Assessment of the General Education

The "general education" is the overall set of competencies, dispositions, habits of mind, and experiences Trinity College wants all students to cultivate regardless of their individual academic plans (majors, minors, or certificates). There's a good list of examples on our Resources page.  In April 2024, the Arts & Sciences Council approved a proposal for a new general education curriculum for students in Trinity College. 

Written narrative explaining the new curriculum, to be implemented fall 2025

Explanation of Curriculum 2000, to be replaced fall 2025

The Dean of Academic Affairs will charge the Director of University Assessment with convening a faculty committee to design and implement an assessment strategy for the general education.  The charge, faculty membership, meeting schedule, and plan of work will publicized in due course.


Comments on the College's previous approach to the assessment of the general education

There are so many ways to experience Duke!   Therefore, the variability of the Trinity College curriculum has required a flexible approach to general education assessment.

Point 1:  Assessment usually occurs most authentically in the context of a course, degree program, or co-curricular learning experience. And we argue that Duke and other institutions should persist in promoting authentic, embedded assessment in their courses and programs.

Point 2:  We also need to collect and align evidence across these experiences to judge whether Trinity graduates meet our learning expectations for various domains of the liberal education. 


Studying the general education from 2011 through 2023

In the recent past, the College assessed the general education through a canon of normed tests issued to first- and fourth-year students.  The tests explored critical thinking, intercultural engagement and understanding, and ethical reasoning.  That project started in summer 2010 and continued annually through 2023.  The student sample was voluntary -- incoming first year (non-transfer) students, A&S and Engineering. To reduce students' assessment responsibilities, each matriculating cohort was divided into four roughly equal subgroups, where each subgroup received the invitation to one of the four instruments in use in Trinity College. 

Data collection for matriculating students began each May, with periodic reminders in July and August, ending at the start of first year student orientation. Graduating seniors received their task invitations in February-April of their graduating year. These graduates were invited to take the same test as in their first year to enable repeated measurement. This approach allowed Trinity College to gather baseline data pertaining to incoming students’ levels of ethical reasoning, global perspectives, critical thinking, and quantitative literacy and reasoning and to follow the development of student competencies, broadly defined, over time. When samples are large enough, aggregated and de-identified findings are shared with individual A&S departments and programs to help supplement the localized assessment activities underway within those programs.

The tests in use in Trinity College included:

The findings from these tests, coupled with insights from assessment work at the department and program level and analyses of key student success metrics and performance indicators, formed the basis of our general education assessment design.

Duke's regional accreditor, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACSCOC), expects institutions to document and communicate how it maintains regularized and rigorous assessment processes for the General Education.  For more information, see Section 8.2.b. of the 2018 Principles of Accreditation Resource Manual.


Reviewed April 2024