Chapter 4: SMSU as a Learning-Focused Organization
Missouri State University’s primary purpose is to develop educated persons. To this end, it is a learning-focused organization committed, in all of its programs, to the use of the most effective and regularly evaluated methods of discovering and imparting knowledge, and to the appropriate use of technology in support of these activities. To best express this focus on learning in light of the HLC Criteria and Core Components for reaccreditation and the University’s distinctive nature, this chapter proceeds through the following five topics:
Within these sections, several subsections appear for ease of reading.
Criteria and Core Components supported in this section include 3b, 3c, 4a, 4b, 4d.
To monitor the effectiveness of the undergraduate and graduate curricula, the University assesses student learning. Using the expectations of classes and/or programs as a baseline, various techniques at the course, program, and institutional level are used to determine whether the desired learning has been achieved. Faculty and administrators use this information to make adjustments in content, teaching techniques, and support resources.
Implicit in these activities is the realization that learners succeed partly because of the quality of those who create their curricula, teach, and mentor them. Therefore, the recruitment, training, recognition, and retention of highly qualified faculty are essential. Quality faculty members are only part of the University’s effort to support learning, which is multi-dimensional in approach and target audience. During the past ten years, the University has improved access to and use of learning-related technologies. Facilities such as the expanded and renovated Meyer Library provide supportive learning environments. Guest speakers, recitals, theatre productions, panel discussions, and events such as the 2005 Public Affairs Conference contribute to the learning environment the University offers to all its constituents.
Missouri State offers a strong general education program as well as a rich variety of experiential learning options.
Recognizing that scholarship is the lifeblood of higher learning, the University strongly supports scholarship. Students are encouraged to present their scholarship in many formats, including recitals, exhibits, and an annual Graduate Interdisciplinary Forum. In addition to the Honors Program, many disciplinary and university-wide honor societies recognize the outstanding accomplishments of Missouri State students. Faculty members often serve as research mentors for their undergraduate and graduate students. While student learning receives the highest priority, the University also supports learning initiatives designed for faculty, staff, administrators, and even its off-campus constituents. The efforts of the campus Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CASTL) Committee provide an obvious link between scholarship and learning. Faculty and staff development activities include new faculty and teaching-assistant orientations, the twice yearly Showcase on Teaching, Funding for Results grants, and support for international travel. Faculty members also are supported in their scholarship activities by the Office of Sponsored Research as well as through reassigned time, sabbatical leaves, laboratory facilities, and support for presentations at conferences. Pure and applied research accomplishments, including various forms of the creative arts as signs of scholarship, are expected for promotion and tenure. They are rewarded and recognized in an annual program of College, University, and Foundation awards.
Because a capacity for lifelong learning is one of the key characteristics of an educated person, the University strives to craft a curriculum that provides connections to the lives students will live when they leave the protected campus environment and engage more fully in a democratic society. To demonstrate the connection between the life of the mind and the life of work, the University offers a strong general education program as well as a rich variety of experiential learning options, such as internships, cooperative education, mentored research, study abroad, and service-learning. The University’s public affairs mission incorporates the expectation that the general education curriculum will prepare students for their lifelong roles as citizen scholars. In part, this curriculum encourages students to realize that educated persons have a responsibility to use their knowledge, abilities, and skills to help solve the many societal dilemmas they will encounter throughout their lives.
Through a combination of long-range planning, including an extensive inventory of performance standards, periodic program reviews, a variety of assessment techniques, and a new initiative emphasizing learning communities, the University seeks to strengthen organizational learning. The overall goal of these efforts is to maintain and strengthen the quality of the University as a whole through continuous study of how it operates. These processes solicit participation from multiple constituencies.
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