Teaching and Learning
The University of California provides its students with a rich learning environment created by faculty who are actively engaged in both teaching and academic research. Student learning experiences at UC involve classes, seminars and lab sections enhanced by opportunities to collaborate on hands-on research projects with experienced faculty and researchers. Through these activities, faculty and students engage in a learning process that helps students develop critical thinking, communication and problem-solving skills, as well as domain-specific knowledge that future employers value.
Educating students and the public
UC’s faculty are principally responsible for maintaining UC’s academic excellence and achieving student success. Crucial measures of faculty effectiveness are student graduation and retention rates, presented in detail in Chapter 3. This chapter focuses on the composition and workload of instructional staff — full-time permanent faculty, lecturers, visiting faculty, adjuncts and other instructors — across different academic disciplines and professional programs. This chapter also considers the learning experience of UC’s undergraduate students, reporting their engagement with faculty and their self-evaluation of their UC experience. A majority of students report improvement in academic skills and a deeper understanding of their chosen field of study.
Under California’s Master Plan for Higher Education, UC is responsible for educating professional and doctoral students. This chapter describes UC’s faculty involvement in awarding doctoral degrees and provides comparisons with other public and private members of the Association of American Universities (AAU).
Expanding learning opportunities beyond students on campus is an important contribution of UC and demonstrates the connection between the teaching and the public service missions of the university. UC Extension serves students through its adult professional and continuing education programs. In 2014–15, there were 430,000 UC Extension course registrations.
UC also operates a wide range of public education programs through the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR). One flagship program is the 4-H Youth Development Program, which provides enrichment education through inquiry-based learning to 300,000 youth statewide. 4-H projects and programs focus on citizenship, healthy living and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. Chapter 10 describes ANR’s community programs and statewide impact in more detail.
The future of instruction
The University of California is committed to continuous improvement of instruction, employing a broad range of pedagogical and assessment strategies to expand and enhance learning opportunities for all students and support student success. UC is significantly expanding its summer course offerings to reduce students’ time to degree and enrich their academic experience. UC also offers bridge experiences and orientation during summer to help incoming students transition into campus life and prepare them for the rigorous introductory courses in their fields of study.
UC continues to offer a growing number of online courses and online programs, expanding learning opportunities for UC and non-UC students. Through the UC cross-campus enrollment system, UC provides undergraduates increased access to high-demand, needed courses; this system gives students more flexibility in completing their degree. UC online courses are developed and taught by UC faculty at campuses across the system and provide UC credit based on departmental and programmatic requirements.
For non-UC students seeking higher education experiences, UC online education provides courses that span the discipline spectrum, from psychology to language and STEM courses. For students who are considering matriculation at a four-year university or are taking steps toward getting back to school, UC offers for-credit online courses that may transfer to other colleges and universities. UC Extension offers online continuing education courses, professional certificates and post-baccalaureate programs for those seeking to advance their education and to enhance their professional skills. There are currently seven fully online graduate programs at UC with many more planned.
In addition to online courses, UC leverages innovative instructional technologies to enhance instruction and promote student success. UC continues refining and developing high-quality hybrid courses using multimedia resources, high-quality videos and audio recordings, e-books, and other technology-based tools to enrich students’ learning experiences. UC follows best instructional practices for incorporating technology innovations into course design and focuses on creating online spaces that encourage collaborative learning and maximize faculty-student and peer-to-peer interactions. A number of UC courses utilize a flipped model of instruction, where lectures and other traditional classroom elements are provided online, and classroom time is dedicated to group discussions and problem-solving activities, and experiential exercises.
Data-driven learning and assessment are an integral part of UC’s use of technology tools to enhance instruction. Several UC campuses have adopted web-based assessment systems that use online conceptual models and adaptive learning tools to determine students’ knowledge quickly and accurately. Based on student responses to a series of questions, the software determines specific concepts or topics where each student needs the most support. Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces (ALEKS) uses web-based adaptive tools to provide undergraduates with individualized feedback and learning pathways in entry-level math and chemistry courses. As part of the 2015 state budget framework agreement, three UC campuses are engaged in a pilot study of the impact of adaptive learning technologies on student success and as a mechanism to strengthen instruction.
At UC, individual academic departments and degree programs are responsible for defining learning objectives and for assessing students’ progress toward meeting them. These objectives and assessments guide continual improvements in teaching and learning and are subject to scrutiny by external reviewers during program reviews conducted approximately every five years. In recent years, educational objectives and assessments have become a major focus of reviews conducted by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC), as well as by many other professional accrediting and related bodies.
As part of WSCUC accreditation, UC campuses assess five main core competencies of student learning: writing, oral communication, quantitative reasoning, information literacy and critical thinking. In addition to these core competencies, UC graduates are also expected to attain knowledge and skills specified by their program of study (Program Learning Outcomes). Information about Program Learning Outcomes is available on departmental websites, and each campus posts materials related to accreditation.
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In most disciplines, full-time permanent faculty constitute around half of the instructional workforce.
8.1.1 Instructional workforce FTE composition, by employee type and discipline, Universitywide 2014–15
Source: UC Corporate Personnel System1
In most disciplines at UC, full-time permanent faculty constitute about half of the instructional workforce. Some fields, however, require a different composition. Medical education, for example, relies more heavily for instruction on faculty who also have clinical roles; other faculty play a greater instructional role in the arts and humanities (e.g., writing and languages).
“Other faculty” in this indicator includes clinical faculty, most lecturers, adjuncts, faculty in residence and visiting faculty. “Student instructional assistants” refer to students acting in supporting roles, such as teaching assistants, readers and tutors. They typically lead labs and discussion sections for large lecture courses. The “Other academics” category includes administrators and researchers who have instruction functions.
Because full-time permanent faculty have scholarship and research experience, their instruction is a valuable part of a student’s learning experience. When faculty incorporate their early research results into their courses, UC students gain access to insights and discoveries even before they are available to the wider research community.
1Academic support staff, such as clerical staff, administration and advisers, including students working in these titles, are excluded. Data are for full-time-equivalent number of academic employees paid with instructional funds.
The student-faculty ratio has increased because faculty hiring has not kept pace with the increase in student enrollment.
8.1.2 General campus student-faculty ratio, Universitywide and UC campuses 2002–03 to 2014–15*
*A revised methodology for calculating the student-faculty ratio is used beginning in 2008–09. Previously, UC calculated this ratio by including only faculty supported by core funds (comprising state general funds, UC general funds, and tuition and fees). Starting with 2008–09, the ratio calculation includes faculty paid through all fund sources (other than self-supporting program fees). This change in methodology better reflects recent increased flexibility in use of fund sources to pay faculty.
Source: UC Information Center Data Warehouse
One widely used measure of academic quality is the student-faculty ratio. The student-faculty ratio reflects resources available for instruction and the average availability of faculty members to every student. Thus, lower ratios are preferable for students in terms of focused resources for instruction.
Because the student-faculty ratio varies considerably by degree, major and instructional level (lower-division, upper-division and graduate), student experiences will vary as well. Indicator 8.1.3 on student credit hours (SCH) provides additional insight into the student experience.
The student-faculty ratio has increased at various times in the University’s history and particularly in the last decade. During the most recent recession, campuses responded to uncertainty in state funding by delaying faculty hiring, or deciding not to fill vacant faculty positions on a permanent basis.
UC’s student-faculty ratio is at the highest level it has ever been and is also high relative to research universities of comparable quality.
As a group, full-time permanent faculty are teaching increasing numbers of student credit hours in both undergraduate and graduate levels.
8.1.3 Student credit hours, by instructional staff and class type, Universitywide, 2004–05 to 2014–15
Source: UC Faculty Instructional Activities dataset1
Student credit hours (SCH) represents the number of student enrollments in a course multiplied by the number of credits earned from that course. For example, a 4-credit class with 50 students generates 200 SCH; a 2-credit class of 15 students generates 30 SCH. This measure gives an indication of the relative teaching load across different types of instructors at different levels of instruction.
Over time, the full-time permanent faculty at UC have increased their teaching load and maintained contact with more undergraduate and graduate students. Overall, a larger number of student credit hours performed by full-time permanent faculty means students have additional opportunities to be taught by leading scholars in their disciplines.
Lower-division courses, such as writing, language and other required courses, are most often taught by lecturers; introductory courses to the major are most often taught by full-time permanent faculty. Upper-division courses, which are core to the student’s major, are more likely taught by full-time permanent faculty, as are graduate courses.
1 Data are for general campus courses only. These data are submitted annually by UC campuses and contain information on all general campus courses taught in that year.
As students progress through their academic careers and enroll in upper-division and graduate classes, they receive more consistent exposure to full-time permanent faculty and smaller classes.
8.1.4 Student credit hours, by instructional staff and class type and class size Universitywide, 2004–05 to 2014–15
Source: UC Faculty Instructional Activities dataset
In the lower division, full-time permanent faculty generally teach large lecture classes; nonpermanent faculty, such as lecturers, generally teach lecture sections and smaller classes. In the upper-division, student contact with full-time permanent faculty is fairly evenly distributed across classes of all sizes.
Graduate academic students are almost uniformly taught by full-time permanent faculty in classes with fewer than 50 students.
Overall, UC campuses confer more doctoral degrees per tenured and tenure-track faculty member than other AAU public institutions, and are on par with AAU private institutions.
8.2.1 Doctoral degrees awarded per 100 faculty (annual average), UC and comparison institutions, 2007–08 to 2011–12
Source: IPEDS and 24 non-UC Public and 16 Private AAU Institutions1
Doctoral degree production is an important measure of an academic research university’s strength in teaching and research. Each doctoral degree awarded represents one more highly skilled professional added to the workforce and contributing to the economic, cultural and social development of California, the nation and the world.
The current data reflect very favorably on UC faculty’s effectiveness in conferring doctoral degrees. Between 2007 and 2012, UC awarded 52 doctoral degrees per 100 faculty each year. In comparison, AAU public universities awarded 36 degrees per 100 faculty, and AAU private universities awarded 48 degrees per 100 faculty. In engineering and computer science, UC awarded 72 doctoral degrees per 100 faculty, while AAU public universities awarded 50 degrees per 100 faculty, and AAU private universities awarded 68 degrees per 100 faculty. Comparisons for the six AAU-member UC campuses are even more favorable.
UC has proportionally fewer terminal master’s degrees than other AAUs, meaning that UC faculty’s graduate instruction is more concentrated on doctorates and on master’s degrees leading to doctorates. The ratio shown here may also reflect differences in the way institutions define and count faculty in the data they report nationally. The data were calculated based on tenured and tenure-track faculty headcount.
1 UC campus data excludes UC San Francisco, an exclusively graduate health sciences campus.
Summer enrollment has increased since 2003.
8.3.1 Summer enrollment, Universitywide, 2003 to 2015
Source: UC campuses
Over a decade ago, the University of California began expanding summer instruction programs with full support and funding from the state. From 2003 to 2015, headcount and FTE summer enrollment increased by 15 percent and 18 percent, respectively. Summer enrollment growth has kept pace with UC overall enrollment, which grew by 25 percent over that 12-year period.
Across all UC campuses, many students enroll in summer session to finish the coursework required for graduation. Expanded summer sessions have contributed to notably increased four-year graduation rates.
The federal government does not provide Pell Grant funding for summer enrollment. Because 41 percent of UC students rely on Pell support (as of the 2014–15 academic year), these students may find it difficult to take advantage of summer classes and maintain timely progress to degree.
However, in an effort to eliminate financial hurdles and increase summer session access for all students, campuses continue to set aside a portion of summer revenues for financial aid. In summer 2015, campuses provided 28,422 students with $78 million in need-based financial aid, including $54 million in grants and scholarships. As part of the 2015 state budget agreement, three UC campuses are also piloting alternative pricing models for the 2016 summer session. These pilots will assess options to encourage more undergraduates to take more courses during the summer.
In addition, UC summer session supports 11,000 non-UC students, including many CSU and CCC students.
Research participation is high among UC’s graduates across racial/ethnic and gender groups.
8.4.1 Students completing a research project or research paper as part of their coursework, Universitywide graduating seniors, Spring 2014
8.4.2 Students assisting faculty with research, Universitywide graduating seniors, Spring 2014
One of the distinct benefits of attending an academic research university is the opportunity for students to conduct research, both through class research projects and by assisting faculty with their ongoing research.
Overall, undergraduate students self-report participating in research activities at a high rate. Data from the UC Undergraduate Experience Survey (UCUES) show that underrepresented racial/ethnic groups are involved in these activities at rates comparable to other groups. Women tend to be slightly more involved in research than men.
UC students report experiencing significant improvement between their freshman and senior years in their critical thinking skills, writing skills and understanding of their chosen field of study.
8.4.3 Self-reported skill levels from first year to graduation, Bachelor’s degree recipients who entered as freshmen, Universitywide, Spring 2014
The University of California Undergraduate Experience Survey (UCUES), which is conducted every two years, provides a valuable source of information on how UC undergraduates view their educational experience. These indicators also show student perception of how much they have developed core competencies of student learning.
Reflecting on their skill levels between their freshman and senior years, UC bachelor’s degree recipients self-report significant improvements with respect to critical thinking ability, writing and understanding of their chosen field of study.
UC is a significant provider of post-college continuing education to Californians.
8.5.1 Continuing education enrollments in extension programs, Universitywide, 2002–03 to 2014–15
UC Extension is the largest continuing education program in the nation. It provides courses to individuals who want to continue their education beyond their undergraduate studies, advance in their professions, change careers, engage in further academic pursuits and improve their skills in current or new endeavors. Extension’s highly diverse range of courses offers specialized programs of study, and provides both credit and noncredit certificate programs.
UC Extension is completely self-supporting. Each campus extension division addresses the particular educational needs of its geographic area. For example, UC Riverside Extension offers a Turfgrass Management Certification program; UC Davis Extension offers a Winemaking Certificate Program.
Extension enrollment fluctuates with the economy; enrollment numbers decreased during the 2007–09 recession and have increased since 2010–11. There was a steep increase in noncredit enrollment in 2013-14 because outreach in-service courses were included for the first time. These programs may satisfy continuing-education requirements of public agencies and professional associations but do not convey UC Academic Senate-approved credit.