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At James Madison University, students are required to participate in two University-wide assessment days (A-Day). The first A-Day occurs when students enter the university during their on-campus orientation experience in late August. The second A-Day takes place on the second Tuesday in February and is required of students with 70-90 credit hours. These two days afford us much opportunity to ask questions.

Our assessment team has been using A-Days to gather information from students regarding their understanding of general education requirements and their ability to successfully complete the general education coursework. Students enter the University with high expectations regarding their abilities to both be successful and enjoy the content of these courses. By the second A-Day, all measures of their efficacy and valuing of the program decline. In some cases, significantly.

Several faculty wanted to investigate what was happening. We convened three student focus groups on the second A-Day. Students enjoyed their general education classes because they viewed them as “break” from majors’ coursework. All of them did not see the program as “connected”, but as a list of required courses. Students indicated they enjoyed getting to explore other disciplines.

Session attendees will see the instruments we give and a short history of their development several years of data regarding our findings. Presenters will share our focus group protocol and student responses. We will ask participants to help us decide if we are asking the right questions or pursuing work that is somehow actionable for program improvement.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.