Comprehensive Standard 3.5.1


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






General education at Vernon College reflects the institution’s deep conviction that successful, satisfying lives require a wide range of skills and knowledge. The College is dedicated to providing educational opportunities that develop the academic, career, and personal capabilities of individuals so they may achieve self-fulfillment and participate fully and positively in a democratic society. Vernon College accepts the charge of providing a college atmosphere free of bias, in which students can exercise initiative and personal judgment, leading to a greater awareness of personal self-worth. The College strives to provide every student with opportunities to develop the tools necessary to become a contributing, productive member of society. General education, in essence, augments and rounds out the specialized training students receive in their majors and cultivates a knowledgeable, informed, literate human being. Vernon College has identified the following college-level competencies:



(Global Learning Outcomes)


I.    CRITICAL THINKING: Students will evaluate the validity of their own and others’ ideas through questioning, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating results into the creative process.

II.   COMMUNICATION/INTERPERSONAL: Students will develop effective reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills to communicate verbally and nonverbally. 

III.  SCIENTIFIC AND MATHEMATICAL LITERACY: Students will apply an understanding of mathematical, natural, and behavioral scientific principles and methods to solve abstract and practical problems.

IV. INFORMATION LITERACY: Students will develop the information literacy skills to confidently and competently locate, use, and evaluate information.

V.  CULTURAL LITERACY: Students will develop an appreciation of human culture and its diversity and the role of the creative arts in society.


These core competencies support the College’s Mission and represent the academic proficiencies believed necessary for graduates to be successful and productive employees as well as successful community citizens. Furthermore, Vernon College believes that every person who graduates with a degree should successfully master general education competencies regardless of the degree discipline. To ensure that the College supports this mission, every degree program includes a minimum of 15 semester credit hours of general education as prescribed by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Curriculum Standards.


The General Education Core Competencies, along with the Vernon College General Education Philosophy Statement are printed in the Vernon College Catalog.


History of Learning Outcome Assessment at Vernon College:


With the need to directly assess student learning outcomes, in 2001, Vernon College began by determining learning outcomes in all courses taught at the College. As a result, all course syllabi specify learning outcomes which are directly supportive of the program outcomes.  To stay current, Division Chairs continually work with instructors to review course syllabi to relate course learning outcomes with program learning outcomes.


 At that same time pre/post tests were developed for academic/general education courses in order to ascertain whether or not the students were achieving the established learning outcomes at the course level.  A pre/post test report form was established to document the percentage of improvement between the administrations of the instrument.  Results from this measure have and are used for quality enhancement.


In addition to pre/post tests, Vernon College has looked to the percentage of course completers, course success, results from professional licensure exams, and graduate satisfaction as indicators of whether or not students/graduates were achieving course and program outcomes.


Percentage of Course Completers: The percentage of course completers at community colleges in Texas ranged from 78.5% to 99%, with an average of 84.49%. Vernon College had a 90.15% course completion rate, well above the state average. In fact, Vernon College’s percentage of course completers has ranged from 90% to 91.84% for the last three years.


Course Success: At Vernon College, a student must obtain a grade of A, B, or C in a course to be considered successful. The success rate in courses various depending on the course, but range from 61% (Web Page Design) to 100% (Applied Music). 


Professional Licensure Exams:  Several of the College’s programs have outside accreditation, and in conjunction, students must pass licensure exams in order to practice their chosen career-field (i.e.:  Associate Degree Nursing, Licensed Vocational Nursing, Surgical Technology, Health Information Technology).  Student pass rates on those licensure exams are continually monitored.  Competency area weaknesses are dissected for those students who do not pass program specific licensure exams.  If a pattern of weakness for a given competency area is recognized, curriculum changes are made in order to compensate for those noted deficits.  For example, during the 2004-2005 school year, Associate Degree Nursing Students showed a pattern of deficit skills in anatomy and physiology.  The nursing director discussed this issue with the biology faculty and together they reached a decision to make curriculum changes that tightened course prerequisites.  These changes were passed during the February 2005 Academic Council meeting. 


Graduate Satisfaction: Vernon College’s graduates report strong satisfaction with the general education received. On the most recent data collected, (Graduate Survey 2006-2007) results indicated that 93% of students surveyed felt that the courses and programs at Vernon College did a good or excellent job of preparing them for employment or for continuing their education.


Identification and Development of College-Level Competencies Within General Education:


Once course and program learning outcomes were developed and being assessed, the College began to work on developing learning outcomes for its General Education Core.  The College used the following process to identify and develop its general education competencies:


In response to the need to develop and evaluate specific learning outcomes, the President established the Student Core Competencies Committee in the spring of 2006. This committee was charged to “develop, implement and evaluate program and learning outcomes for all of its programs and courses” specifically, global learning outcomes.  Though the Committee noted that outcomes for programs and courses essentially serve as student learning outcomes, and that the College tests extensively for objectives/student learning outcomes in writing, mathematics, and reading, the Committee wanted to better identify and define more precisely student learning outcomes within the General Core Curriculum. The Committee sought input from the Vernon College community and benchmarked with other colleges to determine student learning outcomes in the context of the Mission of the College. The Committee was guided by this question: What educational/intellectual abilities do we want our students to have as outcomes of their learning experience as a whole at Vernon College?


Throughout the summer and fall of 2006, the Student Core Competencies Committee gathered information about core competencies from peers at Vernon College as well as at other institutions and developed the five general education competencies listed above. These competencies were developed from a review and discussion of those requirements established by other higher education institutions as well as the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Once the core competencies were developed, the Committee looked for a model to assess those competencies. The model developed by Pensacola Junior College was chosen and molded to fit with the Vernon College Mission and General Education Philosophy to create VConfirm the Core.  This particular model appealed to the committee due to the fact that they believed the instrument could provide the necessary assessment measures in a non-threatening and readily understandable manner.


With VConfirm the Core, Vernon College used the philosophy of It Just Takes One to begin the evaluation of the core competencies in the general education courses:


One Outcome: The Vernon College Student Core Competencies Committee will select only one outcome per semester to be assessed.

One Objective: Faculty will choose one related objective within that outcome to assess.

One Course: Faculty will choose one class section to assess.

One Assessment Tool: Faculty will choose one representative assignment to assess, using an assessment rubric.

One Assessment Report: Faculty will submit one report to the Division Chair summarizing student learning for the featured outcome, successful classroom activities, challenges to be addressed, and any recommendations.


This model was piloted in summer 2007 in two general education courses: COSC 1301 Microcomputer Applications and SPCH 1315 Public Speaking. The outcome chosen to be evaluated was Information Literacy. Each faculty member chose one of the objectives within the Information Literacy Rubric to evaluate, and chose or developed an assignment within their course to evaluate that outcome. At the end of the semester, the two faculty members used the proposed Planning and Report Documents within the VConfirm the Core model to record their findings. The Student Core Competencies Committee met and made some minor changes to the procedures for the core competencies assessment and published the final version of the VConfirm the Core model.


Before the fall semester began, the Student Core Competencies Committee, with the concurrence of the Division Chairs, selected courses to be assessed during the fall. The Student Core Competencies Committee met with the faculty members whose courses were selected and provided them with the VConfirm the Core model and training on how to implement.


The procedures for implementing VConfirm the Core are as follows:


·         Each semester instructors complete the outcome assessment for the selected courses. In doing this, instructors explain how each course outcome was evaluated, document the results of these assessments, and explain how these results may be used to improve the course. Instructors submit this information (in the Report document) to their Division Chairs at the same time final grades are due for each semester (or earlier).

·         Division Chairs, along with the faculty, also evaluate the assessments of the course outcomes, evaluate how well course outcomes are evidenced, and how the results are used to improve the course. Division Chairs use this information to discuss course improvements during the divisional meetings at the beginning of the fall and spring semesters. Two or more courses will be reviewed at the divisional meeting to ensure that all courses offered in a division are reviewed at least once every three years. If outcomes are not evident, changes are made in the course design to better facilitate the desired learning outcomes. Changes might include more effective learning-centered strategies taken from informed pedagogical best practices.

·         This process of evaluation is formative as well as summative so that the activities leading to the review are as valuable as the data itself. The Division Chairs submit the assessment of core curriculum with related documents to the Student Core Competencies Committee for review and endorsement. Results are collated and summarized, and the suggestions for improvement provided to the College faculty to share in a “best practices” format.  Depending on the type of results/suggestions spawned through the process, recommendations may be forwarded to the Dean of Instructional Services (professional development activities) or Academic Council (curricular changes) for consideration (by either the discipline faculty or the Student Core Competencies Committee) or used in the Annual Planning Process at either the College or unit level.


Each department will continue to assess this same outcome of the core competencies using the same assessment rubrics in the Spring 2008 and Summer 2008 semesters. The cadre of faculty assessing core competencies in their courses will expand outside of the 15 hours of general education shared by all degrees at Vernon College and venture into the other General Education Core Competencies beginning in the fall 2008. Department faculty will evaluate the impact on student learning of any of the suggested changes to course content and teaching strategies. The departments will also continue to analyze the data and present the analysis to the appropriate Division Chair and the Student Core Competencies Committee for sharing with all faculty.



Examples of Individual General Education Competency Data and Summary of Initial Analysis:


Outcome Assessed:  Information Literacy:  evidence that students will develop information literacy skills to confidently and completely locate, use, and evaluate information.


Course:  MATH 1332 College Mathematics

Assessment Tool Description:  

Assessed:  17 students

Objective Assessed:  The student uses informational sources, both print and electronic, needed to address specific informational needs.



Expected Assessment Outcomes (Goals) %

Mastery Level: 12%

Competent Level: 28%

Developing Level: 45%

Beginning Level: 15%


Actual Assessment Outcomes %

Mastery Level: 11%

Competent Level: 40%

Developing Level: 21%

Beginning Level: 28%


Initial Analysis indicated that the majority of the students did not understand how to appropriately select and use informational sources. Additionally, many students were not able to clearly and concisely convey the information they researched.


What actions can the department or College take to improve student success for this outcome? Research projects across courses (departments) would aid students in selecting appropriate resources and connecting material learned in different areas. For example, a student could be assigned a research topic within mathematics, but would be graded in both a composition course and mathematics course. Further, the student could present the paper in a speech course. This would allow students to see that skills gained in one course are also useful and appropriate in others. Additionally, this would allow students an opportunity to engage in a more robust learning experience that connects learning across disciplines and more clearly resembles future responsibilities in the workplace.


Course: ENGL 1301 Composition I

Assessment Tool Description: Students will work in pairs to produce a PowerPoint presentation in which they will attempt to persuade the class to adopt a community project that addresses a community need related to poverty issues. They must use Vernon College databases to get general information about an area of poverty or a service organization that addresses a specific need.

Assessed: 9 projects representing 20 students

Objective Assessed: The student uses informational sources, both print and electronic, needed to address specific informational needs.



Expected Assessment Outcomes (Goals) %

Mastery Level: 10%

Competent Level: 70%

Developing Level: 10%

Beginning Level: 10%


Actual Assessment Outcomes %

Mastery Level: 44%

Competent Level: 33%

Developing Level: 22%

Beginning Level: 0%


Initial analysis of this data suggests that the assignment in this course appropriately teaches the learning outcome to the level the instructor expects. No changes anticipated.

Evaluation of Assessment Strategies:


The assessment process will continue to be evaluated and refined in order to ascertain whether the College is collecting, interpreting, disseminating and utilizing the data to its maximum benefit to enhance student learning.  To this end, the chair of the Student Core Competencies Committee, Sandy Gabel, will receive 9 hours of faculty release time per fall and spring semester to assume the role of Assessment Director.  Vernon College believes that it is essential to have a faculty member fulfill this role in order to better relate to faculty concerns.  As the assessment director, Ms. Gabel will continue to help Vernon College faculty with comprehending assessment basics, developing rubrics, analyzing, interpreting, and disseminating results, using the analysis and interpretation of results for quality enhancement, writing assessment reports and discussing those reports with all stakeholders.


Response Plan to Improve Assessment of General Education Competencies:


The College began (spring 2005) to investigate additional options for assessment and documentation of General Education Core competencies:


·         Administrators researched how other colleges were conducting general education competency assessment and evaluation. A review of the literature on assessment in community colleges and assessment of general education competencies (fall 2007) provided several options for the College to consider. In particular, the College was determined to develop a plan that would provide useful information about student learning. This made some options including standardized testing such as the Collegiate Assessment of Academic Proficiency (CAAP) less appealing than options more directly tied to students’ completion of programs in which the application of general education competencies could be observed, monitored, and developed.

·         It was determined that implementing layers of evaluation would further assist in measuring if graduates had obtained the general education core competencies.  The following approaches have been developed to assess further each of the general education competencies:


Assessment Plan for Measuring Global Student Learning Outcomes:


·         Assessment of the General Education Program at Vernon College was added to the Program/Discipline Evaluation schedule 2005-2011 (for the 2009-2010 academic year) to be sure the general education core at Vernon College is assessed as a program. The General Education Program Evaluation, like other programs and disciplines at Vernon College, includes multiple measures to assess the outcomes of the General Education Program.

·         Vernon College has begun to implement layers of evaluation within our General Education Program to further assess the student learning outcomes:

o   At the course level, pre/post tests with documented and meaningful results will be revamped by faculty and Division Chairs. During the spring and summer of 2008, the Student Core Competencies Committee will research to determine the best way to develop and document pre/post test assessment (though the College has been doing this, there is a desire to add a “quality control measure” to the process along with the quality enhancement measures that already exist through pre/post testing). A revised Pre/Post Test Procedure will be developed by May 2008. Revised pre/post tests will be developed by July 2008. Then revised pre/post tests will be implemented in the fall 2008 semester. Standardized finals that include the 15 question pre/post test instrument will be used in the courses. This will serve as a quality control measure for adjunct faculty members.

o   At the discipline level, the evaluation of the general education core becomes part of the Program/Discipline Evaluation process (see above).

o   At the cross-discipline level, VConfirm the Core will continue to be used. The Student Core Competencies Committee has formed an Ad-Hoc Assessment Committee, consisting of Sandy Gabel, the Committee Chair and a Computer Sciences faculty member, Joe Johnston, the Chair of the Communication Division and an English faculty member, Dr. Gary Don Harkey, the Chair of Mathematics and Science Division and an Agriculture faculty member, and Dr. Brenda Kays, the Dean of Instructional Services. The charge of the Ad-Hoc Assessment Committee will be to determine if VConfirm the Core is working, revamp if needed, and determine if the model should continue to be used; determine if there are other types of assessments (such as portfolios) that should be used; and continue to educate faculty on the Five Global Student Learning Outcomes

o   At the institutional level, the Student Core Competencies Committee will continue to explore the use of MAPS as an exit assessment tool. Vernon College is seeking a MAPS-ETS consultation during April 2008 and will begin implementing the testing through the Testing Center in the fall.


Assessment of Student Attainment of General Education Competencies:


The following methods have been used and will continue to be used in order to assess if Vernon College students have attained general education competencies:


Percentage of Course Completers: The percentage of course completers at community colleges in Texas ranged from 78.5% to 99%, with an average of 84.49%. Vernon College had a 90.15% course completion rate, well above the state average. In fact, Vernon College’s percentage of course completers has ranged from 90% to 91.84% for the last three years.


Course Success:  At Vernon College, a student must obtain a grade of A, B, or C in a course to be considered successful. The success rate in courses various depending on the course, but range from 61% (Web Page Design) to 100% (Applied Music). 


Graduate Satisfaction: Vernon College’s graduates report strong satisfaction with the general education received. On the most recent data collected, (Graduate Survey 2006-2007) results indicated that 93% of students surveyed felt that the courses and programs at Vernon College did a good or excellent job of preparing them for employment or for continuing their education.


Pre/Post Test Assessment:  Vernon College also uses the Pre/Post test assessment to review the percentage of improvement students have in courses and to determine if changes in curriculum need to be made to ensure students are learning the objectives for the course.




1.    General Education Core Competencies, Vernon College Catalog

2.    General Education Philosophy Statement, Vernon College Catalog

3.    Minutes from February 2005 Academic Council meeting

4.    Graduate Survey 2006-2007

5.    VConfirm the Core

6.    MATH 1332 College Mathematics – syllabus

7.    ENGL 1301 Composition I – syllabus

8.    Program/Discipline Evaluation schedule 2005-2011

9.    Percentage of Course Completers

10. Course Success

11. Pre/Post Test Assessment