Committee assesses Focal Studies program

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In 2015 the Faculty Assessment Committee did an in depth assessment of focal studies which involved faculty, students and a focus group of students wrote essays about the connections they make between their focal study courses to exemplify the proficiency of the program.

Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Lisa Carstens said that 79 percent of the focus group said they are making the connections that focal are intending by completing the classes within their major.

Students also said that they find it stressful to make sure that they take the right classes , which turns into choosing a focal study because it is convenient rather than because it interests the student.

The Assessment Committee thinks that there are three options to move forward with focal studies. One of those options is that that a focal study would require an essay that makes the connection between the classes.

The second option would be to do away with focal studies and start to look for an alternative to provide an integrated learning experience.

Third, if it should take longer to assess focal studies, Carstens said that the Committee is talking about providing stopgap and possibly letting a minor fulfill a focal study requirement.

“At this point it is a discussion and that is all it is,” Carstens said.

Having a minor that is outside of a student’s primary area of study could potentially count as focal study credit. Carstens said that maybe all students are required to take one regular focal study, a minor, a second major or study abroad.

Carstens said the idea of these discussions is to delve into the core requirements and discuss what other things the university could add for students to fulfill a focal study requirement.

We don’t have structural things that insure students are taking these courses in a way where they aren’t just thinking about that course,” Carstens said, “But they are thinking about how it connects to other courses.”

Carstens does not think it would be a bad idea to require a minor in place of a focal study but she urged that at this point it is just a discussion and an assessment of focal studies.

The Faculty Assessment Committee will be continuing discussions regarding the future of Focal Studies throughout April.


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