Executive Summary: To provide some background for ongoing conversations concerning Western's GURs, relevant findings were collated from ten different surveys conducted on Western students and alumni over the past ten years. There was no central thesis and is therefore no central finding to summarize. However, some highlights from particular findings can be offered. •Most students are supportive of the idea that Western should offer a strong core of liberal arts instruction rather than primarily technical skills, although in practice GURs are not treated as seriously or valued as highly as courses in the major. • Students' satisfaction with their GUR courses, while not extremely low, is also not high and is markedly lower than satisfaction with courses in the major. Almost as many are "not at all" as are "very" satisfied with instructional quality and course choices, and barely over 50% are "very" or "mostly" satisfied. Just over 60% say GURs broadened their interests, stimulated new ideas, and provided new cultural insights "a great deal" or "quite a bit." • Satisfaction is particularly low with "the way GURs are organized and explained" and "the size and structure of most GUR classes." •One possible change is solidly endorsed by students: to provide "suggested sequences of combinations of GURs." Both graduating seniors and also students who withdrew from Western without graduating overwhelmingly endorse this possibility. •In two specific senses, GURs can be ranked, with humanities and non-Western areas at the top and mathematics at the bottom. First, students' satisfaction with instructional quality, while fairly similar across areas, sort in this order. Second, indirect analysis strongly suggests that when students think about "GURs," what they have primarily in mind is humanities and non-Western courses, with mathematics and natural sciences not entering their thinking about GURs. •The value students ascribe to humanities, non-Western and social science GURs is closely connected to students' overall satisfaction with how well GURs broadened their interests and provided insight into divers groups and cultures. •GURs play a modest role in helping students decide on a major and also which fields to not major in. One-fourth of students who withdrew from Western without graduating say at least one GUR discouraged their interest in remaining in higher education at Western. •Students are more positive about the degree to which GURs prepared them for life after university than vocationally-oriented interpretations of higher education suggest, although less so than liberal arts apologists would hope. About half of students say each area of the GUR prepared them for life after college "very" or "moderately" well. Figures vary from 65.5% for the communications GUR to 46.3% for the natural science GUR. •Perhaps our most disturbing finding is that almost half of students who feel they are not "making solid progress toward the degree" say the reason is that they are taking GURs or other courses outside their major. This is true for entering freshmen as well as for upper division students. In the same vein, the proportion of students who do more than 20 hours per week of homework (indicating greater engagement) doubles from freshman year (24.6%) to senior year (51.9%), with almost all the change occurring between sophomore and junior years, when students move from GURs to majors.
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Subjects - Topical (LCSH)
Education, Humanistic--Curricula--Washington (State)--Bellingham; Educational surveys--Washington (State)--Bellingham
Subjects - Names (LCNAF)
Western Washington University--Curricula; Western Washington University--Students--Attitudes--Statistics
Title of Series
Technical and research reports (Western Washington University. Office of Institutional Assessment and Testing) ; 1998-02
Simpson, Carl; McKinney, Gary (Gary Russell); and Clark, Linda D. (Linda Darlene), "General University Requirements: Technical Report" (1998). Office of Survey Research. 608.