The United States Air Force Academy was established in 1954, and since that time the general education curriculum has been its defining characteristic – a single core curriculum with no academic majors. Since 2006, the Academy has undergone a process very similar to the development of the Interstate Passport framework: the development and assessment of a single set of institution-wide outcomes based on the LEAP Essential Learning Outcomes. The USAFA mapped a list of 19 outcomes to a variety of courses, experiences and assessments that spanned three “mission elements” of the institution: academics, athletics, and military training. Starting in 2013 staff and faculty from the three mission elements began cross-referencing the 19 outcomes with the “Institutional Competencies” used by the Air Force in the officer development program. This work has resulted in a list of nine outcomes and a series of related proficiencies that a cadet should achieve. Among the nine focus areas are Critical Thinking; Scientific Reasoning and the Principles of Science; The Human Condition, Cultures, and Societies; and Leadership Teamwork and Organizational Management. Sound familiar? Some but not all of the nine USAFA areas match up to the Passport knowledge and content areas. And, as has been the experience of faculty members at Interstate Passport institutions, the whole exercise of mapping learning outcomes and determining proficiency has fostered frank communication about outcomes and assessment across the institution. Faculty and staff have had to “get out of their comfort zone and hear best practices from other institutions.” One member of the outcomes USAFA strategy team noted that this work “breaks that paradigm that is just another initiative among many.”
A team from the United States Air Force Academy will be presenting on the reform efforts at the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ General Education and Assessment Conference, February 15–17, 2018, in Philadelphia.
Read the full article about the USAFA general education reform at AAC&U’s website.