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Comprehensive Standards 3.5.1

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



Cape Fear Community College (CFCC) demonstrates compliance with this comprehensive standard by identifying and assessing six general education core competencies: written communication, oral communication, basic computer usage, problem solving, understanding scientific concepts and applications, and understanding social structure. The College assesses these competencies annually by administering common finals or by using common rubrics in a cross-section of the general education core. The common final exams are provided, the competencies and assessment methods are documented in an assessment chart, and the results of each assessment are documented in the institution’s strategic planning online (SPOL) process.


All two-year degree programs at Cape Fear Community College comply with the program standards established by the North Carolina Community College System and include the appropriate number of general education core requirements: each degree program has a minimum of 15 credit hours in the general education core (General Education Core Requirements in the Associate in Applied Science Programs) (General Education Core Requirements in the College Transfer Programs). These requirements are described in more detail in Core Requirement 2.7.3 (Core Requirement 2.7.3).

CFCC has identified the following as its college-level general education core competencies within each degree program:

• Written Communication — The student will write an effective essay, which entails the following: formulating a clear thesis statement, developing focused topic sentences and supporting details, varying sentence structure and methods of paragraph development, using appropriate transitional devices, using standard English grammar and mechanics, and composing an effective conclusion.
• Oral Communication — Using appropriate eye contact, volume, pronunciation, articulation, and posture, students will deliver a five- to seven-minute oral presentation which incorporates the following elements: an introduction that captures the attention of the audience and identifies the purpose, subject, and overview of the main points; a body that contains three main points supported by details; and a conclusion that summarizes the main points.
• Basic Computer Usage — Students will demonstrate a basic level of computer competency that includes the following: an understanding of specific terminology and an integration of the Internet with an office applications software suite to create appropriate reports in spreadsheet, presentation, and word processing formats.
• Problem Solving — Students will solve problems using the appropriate techniques and technology; apply critical thinking to analyze and solve applications, using the appropriate mathematical model; communicate results clearly and concisely; and use technology as a mathematical tool.
• Understanding Scientific Concepts and Applications—Students will demonstrate an understanding of the fundamental laws and concepts appropriate to the course of study and apply laboratory experiences to the concepts presented.
• Understanding Social Structure — Students will demonstrate an understanding of the fundamentals of human social structure, ranging from the micro to the macro level.

Faculty, staff, and students have had input in identifying these competencies. Faculty in the Business, Humanities/Fine Arts, Social and Behavioral Science, Math/Science/PE, and English departments have selected one or two of these competencies as a student outcome goal. Fall of 2005, a survey on education (Student Survey on Education) was administered to 433 two-year degree students in the technical and college transfer programs. The survey requested students to indicate if CFCC’s current general education competencies were adequate for a CFCC graduate in the 21st century or if additional competencies should be considered. Ninety percent of the students concurred that the current list of CFCC competencies is sufficient (Student Survey on Education Results).

To document assessment, every academic program develops an institutional effectiveness plan. Annually, a minimum of three student outcome objectives is developed online, and students’ skills, knowledge, and/or attitudes are assessed (Strategic Planning On-Line) (Strategic Planning On-Line). In addition, a General Education Assessment Council annually reviews the following: the mission of the Council, the general education core competencies, the methods of assessment, the list of courses being assessed, and the data resulting from the assessment instruments, thus creating a more unified process of evaluating student learning outcomes in the core (July 22, 2005 Minutes). The General Education Assessment Council is comprised of faculty/staff from the Vocational/Technical and the Arts and Sciences division and personnel from Student Development.

CFCC’s assessment of general education core competencies has evolved over the years. In 1999-2000, three core competencies were assessed: written communication, oral communication, and social structure. Since then, three more competencies have been added: basic computer usage, problem solving, and understanding scientific concepts and applications. The minimum competency level established for all competencies is based on CFCC’s minimum passing grade for curriculum classes, which is a grade of “D.” The percentage of students passing each competency varies and may be based on one of the following: the national norm, the norm established by other community colleges in North Carolina, or the passing rate of students who remain in the class. The assessment itself may count 10 to 25 percent of a student’s final grade so that the students will take the test seriously; this percentage range is comparable to the percentage weight given to other graded assignments in the classes. In some cases, however, the assessment may not be counted as part of the final grade because the test is comprehensive, and CFCC has no exam week or reading day for students to prepare for the more comprehensive finals. In addition, the assessment may not count as part of the final grade because some faculty may demonstrate a proclivity to teach to the test. While some competencies are assessed in the Fall and the Spring, other competencies are assessed in the Spring only.

The number of students assessed in three general education core competencies—basic computer usage, problem solving and understanding scientific principles—includes all the students enrolled in selected classes. These general education classes were selected because they are the most populated classes taken by two-year degree students, college transfer and technical students.

The number of students assessed in the other general education competencies—writing, oral communication, and social structure—is based on statistical procedures that incorporate random sampling. Random sampling means that each member in the population has an equal chance of being selected. This procedure will produce a sample that is as representative of the population as possible. Sample sizes for means will be determined by the Central Limit Theorem, and the sample sizes for proportions will be selected using the appropriate formula which will allow the assessors to control the standard error in their predictions intervals. However, the larger the sampling sizes in the general education courses, the greater the likelihood that the sample tendencies will reflect the normal distribution of the population at large. Because of the attrition rate of students throughout the Fall and Spring semesters, the general or at-large population numbers will vary.

Prior to Spring of 2006, the following student populations were not included in the assessment of some competencies: Internet students and/or Huskins students, evening students, and/or students taught by adjunct faculty. (Huskins students are qualified high school students who are allowed to take college level courses under the North Carolina Huskins Bill.) During Spring Semester, 2006 these groups will be included in the sampling population.

The data collected from all assessment initiatives is shared with faculty in the respective departments and the General Education Assessment Council for further analysis and recommendations. The results are also published on the CFCC Intranet where the Council minutes are located. This data is used to identify students’ academic strengths and weaknesses, implement pedagogical changes, improve the assessment of the general education core, and improve student learning and development.

The core competencies are assessed as follows (Assessment of General Education):

Written Communication
ENG 111 Expository Writing is the curriculum course that is common to all associate degree students. Students are placed in this course based on their writing and reading placement scores or their successful completion of ENG 095 or RED 090 and ENG 090. Successful completion means that students have earned a grade of “C” or better in the course(s). This definition of success is in keeping with the criterion established by the North Carolina Community College System (Core Indicators of Success Measure F).

To help assess students’ writing skills, the English Department assigns a common reading in ENG 111 and administers a common writing prompt based on the reading assignment. Students are expected to write an effective essay that consists of an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. The writing occurs during the last two weeks of the Fall and Spring semesters. Students are allotted fifty minutes for the writing prompt. The Lead Instructor for English 111 collects the essays from all sections of ENG 111 and then chooses the first three essays from each section. This set of essays comprises the grading sample. For purposes of data collection and student performance evaluation, essays from this set are then distributed to ENG 111 faculty for grading. To achieve fairness, the graders blind-grade students’ papers; that is, the graders do not know the names of the students or their instructors and use a common rubric (ENG 111 Common Writing Grading Rubric). This assignment counts as 20 percent of a student’s final grade, and 80 percent of the students are expected to earn a passing grade on the writing prompt. Beginning with Spring 2006, the writing prompt will also be administered to the ENG 111 Internet students.

In addition, the English Department administers a pre- and a post-editing proficiency Fall and Spring semesters (Editing Proficiency for ENG 111) (Proficiency Diagnostic). Having assessed common grammatical errors in writing, ENG 111 faculty developed an editing test which includes seven components: sentence fragments, run-on sentences, pronoun reference, homonyms, apostrophes, subject-verb agreement, and spelling errors. Each ENG 111 faculty administers a diagnostic test during the first and the last weeks of Fall and Spring semesters. The test is objective and consists of twenty items: students are required to read an essay and identify any errors in Standard English grammar, mechanics, and spelling. Because the test is objective, each faculty member grades his/her own class work. Students are expected to have 50 percent fewer errors in the post-test than in the pre-test. Effective Fall 2005, the editing proficiency counts 10 percent of the final grade for all students enrolled in ENG 111.

The Lead Instructor of ENG 111 collects the data results from the writing prompt and the editing proficiency and shares the information with the department for future assessment and planning (Common Writing Results Fall 2004) (Editing Proficiency Results Fall 2004) (Common Writing Results Spring 2005) (Editing Proficiency Results Spring 2005). The assessment of students’ writing in ENG 111 has been an ongoing goal and will continue because it has been identified through faculty/staff focus groups as a critical deficiency among CFCC students.

Writing skills are reinforced across all curricula via graded essay exams, research papers, laboratory reports, literary analyses, journals, and various types of business correspondence. For example, in the twelve technical programs that have incorporated a co-operative education experience, each student is required to

• Complete a written self-evaluation
• Develop and write measurable learning objectives
• Complete various forms such as identification forms and time sheets.

Some technical programs, like Early Childhood, Culinary, and Hotel and Restaurant, require journal writing. The Marine Technology program includes writing assignments in several courses: research reports in Marine Instrumentation & Hydrographic Survey and essay responses on the mid-term and final exams of all biology courses (Marine Biology, Marine Invertebrate Zoology, and Marine Vertebrate Zoology).

Oral Communication
Oral communication competencies are assessed in the following courses: COM 231 Public Speaking and ENG 114 Professional Research and Reporting. A common rubric is used for both courses.

Over 500 students are enrolled in the traditional or face-to-face COM 231 Public Speaking classes per semester. While each student is required to present a five- to seven-minute informative speech, only 176 of these students are selected for the assessment goal. The informative speech is the first major speech in the course and is selected because all basic topics—logic, arrangement, outlining, introductions, body and conclusion—have been covered by the time students give this speech. The only areas not covered at this stage are the finer points of delivery such as transitions, verbal inflections, and some articulation problems. The informative speeches count approximately 20 percent of the final grade and are blind-graded; that is, COM 231 faculty observe the speeches of students taught by other communication faculty. Because there is class discussion following each speech, an average of three speeches is given per class hour. During office or on-campus hours, speech assessors will visit the classes of their peers and assess the speeches that are presented during that hour. A common rubric (Speech Evaluation Form) is used by faculty to assess the levels of oral communication quality in determining competency in the following areas: content, organization, delivery, and overall effectiveness. CFCC complies with a statement by the National Communication Association which states that only persons with advanced degrees in communication should assess student speakers. Eighty percent of the students are expected to pass this competency by scoring a minimum total of 42 points (out of 60 points) on the rubric. In addition to the informative speeches, all COM 231 faculty assess at least three additional speeches per student from a minimum of 500 students for a total of 1,584 speeches per Fall or Spring semester. To assess these additional in-class speeches, the COM 231 faculty use individual score sheets that are included in the speech text.

In ENG 114, students are required to “make oral presentations within a specific context for a specified audience” (ENG 114 Course Outline). The English Department offers approximately twelve sections of ENG 114 courses for the Fall and Spring semesters; the enrollment in all sections averages 248 students per year. Each ENG 114 instructor requires at least one oral presentation, to be graded using the rubric designed by the communication instructors in the Humanities/Fine Arts Department. Every Spring, each ENG 114 instructor randomly selects three students to assess for oral competency. The students’ presentations are videotaped and then sent to the ENG 114 Committee to assess; no instructor will grade his/her own students’ work. The Committee will use the common grading rubric and assess the presentations as either pass or fail. Eighty percent of the students are expected to pass this competency.

Two-year degree students who are not enrolled in ENG 114 or COM 231 are required to take one of two general education speech courses: COM 110 Introduction to Communication (approximately 500 students in each of the Fall and Spring semesters of 2004-05) and COM 120-Interpersonal Communication (75 students in each of the Fall and Spring semesters of 2004-05). Students participate in group presentations and other speaking activities in both courses and critiques are issued by the instructor in each class.

Basic Computer Usage
All graduates of an associate degree program are required to demonstrate their computer competency in one of the following ways:

• Complete a computer course — CIS 111 Basic PC Literacy, CIS 110 Intro to Computers, or CSC 133 C Programming (68 students Fall and Spring of 2004-05). Most associate degree students take CIS 110 (911 students Fall and Spring of 2004-05) or CIS 111 (550 students Fall and Spring of 2004-05). Both courses use the Skills Assessment Manager (SAM) software from Course Technology. The software allows students to train for each section of applications presented in the text. The test, consisting of multiple-choice and true-false questions, is created in SAM and covers both general knowledge and application simulations. All CIS instructors are required to use the SAM test as part of the overall assessment of their students. In addition, students are required to complete a hands-on application portion that is standardized across all CIS 110 and CIS 111 sections. This standardized, comprehensive test accompanies the text adopted for these courses and is a widely recognized assessment of computer skills. Currently, over 1,700 high schools/districts and senior institutions use the SAM software (Skills Assessment Manager (SAM) 2003 Customer List). According to the SAM Website (SAM Website), 18,433,541 exams have been taken as of January 3, 2006. Ninety percent of the CFCC students were expected to complete at least 68 percent of the test correctly. Fall of 2005, a total of 665 students took the standardized final exams in CIS 110 and CIS 111, and 597 students (89.8 percent) completed at least 68 percent of the test correctly (SPOL: CIS Results of SAM Finals). The test, which is administered at the end of the course, accounts for 20 percent of the final grade. (CIS 110 Final Exam Instructions) (CIS 110 SAM Final) (CIS 111 Final Exam Instructions) (CIS 111 SAM Final)

• Complete a computer competency that is administered by the Learning Lab staff. The Learning Lab staff assesses the same competencies as those outlined in CIS 111 and CIS 110 courses but without the use of the SAM testing software. Students are permitted to take a practice test before they complete the final test. (Computer Competency: The Practice Test) (Computer Competency: Final Test) During Fall and Spring of 2004-05, ten college transfer students successfully completed their computer competency in the Learning Lab. Fall of 2005, eleven students successfully completed the competency.

• Complete one or more major courses having the computer skills embedded within the courses. CUL 125-Hospitality Information Systems, taught in a computer lab, is the computer competency course for the Hotel and Restaurant Management and for the Culinary programs. Students first learn to use Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other software and then learn hospitality applications, such as point of sale and reservation software.

Chemical Technology students learn to use Excel during the first semester in CTC 111-Basic Chemistry I. Excel spreadsheets and graphs are required for more than 90 percent of all laboratory exercises in the curriculum. Students must use Word to write a research paper and use specific chemical reference software: the Merck Index, an Encyclopedia of Chemicals, Drugs, and Biologicals, and the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics.

Machining Technology requires that students successfully complete two computer-based courses: MEC 231-Computer Aided Manufacturing I and MEC 232-Computer Aided Manufacturing II. Each three-credit-hour course teaches a specific software—Mastercam. These courses require students to demonstrate an understanding of the following: file management; the major parts of a computer; the various areas of the computer work environment such as menus, icons, and task bars; various types of storage media; saving and retrieving files; and creating hard-copy information from their Mastercam files.

Computer skills are reinforced across the curricula. For example, during the 2004-05 Fall and Spring semesters, all face-to-face ENG 111 Expository Writing classes (1,496 students) were scheduled in computer labs so that two-year degree students would be able to compose their compositions on the computers. The ENG 111 Internet sections enrolled 104 students. In most classes requiring graded writing assignments like technical reports, research papers, literary analyses, and business correspondence, students are required to use word processing for the submission of their work.

Problem Solving
Problem solving skills are assessed in the following on-campus courses in the Fall: MAT 121-Algebra/Trig I, MAT 171-Precalculus Algebra, and PHY 110-Conceptual Physics. Common finals, consisting of multiple-choice items, will be administered in each class and graded or scanned by the secretary and the department chair of the Math/Science/PE Department. Sixty percent of the students assessed are expected to score 68 percent or higher on the common finals. The finals count between 10 and 25 percent of the final grades. For Fall 2005, all students enrolled in these three courses were assessed (SPOL: Problem Solving).

Understanding Scientific Concepts and Applications
To assess students’ understanding of scientific principles and applications, the science faculty will administer common finals, consisting of multiple-choice items, to all students in the following courses: BIO 111-General Biology I (BIO 111), BIO 112-General Biology II (BIO 112), BIO 168-Anatomy & Physiology I (BIO 168), BIO 169-Anatomy & Physiology II (BIO 169), CHM 131-Introduction to Chemistry (CHM 131), CHM 151-General Chemistry I (CHM 151), and GEL 120-Physical Geology. The finals will be graded by the secretary and the department chair of the Math/Science/PE Department. Sixty percent of the students assessed are expected to score 68 percent or higher on the common finals. The finals will count between 10 and 25 percent of the final grades. For Fall 2005, a total of 866 students were assessed in these courses (SPOL: Scientific Concepts).

Understanding Social Structure
To help assess students’ understanding of the three major sociological perspectives, faculty teaching SOC 210-Introduction to Sociology administer a common final exam (Assessment Questions for SOC 150). Over the past three years, an average of 300 students was assessed each year in the traditional classes. Spring of 2006, the assessment will include students in the five Huskins and in distance learning courses (SPOL: Sociology). Seventy-six percent of the students are expected to pass the competency with a score of 68 or higher. In PSY 150-General Psychology, a comprehensive common final is administered, consisting of fifty multiple-choice questions covering five core areas of psychology (PSY 150 Common Exam). At least 100 students enrolled in traditional classes are randomly selected to be included in this assessment annually. Over the past three years, 76 percent of the students in the traditional PSY 150 courses were expected to answer 35 of the 50 questions correctly. Assessment results enable the psychology faculty to discuss and/or implement pedagogical changes for core areas that show student weaknesses. Beginning Spring of 2006, the assessment will focus on the Huskins and the distance learning students and the same results are expected (SPOL: Psychology).

In addition to those listed above, CFCC has recently identified critical thinking as a general education core competency to be assessed. Assessment of critical thinking will occur with the implementation of the College’s Quality Enhancement Plan.



Source Location

General Education Core Requirements
in the Associate in Applied Science Programs


General Education Core Requirements
in the College Transfer Programs

Core Requirement 2.7.3,
CFCC SACS Compliance Documentation
Core Requirement 2.7.3

Student Survey on Education


Student Survey on Education Results,
Fall 2005


Strategic Planning On-Line,
English Department
Strategic Planning On-Line,
Social/Behavioral Sciences Department
The General Education
Assessment Council Meeting,
July 22, 2005
Assessment of General Education assessmentofgened.pdf
Core Indicators of Success Measure F,
Passing Rate of Students in
Developmental Courses
ENG 111 Common Writing Grading Rubric,
Editing Proficiency for ENG 111 editingproficiencyENG111.pdf
Proficiency Diagnostic proficiencydiagnostic.pdf
Common Writing Results Fall 2004 commonwritingresults2004fa.pdf
Editing Proficiency Results Fall 2004 editingproficiencyresults2004fa.pdf
Common Writing Results Spring 2005 commonwritingresults2005sp.pdf
Editing Proficiency Results Spring 2005 editingproficiencyresults2005sp.pdf
Speech Evaluation Form speechevaluationform.pdf
ENG 114 Course Outline,
ENG 114 Professional Research and Reporting
Skills Assessment Manager (SAM)
2003 Customer List

SAM Website,
Skill Assessment Manager

SPOL: CIS Results of SAM Finals spol_CISresultsofSAMfinal.pdf
CIS 110 Final Exam Instructions CIS110finalexaminstructions.pdf
CIS 110 SAM Final CIS110SAMfinal.pdf
CIS 111 Final Exam Instructions CIS111finalexaminstructions.pdf
CIS 111 SAM Final CIS111SAMfinal.pdf
Computer Competency: The Practice Test computercompetencypractice.pdf
Computer Competency: Final Test computercompetencyfinaltest.pdf
SPOL: Problem Solving spol_problemsolving.pdf
BIO 111,
General Biology I
Common Finals for Science
BIO 112,
General Biology II
Common Finals for Science
BIO 168,
Anatomy & Physiology I
Common Finals for Science
BIO 169,
Anatomy & Physiology II
Common Finals for Science
CHM 131,
Introduction to Chemistry
Common Finals for Science
CHM 151,
General Chemistry I
Common Finals for Science
SPOL: Scientific Concepts spol_scientificconcepts.pdf
Assessment Questions for SOC 150 soc150_assessques.pdf
SPOL: Sociology spol_sociology.pdf
PSY 150 Common Exam PSY150CommonExam.pdf
SPOL: Psychology spol_psychology.pdf



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