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Expanded Discussion of Primary Research

A group of seven San Diego Sate University faculty, lecturers, and staff
supporters participated in a focus group discussion about the Seven Essential
Capacities of General Education by Diana Petras. The meeting took place in
the Faculty Staff club from 12:00pm to 12:50pm on Friday, June 12, 2009.
The participants were drawn from an OverLunch meeting in Course Design
that took place from 11:00am to 12:00pm, so food and refreshments were
not offered during the focus group discussion. The focus group discussion
was audio recorded and Sarah Cole took notes on her computer while
Sheridan Sands recorded nonverbal communication.
Sarah Coe reviewed the audio recording and the notes that were taken
during the focus group discussion in order to transcribe an accurate focus
group session. The transcription is near word for word and Diana Petras
summarized the main findings.

Summarized Findings

The faculty members, lecturers, and staff supporters are passionate are
enthusiastic about the subjects that they teach. They believe that higher
education prepares students to learn how to think critically, to communicate
well, and to problem solve – and that is equivalent to the underlining of the
Seven Essential Capacities. At the end of the semester or a course students
should be able to apply the skills that they in class to the real world.

However, about half of the focus participants were unaware of the Seven
Essential Capacities changes that were made to modify the General
Education Program. Most of participants agreed that in theory the revision for
the standards in the General Education program was positive, but a bit too
idealistic and that it would difficult to implement them to students. Almost
the majority of the participants believed that students only use the calendar
and the grading portions of the syllabus and do not read anything else within
the syllabus. Focus group members that were aware of the Seven Essential
Capacities did not find it significant enough to execute because they are
skeptical on whether or not it would make a real difference in student
learning. That is because a nearly all of the participants believe that students
do not really read the syllabi for the main purpose of the class, which is to
empower students with the objectives or the 21st Century Capacities that are
listed in the syllabus, and it seems useless to try. According to the
participants, the Seven Essential Capacities appeared to be an ideal sense of
progress in higher education for university officials.

In testing campaign ideas, we discovered that senior university officials, like


President Weber, would not influence most of the participants’ performance.
They are more likely to be influenced by the Deans and Department Chairs of
their specific separate college on campus, who are their opinion leaders and
they are those who the participants have established connections and
relationships with.

Disclosure

From the research, the findings lack external validity and cannot be
generalized to all of the faculty, lecturers, and staff members because the
focus group was not a contained random sample of participants. Those who
played a part in the focus group were ones that were attending the
OverLunch meeting and were invited to participate. The faculty, lecturers,
and staff members who attended the meeting also had an above average
interest in improving higher education as proven by unpaid-in-the-middle-of-
summer-break-course-design-luncheon.

Implications for Program Proposal

A great majority of the faculty and lecturers on campus are unaware of the
Seven Essential Capacities and its purpose. If our campaign objective is
aimed at changing knowledge, the mission is to send out the information.
However, if our objective were to encourage faculty and lecturers in
empowering students with the capacities, our campaign would need to show
them the value of the changes done with the Seven Essential Capacities. We
would need to address their gaps in value motivation in teaching these
capacities because copying and pasting it into the syllabi are not going to
influence the outcome of a student. Based on our research, the most
effective way to reach faculty members and lecturers would be through the
primary target for our campaign, the Deans and Department Chairs. In order
to implement this, it would be done through a two-way symmetrical system
between the Center for Learning and Teaching and professors and we are
going to have to get their approval of incorporating and executing the Seven
Essential Capacities.