Academic journal article College Student Journal

An Assessment of Extramural Activities That Encourage Support for the Liberal Arts

Academic journal article College Student Journal

An Assessment of Extramural Activities That Encourage Support for the Liberal Arts

Article excerpt

Using an undergraduate sample from a small liberal arts university in the Southeast, several independent variables (gender, community service, membership in campus organizations, and out-of-class experiences) are analyzed in terms of goals associated with a liberal education. Multiple logistic regression analysis is used to assess the importance of several variables in predicting high measures of gains and importance for liberal arts goals. The goal of this research is to see how extramural activities may contribute to support for liberal arts goals. This research may be useful for university organizers in encouraging student participation in activities that may enhance their undergraduate experience and increase their support for liberal arts goals.

Over the past decade the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) has indicated formal assessment procedures will play an increasing role in the evaluation of colleges requesting accreditation. The following is a reanalysis of findings that were designed originally to assess curricular performance. In particular, these data are analyzed to determine the sources of support for the general education program. We will begin by describing the characteristics of the sample and then turn to the characteristics of the measurement instrument.

Sample. In the last week of October, 1994, surveys were administered during classes meeting at 10 a.m. This resulted in 473 surveys returned by undergraduates, which is about twenty percent of the student body. The number of respondents by class standing is 112 seniors, 98 juniors, 122 sophomores, 121 freshmen, and 20 students who were unclassified.

Questionnaire. The goals of a liberal arts education were obtained from a statement in the university catalog. From this statement of purpose eight goals were identified.

1. Thinking and/or Communicating Clearly and Effectively; (Figure label: Thinking)

2. Understanding the Physical Universe, Self and/or Society; (Figure label: Physical)

3. Knowledge of Other Cultures and/or Other Times; (Figure label: Cultures)

4. Awareness of Moral, Aesthetic and Spiritual Issues Inherent in Life and Society; (Figure label: Moral)

5. Searching for Relationships Among Various Forms of Thought and Feeling; (Figure label: Relations)

6. Awareness of the Intrinsic Value of Thought and Learning; (Figure label: Learning)

7. Independent Action; (Figure label; Independ)

8. Tolerance and Concern for Others; (Figure label: Concern)

Questions dealing with these goals were developed in which the respondent is asked to rate statements in each area in terms of Importance (1. Not Important, 2. Somewhat Important, 3. Very Important, and 4. Essential) and Gains (1. Very Little, 12. Some, 3. Much, and 4. Very Much). The internal consistency of the subscales was shown by Cronbach's Alpha to be quite high. This measure ranged from .67 to .82 with an overall reliability for Importance of a=.93 and for Gains an a=.91. The two lowest reliability ratings were for the subscales "Independent Action" (labeled Independ in Figure 1) and "Thinking and/or Communicating Clearly and Effectively" (labeled Thinking in Figure 1). The lower reliability results for Independence may be due to the small number of items constituting the scale (N=3). The low reliability score for the Thinking subscale is due to the question "Thinking quantitatively -- understanding probabilities, proportions, etc." which is inversely correlated with virtually all other items in the scale.

[Figure 1 ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Findings. If the importance attributed to the goals of liberal arts is indicative of support, then respondents were overwhelmingly supportive of the traditional liberal arts curriculum. Undergraduates reported in 94.3 percent of the cases that they were either Satisfied or Very Satisfied with the general education requirements (GER) for the program. …

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