council on Undergraduate Education in 1992 in response to the last WASC review. Since then, three additional commitments have been added, for a total of thirteen. For each of the commitments we have identified performance indicators which are monitored every four years. Data gathered from more than 40 sources from across the campus are available for academic years 1988-89, 1992-93, 1996-97 and 2000-01.
The interplay between student success and campus programs and policies is also monitored by the annual OSR Survey of New Students and the UC Undergraduate Experience Survey (UCUES), as well as special commissioned surveys of residential life, financial aid services, summer sessions, and departmental undergraduate education. As an example, the Fall 2000 UCUES (at link, click on The Undergraduate Experience Survey under Tom Cesa) identifies how satisfaction varies across different aspects of the undergraduate experience (N=1,517, 50.5% response rate).
Table 2 (a).ii: Percent of Respondents Indicating They Were Satisfied or Very Satisfied on Selected Survey Questions
Berkeley has been in the forefront of developing and employing new cost-effective Web-based student survey systems. Moreover, the new University of California Student Experience in the Research University in the 21st Century (SERU-21) project is administered by Berkeley's Center for Studies in Higher Education; the OSR director is the Principal Investigator. In spring 2002, the full text of the main survey instrument yielded 21,000 responses. Designed to be a longitudinal study with annual administration of UCUES, SERU-21 promises to contribute to our understanding of the factors associated with student success, the variations in student experience, and how the University of California might adapt its programs and resources to meet the needs of undergraduates best.
Career Center surveys of students after graduating with a bachelor's degree reveal that of the 47.1% of the class of 2000 who responded: 53.3% were employed, 17.3% were attending graduate and professional school, 13.5% were seeking employment, and 15.9% were engaged in a variety of activities such as military service, volunteer programs, taking time off, and part-time employment. These percentages vary by college and school; for example, the percent of students in graduate or professional school immediately following baccalaureate ranges from a low of 10% for Business graduates, to a high of 33% for Letters and Science graduates.
Graduate departments have regular program evaluations through a peer review process that allow them to evaluate the success of their students and graduates. Surveys of doctoral students at graduation and afterwards allow for consistent evaluation of the learning experience on campus and of the success of these graduates in postdoctoral placement. A plan is in place to expand the doctoral exit survey, and add a mid-career alumni survey and a survey of current graduate students. Instruments have already been developed to accomplish these goals. Surveys of exiting master's degree students are not managed centrally, but are often handled by the professional school issuing the degree.
In contrast with graduate education, a recent departmental
survey of Berkeley's undergraduate academic departments showed that
only about a third administers an exit survey of graduating majors, at
which point student learning outcome data could be collected. Moreover,
only a few departments systematically examine the academic success of
their undergraduate students. Of notable exception are the departments
in the College of Engineering, which through the Accreditation Board for
Engineering and Technology (ABET) accreditation process collected and
examined uniform data on student learning. The high degree of decentralization
on the campus is one of the key reasons for this lack of a systematic
approach. At the present time, no single campus unit is charged with collecting
or evaluating undergraduate learning outcome data. Given the historic
autonomy of our academic units and faculties, a key factor in developing
a culture of student learning assessment will be the employment of a combination
of approaches, rather than a one size fits all strategy. The following
case study of the campus wide college writing requirement is an example
of an effective specialized evaluation.
2.1 (peer review standards, degree level material), 2.2 (general education, core competencies), 2.4 (faculty take responsibility, review, students demonstrate attainment), 2.5 (active involvement, feedback), 2.6 (expectations embedded in standards used to evaluate work), Question 8 (core learning abilities) under Teaching and Learning (2), 4.8 (faculty stakeholders assess effectiveness)
The evolution of the College Writing Programs illustrates the campus's progress toward achieving a consistent campus-wide learning outcome for a diverse student body. The original program resulted from changes made to elevate a historically remedial course, Subject A, to a standard appropriate for baccalaureate education. The following case study includes background about the development of College Writing, a description of the current programs, the outcome of a 1997 program evaluation, and the results of a system-wide assessment of the Subject A exam completed in 2001.
Background. Proficiency in reading and composition in English is a key general education objective. In the early 1900s, a remedial course, Subject A, was instituted for students who were either non-native speakers of English or under-prepared in reading and writing. All freshmen were required either to pass the English writing test or to complete the Subject A course in their first two semesters. By 1977, Subject A had two components: one called Subject A for Non-native Speakers of English (SANSE), and the other serving students who were unable to demonstrate proficiency in reading and writing English. In 1989, an ad hoc Committee to Review Subject A and SANSE recommended that the programs be reconfigured, resulting in the integration of SANSE and Subject A into the single academic entity now known as College Writing. In 1991, UC President Gardner recommended the removal of remedial education from the University. As a result, College Writing was redesigned as a single course to fulfill both the Subject A requirement and the first semester of the Reading and Composition (R&C) 1A requirement.
Current Status. Today, this six-unit course incorporates reading of various texts in multiple fields of study with instruction in the types of writing that will be necessary in a student's academic career, and beyond. Upon successful completion of the course, students are eligible to take R&C 1B, the second semester of the R&C general education requirement for all undergraduates. Successful completion involves favorable review of a student's portfolio of work, read by the instructor plus a committee of other College Writing Program faculty. To enter directly into R&C 1A without taking College Writing, students must submit one of the following proofs of reading and writing competency prior to coming on campus: (a) 3 or above in an English AP exam; (b) 660 or above on the SAT II Writing test; (c) 5 or above on the International Baccalaureate Higher Level English Exam; (d) grade C or better in an acceptable college course in English composition; or, (e) a passing score on the Subject A Examination, the principal tool for determining reading and writing adequacy for entering students. This two-hour test involves reading a short selection and writing an essay in response to a question about the text.
Currently, the average number of students taking the Subject A exam hovers at 1,000, including those who take it prior to enrollment (about 800) and those who take it in their first two semesters at Berkeley. Since its inception, College Writing has expanded to include classes for upper division students in various writing techniques, and classes for graduate students who are or will be teaching writing skills. Thus, the original College Writing course has become the College Writing Programs, serving more than 900 students each year.
Formal Evaluation. College Writing underwent a formal program evaluation in 1997. In addition to documenting demographic data about students in the program, the study compared results of College Writing and R&C 1A courses, in terms of both the grade students subsequently received for R&C 1B, and cumulative GPA. Students and instructors were surveyed regarding their attitudes about the course and writing in general. Table 2 (a).iii compares the backgrounds of students who took College Writing with those of students who took R&C 1A in the Fall of two different years. All measures of pre-collegiate academic achievement and socio-economic status were significantly lower for students in College Writing compared to those in the R&C course.
Table 2 (a).iii: Comparison of College Writing Students and R&C Students in Two Different Years.
*Asterisks indicate significant difference (p<.05) between CW and R&C students in that year.
This table shows that in 1992, the average grades awarded to students in College Writing were significantly below those awarded to students taking R&C 1A; however, in Fall 1995, the average grades in College Writing were comparable to those in R&C 1A. The evaluators interpreted this as evidence that in 1995, students in College Writing were performing as well as those in R&C 1A. When groups have backgrounds as different as these two had, differences in outcomes are common, such as the lower R&C 1B grades and first year GPAs for the less-advantaged group. When background was statistically controlled, post-College Writing outcomes were equivalent to post-R&C 1A outcomes for the 1992 group. With statistical control for background for the 1995 cohort, College Writing students still had a significantly lower 1B grade and UC GPA. The 1995 data may indicate that students were doing worse than in 1992, but limitations in the data may account for the lower outcomes. (Many students who took College Writing in Fall 1995 were excluded from the study, since they had not yet enrolled in R&C 1B.) However, high pass rates, and relatively high grades in R&C 1B, demonstrate the effectiveness of the course in both years.
The survey data revealed that many students entered College Writing with feelings of anxiety or anger; but the attitudes of 56.8% improved over the course of the semester, with attitudes of non-native speakers of English changing more from negative to positive than for the native speakers. Administrators of the program expressed concern about whether students who would have been in the separate SANSE program could succeed in the integrated program. The evaluators found that there was virtually no difference in performance of native and non-native speakers of English, either in mixed or designated ESL sections, so the integration of SANSE with the rest of Subject A seems to have succeeded. The effectiveness of College Writing remains an important factor in assuring the success of many students who are at most risk academically.
Subject A Examination. The Subject A examination and the process by which students fulfill the Subject A requirement were reviewed by the system-wide University Committee on Preparatory Education in August 2001. The committee determined that any student who met the Subject A requirement by any of the alternative methods should have an 85% probability of passing the Subject A Examination. Holding other alternatives to this standard, they found that all but the Advanced Placement exam seemed to have adequate standards to assure comparability. The committee determined that the AP score of 3 may be low as a measure of proficiency; however, since that score earns students college credit, no change was recommended. The committee concluded that no other exam available offered a comparable test of reading combined with responsive writing as that expected of freshmen by UC faculty; it recommended retaining the Subject A exam, with periodic assessment and adjustments as necessary. The committee also engaged a small group of expert examination readers to do a blind re-read of 273 borderline exams; the final score was confirmed in 88% of those cases. Ultimately, the committee re-affirmed the exam as an essentially sound test of the skills of reading and writing expected by UC faculty of their beginning students.
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