Executive Summary of XIDS Program Assessment
From as early as 1995, the University of West Georgia has recognized the importance of interdisciplinary studies, and has from that time sought to incorporate integrative learning as one of the essential foundations of its curriculum. Our evolving interdisciplinary programs reflect not only the University's mission, but the Enhanced Mission of the College of Arts & Sciences as well; both place significant emphasis on the necessity for the incorporation of innovative courses which combine tenants from more than one discipline in order to foster a deeper understanding of the subject matter in question.
The scope of faculty members involved in interdisciplinary activities reflects a continued growth; members form almost every department under the College of Arts & Sciences either offer interdisciplinary courses or have submitted proposals currently under consideration. In addition, faculty from departments spanning the disciplines serve on course-specific committees formed to measure the program's progress. Through there is no formally authorized accrediting body for interdisciplinary education, the Association for Integrative Studies has taken some initial steps toward standardized criteria. As outlined in the Accreditation Standards for Interdisciplinary General Education, "Our task [is] to develop appropriate criteria of accreditation for interdisciplinary general education. The criteria we offer are advisory"(1). Having said that, UWG's standards of assessments are at this point reflections of these recommendations developed by AIS.
In addition to the aforementioned course-specific committees, evaluation of interdisciplinary programs is limited to the completion of faculty and student evaluation of individual courses. Evaluations of interdisciplinary teaching and learning are available in two formats: the traditional course evaluation form supplied by the University System, and an additional recommended interdisciplinary evaluation form developed by the Institute for Integrative Studies. Both have provided feedback, though it is limited. One significant exception to the limited methods of evaluation, however, is the freshmen Learning Communities program, the constitution of which is built upon a foundation of at least one interdisciplinary course with integration basic among first year courses. Data has been collected on the performance of Learning Communities students, and subsequently reflects significant increases both in GPA as well as in rates of retention.
While there is no formal Interdisciplinary Program, the course offerings nonetheless maintain a coherence in that, regardless of level (core or advanced undergraduate), all XIDS courses must meet the same criteria of interdisciplinarity. The categories of XIDS courses within the Core provide for a sequence of interdisciplinary skill, furnishing students with general introductions to the disciplines involved. To fulfill Core requirements, students may choose from an array of topic-driven courses offering in depth and unique perspectives on subject matter such as Darwinian Evolution, Representations of American Womanhood, or Global Citizenship in the 21st Century, to cite examples of only a few. Upper-level XIDS courses, on the other hand, offer students a more in-depth knowledge of at least one discipline. Consequently, we have recently added four new interdisciplinary, degree-granting programs: Environmental Studies/Sciences, American Studies, Global Studies, and Africana Studies. These programs, initially recommended during the 1995 Planning and Prioritization process in Arts & Sciences, set the standard for future integrative offerings in the College and University.