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Compliance Certification Report
Comprehensive Standards 3.5.1

Last Updated August 31, 2004
(static edition)

Comprehensive Standards 3.5.1:

The institution identifies college-level competencies within the general education core and provides evidence that graduates have attained those competencies.


The Institution Certifies Compliance: Yes

Compliance report completed by: Audit Team 25

Statement of Rationale for Judgment of Compliance:

The University of Memphis General Education Program [1] is that part of the undergraduate curriculum that promotes a common background for all baccalaureate candidates. The program was approved by the Academic Senate (now the Faculty Senate) on January 14, 1986. [2] Historical background is covered in the 1997 self-study report conducted as part of an assessment of the program. [3] All credit for general education courses presume and do not replicate the Basic Academic Competencies defined by the Education Equality Project of the College Board (the Green Book) [4] as what a student needs to know and be able to demonstrate upon college entry. [5]

The purpose of the UofM General Education Program is threefold:

  • To help students develop the skills necessary for completing a college career and for assuming an active role in contemporary society;
  • To give students an awareness of the diversity of human endeavors in intellectual, creative, social, and technological spheres;
  • To help students develop analytical and critical faculties that can be applied across the range of issues confronting them in the modern world. Above all, the General Education Program should make available to the student the tools and awareness necessary for lifelong learning and for literate participation in society.

The minimum competencies undergraduate students develop through this program are:

  • Basic skills and knowledge through proficiency in communication skills, computational skills, synthetic reasoning, and an awareness of the relationship of one’s health and well being to active participation in society.
  • Intellectual awareness of our global heritage and the function and value of cultural activities; the origin and function of social, political, and commercial institutions; and the methods of inquiry in the natural sciences and mathematics.
  • Judgment development through understanding the values that underlie our society and other societies, and the ethical dimension of individual and social life; understanding the interrelatedness of knowledge and connectedness of different forms of inquiry; and understanding the need to balance a respect for the rich diversity of human cultures with recognition that we share common human bonds and common human problems in an increasingly global and interconnected world.

Each of the core areas has expected learning outcomes. [6]

Evidence that UofM graduates have attained general education competencies is provided by results of nationally normed tests, local and national surveys, and other forms of evaluation.


General education testing at the University of Memphis provides a measure of student achievement in English, mathematics, science, social science, and critical thinking. From 1992 to 2003, the primary instrument for general education assessment at the UofM was the College BASE (CBASE) examination. College BASE, [7] developed at the University of Missouri, is a criterion-referenced achievement test that evaluates knowledge and skills in English, mathematics, science, and social studies. On average, students at the UofM score at the national norm for the reference group of similar universities. [8]

In 2002, the university added the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (CCTST) [9] to the repertoire of assessment tools. During the first two years of administration of the CCTST, UofM students scored on average at the 57 percentile when compared with the national norm for similar universities. [10]

In addition to the College BASE exam and the CCTST, the UofM occasionally pilots other tests, such as the ETS Academic Profile II. [11]  

In summary, half of each graduating class takes either the CCTST or the College BASE each year. Thus every student, approximately 1900 per year, takes one of these nationally normed examinations (commonly referred to at UofM as the Senior Test). [12] There is no sampling, nor does the university use volunteers for its general education evaluations. Furthermore, university officials carefully monitor test administrations and results and conduct research studies on those results [13] to assure confidence and reliability of test results.


The University of Memphis also conducts surveys, both of alumni [14] and currently enrolled students. [15] These surveys contain questions related to skills and attitudes developed through the general education program. In addition, graduating seniors are surveyed as they take the Senior Test. [16] For example, the following concepts are included on the surveys: self-confidence in expressing ideas, appreciation of different cultures, speaking effectively, writing effectively, understanding graphic information, defining and solving problems, and understanding global environmental concerns. [17] On average, responses of UofM students and alumni for these questions are at the state mean, with many showing an upward trend over the years.

The National Survey of Student Engagement [18] is a third tool used by the UofM to evaluate students’ competence in general education proficiencies—and also to gain insight into the students’ own perceptions of the value of general education to their overall educational experiences. The university participated in this national survey in the spring of 2003 [19] and will again participate in 2005 as part of a longitudinal study to measure changes in what students actually do as part of their educational programs.  

External and Internal Evaluations

In 1996 a General Education Review Committee undertook a thorough review of the university’s general education program. A self-study document was completed in spring semester 1997. [3] In 1997, an external evaluation team composed of recognized experts in the field of general education (Jerry Goff, Association of American Colleges; Thomas Lowe, Ball State University; Cynthia Margolin, San Jose State University; Michael Reardon, Portland State University) reviewed the program and prepared a report. [20]  While nearly every aspect of the UofM program was approved at that time as having met the requirements for a healthy general education program, the consultants made recommendations concerning faculty development opportunities, the review and use of general education requirements in planning student learning outcomes, and clarification of the university’s general education requirements and objectives in the undergraduate bulletin.

Following this report, a General Education Review Implementation Committee was appointed in fall 1997 to identify the key areas in the self-study and consultants’ reports, make recommendations on how the UofM should respond in those key areas, identify areas, offices and personnel responsible for implementation, and establish a timeline for implementation. A final report was prepared by this committee. [3] Although all of the committee's recommendations have not been implemented due to resource constraints, many important improvements have been made. The Undergraduate Bulletin was reorganized to clarify requirements and reduce misunderstanding. [21] The needs of the Office of General Education were addressed with additional funding for faculty development and increased assessment activities. [22] Finally, articulation agreements have been established with other institutions within the UofM area of service to ease transfer of credit. [23]

Improvements in general education based on assessments are included in an annual assessment report to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. [24]

Relevant Organizational Unit(s):

Vice Provost for Academic Affairs

Supporting Documentation and Evidence:

[1] UofM General Education Program
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[2] Academic Senate Meeting Minutes, January 14, 1986
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[3] General Education Review Implementation Committee, Final Report
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[4] Education Equality Project, Academic Preparation for College (Green Book)
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[5] TBR Policy 2:03:00:00, Admission Requirements
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[6] General Education Program, Learning Outcomes
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[7] College BASE Examination
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[8] College BASE
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[9] California Critical Thinking Skills Test (CCTST)
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[10] California Critical Thinking Skills Test, UofM scores
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[11] ETS Academic Profile II
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[12] Academic Advising, Senior Test
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[13] Philip Batty Letter, February 28, 2003
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[14] UofM Alumni Survey
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[15] UofM Currently Enrolled Students Survey
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[16] Graduating Senior Survey
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[17] Currently Enrolled Students Survey (Instrument)
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[18] 2003 National Survey of Student Engagement
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[19] UofM 2003 National Survey of Student Engagement Results
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[20] Peer Review Report
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[21] Undergraduate Bulletin, Colleges and Degree Programs
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Office of General Education

Fiscal Year 2001 General Educational Program Budget

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[23] Articulation Agreements
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