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CI Curriculum Survey Still in Initial Phase

Survey Results Obtained; Awaiting Review

By Swetha Kambhampati

The Communication Requirement program assessment, launched in fall 2005 by the Subcommittee on the Communication Requirement, is still within its first phase of data analysis following a survey given to both faculty and students. Although the CR program data has been collected, the SOCR is still in the process of sifting through the results and statistically analyzing what the data signifies.

The survey analysis process is taking longer than expected, said Anna Frazer, the assistant dean of the Office of Faculty Support. Surveys were conducted with faculty and students to chart attitudes, impressions, and conclusions about the CI-H and CI-M classes, as well as gauge the impact of CR classes on the student community. The survey results will be used to understand the effectiveness of this part of the MIT curriculum, and discern where and how it needs to be improved. Though the data has been obtained, “it takes time to understand these statistics with different ways to cut it,” said Frazer.

The survey consisted of 65 multiple-choice questions, for which answers ranged from strongly disagree to strongly agree, and two open-ended written response questions. Those questions, along with a comment section, will be factored into the survey’s final results.

The assessment study will occur in three phases — student and faculty surveys, round table discussions as a more in-depth investigation of the undergraduates’ CR experiences, and an analysis of the impact of the CR on the overall educational experience of students.

“The assessment is intended to be formative, taking [from] what we have learned to change and improve the program,” said Frazer.

The first priority of the SOCR is to analyze the results from the faculty survey in order to craft questions for the faculty round table discussions, which are planned for the spring of 2007. These discussions will explore faculty views on both the implementation and effectiveness of the CR, and will involve both CI and non-CI faculty members. Separate student round table discussions are planned for the spring, said Frazer.

The CR, which consists of Communication Intensive courses, is a set of classes required to graduate. CR classes come in two flavors, CI-H, within the humanities, arts, and social sciences, and CI-M, within the major. Every undergraduate must complete at least four Communication Intensive subjects, two CI-Hs and two CI-Ms as specified by the student’s major.

The committee is simultaneously involved in several other aspects of the program assessment.

“Another student survey will be launched in a couple of weeks which will focus on what students are doing in the CI classes,” said Frazer in an interview last week. The committee hopes to incorporate the data obtained from this newly released survey with the previously released student survey and analyze the data next spring.

The committee is also hoping to do an “impact study to look at changes or lack of changes in students’ oral communication skills and tie them to the CI-H,” said Frazer. As this is one of the first impact studies directed at the CR, and to facilitate further studies into the curriculum, the SOCR is currently in negotiation with outside centers and sources to test and develop a pilot.

CI-H classes, the first taken by undergraduates, are writing classes in which students plan, draft, and revise assignments based on course material, according to the CR Web site. CI-M subjects attempt to teach the specific forms of communication appropriate for the field’s academic culture.