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





Conditional Compliance






The importance of General Education to Nashville State Technical Community College (NSCC) has grown significantly during the past five years in terms of both quality and quantity.  Prior to fall 2002, the primary role of general education was to offer courses required by the A.A.S. programs of Nashville State Technical Institute.  The expansion of the College mission to include the A.A. and A.S. degrees in 2002 has transformed the General Education program.  In 2006, the A.A. and A.S. accounted for 48% of the degrees awarded by the College.   Since fall 2002, enrollment in General Education courses has grown by 35%, while enrollment in Career courses has declined by 24%.


In 2003, all 19 Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) colleges and universities implemented a system-wide general education core as part of TBR’s Defining Our Future initiative.  Defining Our Future called for a common core at the lower division level to facilitate student transfer, reduce time to graduation, and increase graduation rates.  A system-wide Ad Hoc General Education Committee composed of representatives from all 19 two-year colleges and universities began its task by developing a statewide philosophy of general education for all campuses. 


The system-wide Committee then identified six general education categories and the number of required hours that students must complete if earning an A.A.S., an A.A., an A.S., or a baccalaureate degree from a TBR college or university.  Each category included a broad goal and specific learning outcomes.  In order to accomplish the general education initiative, the committee then: 

·         Developed parameters based on SACS requirements;

·         Defined characteristics of general education courses;

·         Established principles of administration and accountability for the general education program;

·         Developed a process through which each campus would create a General Education Committee and propose courses for       inclusion in the common core; and

·         Developed a process for system-wide review of campus proposals.


The resulting TBR common core, as described in TBR policy 2:01:00:00 [1][2], consists of 41 semester credit hours (SCH) from six general education categories: Communication (9 SCH), History (6 SCH), Natural Sciences (8 SCH), Mathematics (3 SCH), Humanities/Fine Arts (9 SCH), and Social/Behavioral Sciences (6 SCH).


When developing the six categories with defined goals and learning outcomes, the system-wide General Education Committee adhered to guidelines for principles of best practice put forth in Jerry Gaff and James Ratcliff’s Handbook of the Undergraduate Curriculum: A Comprehensive Guide to Purposes Structure, Practices, and Change (1997).  The Committee’s approach to developing a lower division statewide general education core included a psychology of intellectual development that Gaff and Ratcliff describe as challenging thought for educators to  “ ‘. . . expand beyond institutional initiatives to  embrace programs across institutions and still attempt to meet the needs of coherence, comprehensiveness and commonality.’ ”


During spring 2003, NSCC identified courses that supported the general education categories, goals and learning outcomes developed by the system-wide committee [3].  In addition, the campuses developed objectives for each course and identified means for assessing attainment of those objectives.  Nashville State submitted a request for 69 general education courses to the system-wide General Education Committee [4].  Sixty courses received TBR approval initially.  Since that initial submission, there have been minor changes, resulting in the current list of   common core courses, which includes:


    Communication (3 courses)

    History (5 courses)

    Natural Sciences (20 courses)

    Mathematics (11 courses)

    Humanities/Fine Arts (19 courses)

    Social/Behavioral Sciences (12 courses) [5]


In conjunction with the state-wide review of general education, the college also revised its statement of general education outcomes.  The result of this review is the identification of nine competencies as guidelines for all general education learning.  These competencies address general education learning outcomes for career and transfer degree programs.  NSCC graduates will be able to:


1.        Write clear, well-organized documents.

2.        Locate, evaluate and use multiple sources of information.

3.        Prepare and deliver well-organized oral presentations.

4.        Participate as team members and team leaders.

5.        Apply mathematic concepts to problems and situations.

6.        Use critical thinking skills.

7.        Use and adapt current technologies.

8.        Appreciate cultural diversity and the influence of history and culture.

9.        Apply scientific thought processes to a range of situations. [6]


The NSCC campus process for assessing and documenting that students are achieving the General Education competencies includes multiple measurements at the course, program and college-wide levels.  The California Critical Thinking Skills Test (CCTST) is a campus-wide measure, required annually for all degree graduates.  Student perceptions are assessed college-wide through the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) and a bi-annual Alumni survey.  Course and program-level assessments are the responsibility of the program areas.  Several programs have implemented capstone courses that include comprehensive examinations for the final exam.  These exams provide faculty members with annual data about student strengths and weaknesses on outcomes in both the major and in general education.  The attached matrix of General Education Competencies, Assessments, and Results provides examples of documentation of achievement of general education competencies [7].


During fall semester 2006, NSCC undertook an Academic Audit of the A.A. and A.S. degrees.  Through this assessment process, three instructional divisions, English, Humanities & Arts; Math and Sciences; and Social and Life Sciences examined the instructional processes used by faculty in these general education areas.  Through the academic audit process, teams of faculty studied the college’s general education curriculum processes in five focal areas: (1) Learning Objectives, (2) Curriculum and Co-Curriculum, (3) Teaching and Learning Methods, (4) Student Learning Assessment, and (5) Quality Assurance.  The faculty teams collaborated with colleagues to examine the processes used to pursue goals for student learning in each discipline area.   As part of the academic audit report, these faculty teams identified areas of needed improvements, which are included in the Academic Audit Self-Study [10].  On March 29, 2007, a team from other campuses will visit NSCC and prepare a report on the academic audit process and self-study.  The Academic Audit will produce a faculty-driven examination of the college’s General Education program, with emphasis on improving processes to ensure that students accomplish the identified outcomes.


Data from various sources have, in many instances, been used to identify areas of both strength and weakness in the General Education program. In the 2005 Alumni Survey, students rated their Overall Academic Experience at Nashville State 3.44 (of 4.0 Very Satisfied). More specifically, in the 2005 CCSSE, enrolled students rated Acquiring a Broad General Education as 2.79 (compared to 2.89 for other medium colleges).


When looking at data from specific areas, students on the 2005 Alumni Survey rated Speaking Effectively as 2.50 (above the state average, but slightly below the college’s previous 2002 average of 2.65); enrolled students on the 2006 CCSSE rated NSCC 2.50 (compared to 2.55 for other medium-sized colleges)  on skills for "speaking clearly and effectively."  To help improve student learning in Speaking Effectively, programs revised seven courses to include individual or team oral presentations: U.S. History I, II; World Civilization I, II; Ethics; and Art History Survey I, II. The college also began a Visiting Writer Series, so that students could be exposed to visiting writers and poets as they delivered presentations on their professional works.


In another example from the 2005 Alumni Survey, students rated Understanding the Arts as 2.15 (above the state average of 2.04 but slightly below the college’s previous 2002 average of 2.33) and also rated their Overall Cultural Experience at NSCC as 3.01 (of 4.0 excellent). To help improve student outcomes in the arts, the college implemented several initiatives: (1) the addition by 2006 of five new courses in chorus and music as curriculum electives (2) the inclusion of a component in ART 1122 Drawing II in which students began displaying their class projects in formal art exhibits in the Kisber Bldg (3) an added activity in ART 1030 Art Appreciation that requires students to attend and critique a cultural/art event and (4) the sponsoring of a yearly performance in the Kisber Bldg atrium in which contributors to the campus’s TETRAHEDRA (a booklet of literary contributions by faculty, staff and students) present their poems, essays and short stories.


Survey responses from graduates and students about their perceptions of Cultural Diversity at Nashville State indicated that 2003 Alumni, when asked about Appreciation of Different Cultures, rated the college 2.33 (above the state average of 2.19 and the previous 2002 college average of 2.27) and rated the college 3.38 (of 4.0 Very Satisfied) for Climate of Diversity.  Enrolled students, however, when asked about Encouraging Contact Among Students from Different Economic, Social and Racial/Ethnic Backgrounds, rated the college 47.6 (below the 49.6 average of other medium colleges). To afford students more opportunities in Cultural Diversity, the campus added activities and events, which included: (1) adoption of a new textbook for ART 1030 Appreciation of the Arts that provided a uniquely multicultural view of the art world (2) an annual International Food Fair sponsored by the campus International Students Association (ISA) and (3) an International Music/Dance Festival also sponsored by the ISA. Both ISA activities have become anticipated annual events with audiences of 300-400 students.  The presence and visibility of NSCC’s growing foreign-born student population create great opportunities for enriching the cultural experiences of all students.  Most of these students are refugees from African and Middle Eastern countries.  Nashville is home to the largest Kurdish population in the United States.


While over the years, graduates have tended to rate mathematics at Nashville State above average (2.4 compared to the state average of 2.34) and (2.64 compared to 2.54 for other medium colleges), the mathematics program has continued to seek new approaches in helping students succeed in math. For example, two years ago some developmental math course began using the case study approach to help improve the perceived relevance of math in the workplace, and the program adopted TI Graphing Calculators for college-level math courses. In spring 2006, Math and Science faculty correlated their student performance on test questions to general education outcomes. Results indicated: 72% in Developmental Math and 71% in College Math applied math concepts to problems and situations; 60% of Biology students used critical thinking skills; 76% in Developmental Math and 65% in College Math could use and adapt technology; and 66% in Biology, 77% in Chemistry and 56% in Physics could apply scientific processes to a range of situations. [8]


For the general education competency, Critical Thinking, the college assesses student outcomes through performance on the California Critical Thinking Skills (CCTST), which is required prior to graduation for all degree students. For five years, beginning in 2000-01, Nashville State graduates scored above the national mean. In 2006-06, for the first time graduates scored a mean of 14.6, slightly below the national mean of 14.7 [9].  Because the college places a high value on student skills of Analysis, Inference, Evaluation, Induction, and Deduction, the campus agreed to make Critical Thinking the focus of its QEP. Through this process, the campus intends to develop a QEP that improves faculty skills in teaching Critical Thinking, expands the emphasis on critical thinking throughout the curriculum, sets benchmarks for student achievement, and identifies appropriate assessments of progress toward those benchmarks.


Overall, Nashville State’s graduates appear to rate the college above average in instructional accomplishments. In fall 2006 NSCC used the Individual Development and Educational Assessment (IDEA) student ratings of instruction.  Results indicated that 70% of student respondents perceived they had made progress on relevant course objectives, compared to 65% nationally.  Seventy-three percent of student respondents rated their course as excellent, compared to 62% nationally, and 72% of NSCC respondents rated the teacher as excellent, compared to 68% nationally.




[1] TBR General Education Proposal  of 12/02


[2] TBR Policy 2:01:00:00 on Undergraduate Degree Requirements



[3] NSCC General Education Core Process Description


 [4] NSCC General Education Course Submission 2003


[5] NSCC General Education Courses in catalog



 [6] NSCC General Education Competencies in catalog



 [7] Matrix of Assessments of General Education Competencies


 [8] Math and Science Division Assessment Matrix


 [9] California Critical Thinking Skills Test (CCTST) Summary Table


[10] A.A./A.S. Academic Audit self-study  docs\NSCC_Academic_Audit_Self_Study_for_AA_and_AS_Degrees.pdf