Accreditation Evidence - 2021 Midterm Report

Recommendation 3 (Ethical Reasoning)

Recommendation 3: In order to improve effectiveness, the team recommends that the college continue to align courses to include student-learning outcomes at the program level in all of its programs that include information literacy and ethical reasoning. (II.A.11)

The College’s response to this recommendation began indirectly in spring 2018 when the  Academic Senate began re-evaluating Administrative Procedure (AP) 4025 “Philosophy and Criteria for Associate Degree and General Education” with a focus on evaluating the effectiveness of the College’s Area E: "Multicultural Understanding" offerings in service of the interests of the College and its students (R.3.1). In October 2018, the Academic Senate convened an ad hoc task force to consider possible revisions to AP 4025 (“Philosophy and Criteria for Associate Degree and General Education”), especially in terms of responding to the recommendation “that the college continue to align courses to include student-learning outcomes at the program level in all of its programs that include information literacy and ethical reasoning” (R.3.2) Specifically, the task force was to focus on possible changes to the College’s Area E: "Multicultural Understanding", which was then a separate local general education requirement articulated in the previous version of AP 4025 (R.3.3, R.3.4), as a way of addressing this recommendation. The Senate directed the task force to review AP 4025 to consider possible revisions, especially for the purpose of responding to Recommendation 3. The task force focused specifically on Area E: "Multicultural Understanding" to determine the value of this general education requirement and whether it served students in their preparation for understanding themselves and their world and for the purposes of transfer. The task force also considered creating guidelines to assist the curriculum committee in its consideration of course outline proposals for inclusion in the different general education areas.

In response, the task force engaged in the following activities: it examined the general education and associate degree requirements of every California community college; it familiarized itself with position papers and valuative rubrics used by the American Association of Colleges and Universities for general education, including those concerning ethical reasoning, global reasoning, and intercultural knowledge (R.3.5, R.3.6, R.3.7); it considered the relevant sections of Title 5 and the Program and Course Approval Handbook; it studied the recent modifications to general education at the California State University (CSU), as well as the local degree requirements at the CSU schools where most students transfer; it contextualized the College’s AP 4025 within the institutional imperatives stretching back to the mid-2000s and discussed whether or not to revise the language of the AP to better serve the current needs of the students and the College mission; it reviewed Recommendation 3; and it discussed its findings across a series of meetings that took place between November 2018 and April 2019 (R.3.8, R.3.9, R.3.10, R.3.11).

Ultimately, the task force recommended revising AP 4025 with an added emphasis on ethical reasoning and information literacy; however, it did not conclude that changes to what was then the Area E: Multicultural Understanding category would most effectively achieve the goals of the recommendation. Rather, it advocated reorganizing AP 4025 by infusing the principles and outcomes of Area E into Area B: Social Science and Area C: Humanities, along with making ethical reasoning and information literacy more salient in both categories.

This recommendation had three primary benefits. The first two were the most exigent: it would constitute a substantive response to Recommendation 3 and it would remove a barrier to degree completion that was created with the additional Area E requirement. The third benefit was the improvement of the college’s multicultural understanding requirement, partly owing to the fact that ethical reasoning and information literacy are imbricated more profoundly than ever in the effort to help students acquire deeper understanding of self and others and to increase their capacity to engage ethically and responsibly in diverse social environments. 

At the Academic Senate’s request, the task force subsequently drafted the revision, and on April 19, 2019, the Academic Senate unanimously approved the changes to AP 4025, which were subsequently approved by College Council and the Board of Trustees (R.3.12).

The following two paragraphs describe how the changes to Areas B and C reflect the task force’s recommendations for responding to Recommendation 3 and updating the college’s multicultural understanding requirement. Because these changes are codified by AP 4025, they will facilitate increased alignment between student learning outcomes and all the college’s degree programs concerning ethical reasoning and information literacy.

In Area B: Social Science, greater importance is presently placed on developing skills and strategies to process and generate information and data that foster a sense of individual integrity and social responsibility. This skill set also implies being able to analyze information from a broad range of output points, evaluate sources of data in terms of their objective value, cross-analyze sources, and evaluate information based on its usefulness to society. Information literacy is thus seen as a necessary aspect of social science methods, and as a means of collection, evaluation, and interpretation of research. In terms of ethical reasoning skills, revisions point to a greater need for nurturing interpersonal relationships and working towards creating an ethical community of peers capable of both empathy and rational understanding.

In Area C: Humanities, the revisions place a greater importance on using ethical reasoning to develop respect for others and to deepen one’s own understanding of the self. Students are encouraged to develop appreciation and respect for cultures other than their own, leading to a deeper understanding of cultural phenomena and experiences across time and space. The increased alignment between ethical reasoning and studies in humanities serves to cultivate an aesthetic understanding of human creativity and individual artistic expression. When learning how to use ethical reasoning to evaluate the ways in which ideas and information are disseminated, students are primed to make balanced decisions and choices, both in academic and in social settings.

Additionally, because of the institutional consciousness that was raised about ethical reasoning and information literacy during the process of addressing this recommendation course and, especially, programmatic outcomes have been aligned with this in mind. For example, there was a substantial revision to English 1A, the first-semester English composition course that is required for all degrees at the college, with these two criteria in mind. The outcomes speak directly to the capacity to “analyze and evaluate non-fiction texts in support of academic inquiry and argumentation”, which is in line with the definition of ethical reasoning that the task force uncovered. The ability to “incorporate primary and secondary sources into essays using appropriate documentation format” addresses information literacy (R.3.13). The outcomes for the associate degree for transfer in History (AA-T), for example, also include ethical reasoning in asking that students “assess the merits of various historical interpretations” and information literacy when students “apply secondary and/or primary source material to construct written and oral logical, historical arguments” (R.3.14). To offer one additional example, the AA-T in Psychology also includes outcomes that speak directly to both ethical reasoning and information literacy (R.3.15).

Analysis and Evaluation:

The work of the task force, and the institutional discussion it engendered, allowed the College to address this recommendation by revising its general education requirements that are codified in AP 4025. The task force’s work also influenced program-level outcome alignment in areas that include ethical reasoning and information literacy.

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