The ACE Subcommittee of the University Undergraduate Curriculum Committee (UUCC) has reviewed a proposal arising from the work of a
faculty team that met during AY 21-22 to consider how to strengthen the ACE outcomes aligned with the "exercise of individual and social
responsibilities" (ACE 8 and ACE 9). The UUCC has voted to present the following proposal for consideration and approval by a faculty
To separate ACE 9 into its component parts - a) global awareness and b) knowledge of human diversity - so that our general education program requires achievement of both outcomes. In order to hold ACE to a 30-credit limit following that separation, to repurpose the ACE 10 for the human diversity outcome. The ACE 9 outcome is then "Exhibit global awareness through analysis of an issue." The new ACE 10 outcome becomes "Exhibit knowledge of human diversity in the U.S. through analysis of an issue."
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Why are changes to ACE being proposed?
Like all undergraduate courses and programs at UNL, ACE undergoes regular processes that involve reflection and efforts toward continuous improvement. The current proposal arose through that process.
The ACE assessment cycle includes regular periodic reporting on each outcome as well as a review of the program as a whole. This cycle takes 5-6 years to complete. Since the launch of ACE in AY '09-'10, two program reviews have been conducted, with the second taking place in AY '21-'22.
What is involved in the ACE program review?
Each of the two reviews conducted to date has begun with a university-wide call for faculty volunteers to engage in the process, since faculty engagement is essential to meaningful improvement in curricular matters. The main focus of each review has been determined by a reflection on the preceding years' outcome assessment information.
During the first review, the primary focus was an attempt to clarify how achievement of the ACE student learning outcomes is related to, but may be independent of, mastery of course subject-area content. This effort resulted in the development of an ACE-specific rubric for each of the 10 ACE outcomes. These ACE rubrics have been incorporated the into the Canvas LMS so that faculty can add them to the course assignment(s) that best allow students to demonstrate their level of achievement of the ACE outcome.
During this second review, focus turned to two areas that would align ACE with the University's current goals to provide students a meaningful foundation to life-long learning. Two faculty committees were formed: one focusing on ACE 4-7 (disciplinary knowledge) and the other on ACE 8-9 (social responsibility). Both committees focused on ways to better explain the "why" of each outcome, preparing drafts of student-facing language to clarify why we believe these outcomes matter. An additional focus of the ACE 8-9 committee was a careful consideration of how to ensure that all students graduate with course-based achievements in ethics, global awareness, and knowledge of human diversity, to support the development of the range of knowledge and skills required for active citizenship.
What happens after the review?
Proposals that emerge from the work of the faculty committees are presented to the ACE subcommittee of the University Undergraduate Curriculum Committee (UUCC). The ACE subcommittee votes whether to approve the proposals for consideration by each college. Those that are deemed acceptable at the UUCC level are sent to every College Curriculum Committee for approval by the college faculty according to voting practices specific to each college. The result of the faculty vote for each college is returned to the ACE subcommittee of the UUCC for final determination of the outcome. Unanimous approval by the eight undergraduate colleges is required for substantive changes to the ACE program.
At their meeting in August 2022, the ACE subcommittee approved the ACE 9 proposal as stated above for consideration by the college faculty. The proposal related to adoption of student-facing language was not approved for consideration by the colleges until after the decision regarding ACE 9 has been reached.
Why did the faculty committee recommend splitting ACE 9?
The committee began their work by discussing the overarching objective under which ACE 8 and ACE 9 reside. This objective includes "the study of ethical principles and reasoning, application of civic knowledge, interaction with diverse cultures, and engagement with global issues." The committee read and discussed the 2016-17 Diversity Mapping Report provided by Halualani & Associates, and met with Co-Leaders of the Journey for Anti-Racism and Racial Equity. They reviewed the answers submitted by faculty who responded to the survey on the value of ACE and also brought to the table their own experiences with ACE 8 and ACE 9 courses.
Through the course of their months-long work it became clear that the multiple goals contained within the individual and social responsibility objective cannot be met by the two ACE outcomes allotted to them. In particular, the committee noted that what students gain through an awareness of issues on a global scale is not interchangeable with the recognition and understanding of the impact of human diversity on a local scale, yet both are likely to be crucial to students' career and personal success after college. As a result, the conflation of those two separate outcomes into ACE 9 was identified as a specific problem for which a solution must be sought.
Why does the solution to a problem with ACE 9 involve ACE 10?
The committee considered several possible solutions, and this was the solution that had the strongest supporting rationale.
The institutional objective under which ACE 10 falls is the following: "Integrate these abilities and capabilities, adapting them to new settings, questions, and responsibilities." That is, this objective ought to have provided an opportunity for students to bring together the knowledge and skills acquired in ACE 1 through 9, importantly including - and reinforcing - the individual and social responsibility achievements gained in ACE 8 and 9. ACE 10 courses designed to meet this objective would therefore function as a capstone of the general education experience.
However, a significant majority of UNL's current ACE 10 courses are serving as capstones within the major, typically requiring writing and communication (ACE 1 and 2) applied to an integration of the knowledge acquired in a single discipline. Thus it is hard to argue that these courses should be considered components of general education.
What about the institutional objective under which ACE 10 falls? Since ACE 10 was the only course that meets it, is it just going away if this proposal is approved?
That institutional objective would be moved from the general education program to be fulfilled within each college and program.
It might then read:
Integrate the knowledge and skills acquired throughout the program of study in the generation of a creative or scholarly product that requires broad knowledge, appropriate technical proficiency, information collection, synthesis, interpretation, presentation, and reflection.and could be incorporated into catalog pages and departmental websites as deemed appropriate by the units. As a high impact practice, it would be worthy of note by those units for which it is an integral component of the program.
Why should we keep the disciplinary capstones if they aren't meeting the ACE objective for which they were developed?
Disciplinary capstones are recognized to be high-impact practices when they enable students to integrate the array of knowledge acquired in their program of study, using techniques appropriate to their field to critically engage with the complex problems they are likely to encounter in related professions or further advanced study. Moreover, assessment of capstone courses provides faculty with a valuable opportunity to review and strengthen their programs to ensure that students are well prepared for success in their capstone course and beyond.
Why are our students required to take a full year's worth of credits in courses not directly related to their major?
There are two ways to look at this question.
First, there is the question "What is the purpose of general education?" Some examples of the responses to this question given by UNL faculty on the survey sent last fall are:
"To expose student to essential, fundamental skills regardless of their major/discipline."
"Introduce students to concepts and ways of knowing that they wouldn't otherwise be exposed to."
"While the specific challenges we'll meet in the future are not predictable, it is clear that we can acquire a way of thinking and a range of skills that will help us negotiate our future lives."
"To create well-rounded and critical citizens who have concepts, skill, knowledge, and abilities to meaningfully engage in the joys, complexities, and issues of a globalized world."
But the second question might be "Why 30 credits?" Given the worthwhile goals expressed above, 30 credits might seem to be barely enough. Indeed, 30 credits of general education is the minimum number of credits established by the Higher Learning Commission (the accrediting body for the University of Nebraska - Lincoln) as a requirement for its accredited institutions.
Isn't this proposal effectively making ACE 33 credit hours? What about programs that are already at 120 credit hours with the current ACE structure?
Removing a disciplinary capstone from the general education program will not always require currently-certified ACE 10 courses to be removed from ACE. If a capstone course requires students to engage meaningfully with ethical considerations within the discipline, global aspects of its application, or the ways in which the discipline impacts (or is impacted by) human diversity, such a course may apply for recertification in the appropriate ACE outcome. Moreover, programs may either want to creatively redesign or to create new non-capstone courses in their program that will enable students to achieve the ACE 8, or new ACE 9, or ACE 10 outcomes.
If I vote to approve this proposal, how can I be sure that my program won't be negatively impacted?
The Office of Undergraduate Education Programs, the Center for Transformative Teaching, and the ACE subcommittee of the UUCC are committed to promoting the success of all UNL students regardless of their program of study. We will work to support every good-faith effort that enables students to achieve the full range of our general education requirements.
If this proposal is approved, when will the changes take place?
We are hoping that this proposal will be approved by the end of Fall 2022, to allow consideration of the proposal regarding the
student-facing language during Spring 2023.
If these proposals are approved, the 2023-2024 academic year will be devoted the realignment of current ACE 9 courses to either (or both) of the new ACE 9 and ACE 10 outcomes. Current ACE 10 courses will also have that time to determine whether they may be recertified for a different ACE outcome, especially for ACE 8, 9, or 10.
Then, during the 2024-2025 academic year the regular cycle of ACE assessment reporting will resume, with ACE 1, 2, and 3 courses coming up for recertification. The full schedule under this scenario can be found at ace.unl.edu/assessment.
If neither proposal is approved, the regular cycle of ACE assessment reporting will resume during the 2023-2024 academic year.
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