2007 Reaffirmation Teams
3.6.1 - 2007 Reaffirmation Teams
The institution's post-baccalaureate professional degree programs, and its master's and doctoral degree programs, are progressively more advanced in academic content than undergraduate programs.
The graduate degree programs at The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) are progressively more advanced in academic content than undergraduate programs. UT Dallas utilizes a series of formal internal and external reviews of all academic programs to ensure the rigor, quality, feasibility, and necessity of the curriculum and requirements as well as consistency with established academic standards. Additionally, the biennial catalog review process assures that the academic content of graduate programs remains more advanced than that of undergraduate programs. Finally, each of the programs undergoes an annual program assessment, which, in the case of the graduate programs, includes an alignment of student learning objectives with advanced student learning outcomes.Approval Process for Graduate Programs
The academic rigor of each graduate program is initially assured in the proposal process leading to new programs. The internal review process begins at the program level, where course content and degree structures consistent with the mission and authority of the department, school, and university are first developed. The Council of Graduate Education, a body composed of associate deans of graduate education in each school , examines the quality of the proposal against nationally-accepted criteria published by the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS), including Assessment and Review of Graduate Programs: A Policy Statement .
When approving a new master’s-level program, UT Dallas’ Council of Graduate Education (Graduate Council) applies the standards set forth in CGS’s Master’s Education: A Guide for Faculty and Administrators. As a result, the Graduate Council examines the curriculum to ensure that master’s level coursework, with where appropriate a research or clinical component, requires students “to think logically and consistently; integrate and synthesize knowledge; access up-to-date knowledge and information within the discipline; communicate in a clear, consistent and logical matter, both orally and in writing; understand the interrelationship between their discipline and others; be aware of and prepared to deal with ethical dilemmas within their professions; and, increasingly, adapt to the dynamic requirements of their profession and workplace .” In the case of new professional master’s degrees, the Graduate Council reviews the curriculum, using the criteria set forth in CGS’s Professional Master’s Education: A CGS Guide to Establishing Programs .
In the case of the establishment of doctoral programs, the Graduate Council applies CGS’s criteria set forth in its policy statement, Doctor of Philosophy Degree. Therefore the Graduate Council reviews the program proposals to ensure that the programs are designed “to prepare a student to become a scholar: that is to discover, integrate, and apply knowledge, as well as to communicate and disseminate it.” The Graduate Council also assesses the proposal to be certain that it “emphasizes the development of the student’s capacity to make significant original contributions to knowledge in the context of freedom of inquiry and expression ”.
The Committee on Educational Policy (CEP), a standing, concurrent committee of the Academic Senate, reviews the quality and consistency of all new graduate program proposals . Similarly, the Academic Senate is charged with reviewing and approving all new degree proposals .
The next level of review takes place at The University of Texas System (UT System) . New degree proposals are sent to the executive vice chancellor for academic affairs who reviews the proposals to ensure that the new programs meet the UT System’s Board of Regents Academic Program Approval Standards, which require that “particularly rigorous attention must be applied” to doctoral programs . Doctoral programs must be approved not only by the Board of Regents’ Academic Affairs Committee but also by the entire Board of Regents.
After UT System approval, the proposals are sent to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) where they are reviewed in accordance with THECB standards, including the “Carefully Planned Program of Study” for new master’s degree programs  and doctoral programs . The THECB examines whether the associated curriculum of new proposals is “up-to-date and consistent with current educational theory. Professional programs and those resulting in licensure must also be designed to meet the standards of appropriate regulatory bodies.” Before the THECB will approve a new doctoral program, a mandatory peer review and site visit is required. All degree programs at UT Dallas have been approved by the THECB and can be found on the THECB’s website in its list of approved programs . Additional information regarding the approval process is available in the response to Principle 126.96.36.199 . A recently approved program proposal for the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in materials science and engineering is included as a supporting document .Periodic Graduate Program Reviews
The graduate curricula and programs of instruction (including student learning outcomes) are subject to periodic evaluation by an ad hoc review team appointed and charged by the provost . This review team incorporates both internal and external members and typically includes at least three individuals from other institutions that have programs similar to those of the unit under review. The review team membership also includes representatives from the UT Dallas faculty and academic administration who are not affiliated with the unit under review. The review team evaluates the unit as requested by a written charge prepared by the provost after consultation with the university’s Program Review Committee. The charge specifically asks the review team to “[e]valuate the quality, the effectiveness, and the efficiency of the undergraduate and graduate curricula and the delivery of instruction,” , and in the case of the fall 2006 review of the molecular and cell biology program, the review team was asked to respond to the question, “Are the graduate and undergraduate assessment plans and student learning outcomes sufficiently robust and efficacious ?” The quality and progression of the educational content are evaluated by the review team and their findings and recommendations guide planning and resource allocation for the academic unit. More details about the program review process and sample program reviews are available in the response to Principle 188.8.131.52 . The Department of Computer Science’s graduate program was reviewed in spring 2007; the department’s self study which addresses the M.S. and Ph.D. program objectives and requirements is included in the supporting documents .
The professional graduate programs in the School of Management (SOM), in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS), and in the School of Economic, Political, and Policy Sciences (EPPS) have recently undergone periodic reviews by discipline-specific organizations for accreditation by those organizations. These accrediting agencies also help to ensure that graduate education is progressively more advanced than undergraduate programs. SOM received full accreditation for all its by the board of directors of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)  in 2002 . AACSB is a nonprofit organization consisting of more than eight hundred educational organizations and corporations devoted to the promotion and improvement of higher education in business administration and management. Two graduate programs in BBS, the doctorate in audiology (Au.D.) and the M.S. in communication disorders, are accredited by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) . ASHA is the professional, scientific, and credentialing association for more than 123,000 members and affiliates who are audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and speech, language, and hearing scientists. The complete description of the ASHA certification requirements is supplied in ASHA’s 2007 report on UT Dallas’ accreditation ; the August 8, 2007 letter regarding the latest ASHA evaluation is also included . The Master of Public Affairs degree in EPPS received accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration  in 2003  .Course Content, Descriptions, and Numbering
The contents of the catalog, including the course descriptions and graduation requirements, are reviewed by graduate program faculty, the Graduate Council , the CEP , and the Academic Senate  every two years.
In the catalog and in practice, UT Dallas makes clear the distinction between undergraduate coursework and coursework for master’s, professional, and doctoral degrees via the course numbering system employed. Graduate-level courses are identified using a 5000 to 9000 numbering scheme and undergraduate-level coursework is identified using a 1000 to 4000 numbering scheme.
Applicants seeking admission into all graduate degree programs at UT Dallas are required to have a “B” level or better performance in the relevant upper-division undergraduate coursework . Students lacking this necessary preparatory background are required to take leveling undergraduate coursework prior to enrolling in graduate courses. In some (technical) fields a diagnostic examination may also be required.
Required coursework that challenges students to learn independently, think creatively, and transition to an in-depth analysis and integration of this knowledge is specified in the catalog description of each graduate degree ; the catalog materials pertaining to the graduate programs in BBS exemplify this . The transition is evident in the descriptions of courses with similar or in some cases identical titles offered at the graduate and undergraduate level.
For example, a classical mechanics course is offered at both levels in the physics programs under course numbers PHYS 3312 and PHYS 5411. The course description for PHYS 5411 reveals coverage of more advanced material coupled with a mathematics sophistication that was not required in PHYS 3312. The credit hour requirement at the graduate level is also larger because of the more expanded and detailed coverage.
PHYS 3312 Classical Mechanics: (3 semester hours) Newton’s laws; collisions; two body problems and trajectories; Lagrangian formulation; rotational dynamics and the inertia tensor; rotating coordinate systems; gravitation. Prerequisite: PHYS 3311 or equivalent. (3-0) Y .
PHYS 5411 Classical Mechanics: (4 semester hours) A course that aims to provide intensive training in problem solving. Rigorous survey of Newtonian mechanics of systems, including its relativity principle and applications to cosmology; the ellipsoid of inertia and its eigenstructure, with applications, Poinsot’s theorem; Euler’s equations, spinning tops; Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formalism with applications; chaos, small oscillations, velocity dependent potentials, Lagrange multipliers and corresponding constraint forces, canonical transformations, Lagrange and Poisson brackets, Hamilton-Jacobi theory. (4-0) Y .
Comparison of the descriptions for undergraduate and graduate artificial intelligence courses provides another example of the progression from a basic introduction of the subject matter at the undergraduate level to applications requiring advanced analysis techniques at the graduate level.
CS 4365 Artificial Intelligence: (3 semester hours) Basic concepts and techniques that enable computers to perform intelligent tasks. Examples are taken from areas such as natural language understanding, computer vision, machine learning, search strategies and control, logic, and theorem proving. Prerequisites: CS 2336 and CS/SE 3345. (3-0) Y .
CS 6364 Artificial Intelligence: (3 semester hours) Design of machines that exhibit intelligence. Particular topics include: representation of knowledge, vision, natural language processing, search, logic and deduction, expert systems, planning, language comprehension, machine learning. Prerequisite: CS 5343. (3-0) Y .
The financial accounting course descriptions similarly illustrate how the undergraduate (AIM 2301) introductory concepts on preparing financial statements can be interpreted for use in business decision making (AIM 6201).
AIM 2301 (ACCT 2301) Introductory Financial Accounting: (3 semester hours) An introduction to business financial reporting designed to create an awareness of the accounting concepts and principles for preparing the three basic financial statements: the income statement, balance sheet, and statement of cash flows. The course is designed to benefit all business students who will be future users of accounting information. (3-0) S .
AIM 6201 Financial Accounting: (2 semester hours) This course explores the role of financial accounting information in the economy and explains how accounting information found in financial statements and annual reports is used in decision-making by investors, analysts, creditors and managers. (2-0) S .
Graduate degree coursework advances undergraduate understanding of the subject matter to a higher level. Fundamental courses, labeled using the 5000-level numbering scheme, effectively buffer the transition from undergraduate to more advanced graduate-level specialty courses (6000-level and above). Relevant undergraduate-level prerequisites are identified for many of the fundamental courses. Advanced 6000-level courses rely on the platform of the information covered in the fundamental courses. Each course numbering plateau defines more advanced content and increased requirements, and the progression continues through to the doctoral-level sequence. For example, 8000-level courses are oriented for independent research and professional practices by students with faculty supervision and are normally restricted (requiring instructor approval) to admitted or prospective doctoral-level students only.
A limited number of courses at UT Dallas are concurrent courses, which contain both undergraduates and graduate students. UT Dallas has a strict approval process for such courses . Approval for concurrent courses is given only when absolutely necessary to facilitate student progress toward a degree. Before an undergraduate and graduate course can be scheduled to be taught together, the requesting department provides a memorandum outlining the extraordinary circumstances necessitating such scheduling, a syllabus of the undergraduate course, and a syllabus of the graduate course clearly highlighting the differences in material covered and/or required assignments from the undergraduate course. This package must be endorsed by the dean of the school of the requesting unit. It must be subsequently routed, for approval, to the dean of undergraduate education, the dean of graduate studies, and the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost . Approval in one semester does not imply approval in subsequent semesters; the above process must be repeated each time a unit wishes to teach undergraduate and graduate courses together. Approval is only given if the graduate students in the class, as evidenced by the graduate syllabus, are doing substantially-advanced work and are having a true graduate experience. The largest number of these courses is in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences , where clinical training is an important component of most programs. The Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost’s assessment team, which monitors all syllabi, also monitors compliance with the approval process. Three samples of approved courses, including their syllabi, are included in the supporting documents below         .
In fall 2005, the Academic Senate began discussion of improving syllabi, and in the spring 2006 semester, syllabi templates   were developed that require, among other things, clearly stated student learning objectives for all courses . Each syllabus is reviewed by the provost’s assessment team to ensure that it follows the guidelines, e.g., that it contains a course description, grading scheme, student grievance policy, and student learning objectives (SLO’s). Once the syllabus is approved, it is then posted and made available via the online syllabus repository .
To facilitate in the writing of the objectives, the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) developed an Assessment Workbook that discusses Bloom’s Taxonomy and offers sample terms to demonstrate progression . Over three hundred copies have been distributed to the faculty, and the workbook is available on the web. CELT is working with individual faculty members and program heads to help instructors to write appropriate objectives for their classes using Bloom’s taxonomy .Graduation Requirements
The procedures required for the completion of graduate degrees are specified in Policy Memorandum 87-III.25-48, Procedures for Completing a Graduate Degree , and in the graduate catalog . The academic advisor in consultation with the student develops a degree plan and recommended sequencing of core and elective courses required for degree completion. The curriculum structure becomes progressively more advanced as students proceed from fundamental, core materials to advanced required courses and specialized elective options. Prerequisite requirements for fundamental courses identify background material often satisfied by undergraduate coursework.
The graduate catalog course descriptions evidence progressively complex and rigorous curriculum, both in the form of foundation courses taken prior to more advanced courses and specialty courses, and in program directives about sequencing. This escalation is evident in student degree plans. For example, the humanities degree plan for a (non-portfolio) 30 semester hour master’s degree indicates the sequencing (by semester) of the courses taken . Similarly, a representative computer science degree plan for a 33 semester hour master’s degree has a sequence of five 6000-level courses that define a core of 15 hours . Elective courses that are all also at the 6000-level complete the requirements. Admission prerequisites to this degree are fundamental courses at the 5000 level.
Degree plans that include thesis and dissertation completion requirements reflect the addition of research and thesis or dissertation courses. The degree plan for the M.S. and Ph.D. in molecular and cell biology demonstrates the rigorous advancement of content from the master’s degree to the Ph.D. degree, culminating in a dissertation . In this case, the master’s degree includes research and thesis hours. Fundamental courses are taken in the first year, followed progressively by 6000-level and research courses. Program progression is assured by the sequencing of courses in consultation with the student’s advisor as specified for each degree plan.Annual Assessment of Programs
UT Dallas has a rigorous process of program assessment which ensures that expected outcomes are clearly defined and measurable and are used for improving education. Each academic degree program at UT Dallas is assessed annually using UT Dallas’ web-based assessment tool, AT6. Deans, program heads, department heads, assessment officers, and other designated faculty work with the instructors to determine program objectives generated from program mission statements and to enter them, along with an assessment plan, into AT6. Faculty members annually review the plans and update them based on the findings in the annual assessment report. This process not only includes measurements and analyses but also evidence of progression. When entering the objectives into AT6, program heads (or whoever is entering the data) are asked to align the student learning objectives with specific outcomes such as “advanced knowledge,” “guided research,” “independent research,” “research and design,” and “independent thought .” Sample screenshots from seven UT Dallas graduate programs are included in the supporting documents to show how graduate programs have used the assessment process to ensure program progression       . Additional information about UT Dallas’ assessment process and additional sample annual assessment reports are available in the response to Principle 184.108.40.206 .
Finally, in preparation to respond to this principle regarding progression for SACS reaffirmation, UT Dallas reviewed all of its master’s and doctoral programs using a self-study report template that reviewed the program’s mission, identified benchmark programs, examined program design (including the requirements of the program and key elements of the curriculum), collected data on student participation and placement, and identified key learning outcomes for the program . The survey asked four particularly pertinent questions regarding progression:
- If UT Dallas offers a similar program at the undergraduate level, how is the post-baccalaureate program progressively more advanced in content?
- If there are courses of similar name or similar substantive content, how are the graduate courses progressively more advanced than those offered at the undergraduate level?
- Are there any situations in which undergraduates and graduate students are co-enrolled in their respective courses at the same time with the same instructor?
- If so, how is the learning experience more advanced for the graduate students?