By Dr. George D. Kuh, Chancellor’s Professor Emeritus at Indiana University–Bloomington, and Director, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA)
Good on Doug Lederman at Inside Higher Ed for bringing us up to speed on recent developments related to the six-year old Voluntary System Accountability (VSA). Even though much of what we find today in the way of assessment tools and approaches was either being used on college campuses or on the drawing board prior to 2007, the VSA undoubtedly pushed some aspects of the work further along than would have happened if matters were left to individual institutions. This is surely the case with regard to transparency, a feature of public accountability to which I will return to later. Read the rest of this entry »
This guest blog was written by Grace Taylor, a second year student in the Master of Science in Higher Education Program at Florida International University. Ms. Taylor attended AAC&U’s Network for Academic Renewal Conference, Student Success and the Quality Agenda, held April 4–6, 2013 in Miami, Florida, and blogged about her experience.
This blog post is a reflection of her experience attending the plenary presentation, “An Anti-Deficit Approach to Equity, Excellence, and Student Success,” delivered by Shaun Harper, director of the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education at the University of Pennsylvania. Read the rest of this entry »
This guest blog post was coauthored by Madeleine F. Green, senior program consultant, and Annie W. Bezbatchenko, program director, both at the Teagle Foundation.
Trying to “make the case” for liberal education is not new. We in higher education often think that if we could just articulate our message more persuasively or more frequently, the public and prospective students would see the light. They would understand that higher education is not just about transmitting information; that workforce preparation is one among many outcomes of a college education; and that the knowledge, skills, and habits of mind acquired through a liberal education will serve students for a lifetime of further learning, work, and productive citizenship. And they would understand why we do things the way we do—why there are certain requirements for a degree, or why professors give the grades that they do.
Yet higher education in general, and liberal education in particular, seems to be losing the battle of persuasion. The high costs and outcomes that may be unclear to the general public, coupled with the growing inclination to measure the success of a college education in terms of immediate earning power, suggest that we need some new strategies. A potential group of powerful spokespersons for a liberal education is students themselves. But they are not always able to do this, especially during their college years. If their education is to be truly meaningful, students should be able to see and communicate the value of liberal education while they are experiencing it. To do this, they would need to have a coherent picture of a curriculum and understand how the pieces fit together. Read the rest of this entry »
This blog post was coauthored by Susan Albertine, AAC&U Vice President, Diversity, Equity, and Student Success; Daniel Maxey, Dean’s Fellow in Urban Education Policy, Pullias Center for Higher Education at the University of Southern California (USC); and Adrianna Kezar, Associate Professor, Higher Education, USC.
The American professoriate has fundamentally shifted over the past few decades. We now see a predominantly contingent workforce, with two-thirds of positions held by faculty off the tenure track. This change raises significant questions about working conditions for non-tenure-track faculty—and connections between the quality of their working conditions and the quality of student learning outcomes.
By Rebecca Frost Davis, Program Officer for the Humanities, National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE)
The theme of this year’s annual meeting, “Innovations, Efficiencies, and Disruptions—To What Ends?,” includes rapid technological advancement in the list of challenges facing higher education today. This advancement offers alternative delivery methods that promise to lower costs but also require substantial investment in infrastructure. It promises to enhance learning both in and out of the classroom. At the same time, new digital methodologies are changing the face of the disciplines and reshaping academic practice. Our students face a world in which knowledge is created and shared by both amateurs and professionals, in multiple media, across digital networks, spanning domains and communities. Living, working, and civically engaging in this context is materially different than it was fifty years ago. In particular, the change in agency in this participatory culture challenges existing professional expertise by democratizing the creation of knowledge. At the same time, the openness and dissemination enabled by digital networks threatens the traditional model of higher education—content experts passing knowledge in a controlled setting down to their students—by having one expert sharing expertise with everyone’s students. Combined with alternative methods of credentialing, such as badges, competencies, or prior learning assessments, these developments put pressure on one of the core elements of the higher education business model.
So, how should those committed to liberal education react and to what ends? Before we ask that question, we must take a step back and recognize how technology is used today in debates about higher education. While technology is an aspect or even a tool enabling the changes I described above, technology itself is not to blame for those changes. As the annual meeting description notes, other challenges include globalization, demographic change, renegotiated political and economic relationships, as well as calls for accountability and affordability. Often, however, we see technology or a particular development strongly linked to technology used as a symbol to represent all of those other changes and then dismissed out of hand. For example, the session “How Much Technology is Enough? Critical Encounters with the ‘New Literacies,’” depicted those calling for changes to higher education through the inclusion of digital media as “techno-utopians” who use bullying language when arguing that our culture has already irrevocably changed and higher education must adapt. While I heard with dismay some of my favorite thought-leaders labeled in this way, this session also helped me realize that such calls from the “techno-utopians” too often (whether intentionally or not) reinforce a simple binary of technology and liberal education rather than promoting a sincere engagement.
The relentless push to increase “efficiency” in both higher education and government continues apace. Unfortunately, as is often the case these days, the focus on efficiency is also leading to an abundance of misinformation and short-term thinking. Many have probably already heard about various governors calling for redirecting funds away from “useless” fields like Anthropology or Gender Studies. Representative Eric Cantor called this week for a halt to all government spending on “the social sciences.” AAC&U’s President Carol Geary Schneider makes clear the dangers posed to our economy and our democracy by these “posturings” by politicians in a recent op-ed in Inside Higher Ed.
Readers of this blog will, of course, likely know that AAC&U has worked hard through our LEAP initiative for a long time to help higher education do a better job of educating students, parents, and others outside of our institutions about the continuing value of the learning outcomes developed through liberal education—and through well-designed majors in a variety of fields, including the humanities and social sciences. We obviously still have much work to do! The new innovation-driven, global, and knowledge-intensive economy clearly demands the cognitive powers and ethical responsibilities developed in and through study in the liberal arts and sciences. Read the rest of this entry »
By: Dwight L. Smith, Vice President of Academic Affairs, County College of Morris, New Jersey
The Common Core Standards and the development of the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers) assessments present higher education institutions with opportunities and challenges in the next couple of years. Intended to improve the career and college readiness of graduating high school students, the standards and accompanying assessments have the potential to provide better information about the prior learning of the students entering a college or university. A project at Drew University focusing on non-cognitive factors that could be used in predicting student success suggests that these factors need to be included when considering a student’s college readiness. These non-cognitive factors are also being considered by New Jersey community colleges as they implement the “Decision Zone” policy to improve placement decisions in developmental education.
The University of Maryland system is providing leadership in partnering with the Maryland K-12 systems to establish high expectations for student preparation to improve student success. As the Common Core Standards and PARCC assessments are implemented in the next couple of years, universities will have the opportunity to strengthen pedagogical content knowledge of disciplinary faculty, teacher preparation, and in-service programs. Initial PARCC assessment results scheduled for 2015 will provide baseline data for the K-12 and university systems to determine student learning strengths and opportunities for improvement. Read the rest of this entry »
By: Alison Byerly, Professor at Middlebury College, Visiting Scholar at MIT; and Incoming President of Lafayette College (July 2013)
Last week’s AAC&U session on “The Economic Future of Liberal Arts Colleges” has already been described in Inside Higher Ed (IHE) as a bombshell that stunned the sizable audience into “uncomfortable silence.” The centerpiece of the session was a presentation by Charles Blaich and Kathy Wise of a comparison of data about college expenses from the Delta Cost Project with data about learning outcomes from the Wabash National Study. They posed two questions: Are some institutions more effective than others at offering a high-quality academic experience with fewer resources? And more generally, what is the cost-benefit balance between a high-quality environment and cost? The answer was summed up by IHE in the title of its article on the session: “Not Getting What They Pay For.” Read the rest of this entry »
By: Rebecca Frost Davis, Program Officer for the Humanities, National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE)
Friday morning at the 2013 AAC&U Annual Meeting, I attended a series of HEDs Up presentations, a format inspired by TED talks. I’ve found these to be a refreshing break from most conference papers—even those at AAC&U, which are often more interactive than other conferences—because they are designed to be engaging and entertaining. The brief time limit—just ten minutes—means that speakers must focus on one core message. This format offers the chance to communicate your beliefs about issues that really matter to you, your core ideas, your big questions.
By: Dwight L. Smith, Vice President of Academic Affairs, County College of Morris, New Jersey
One session from this year’s Annual Meeting offered an interesting report from an effort to improve articulation of general education between two-year colleges and four-year universities in California. Using the LEAP Essential Learning Outcomes and the Degree Qualifications Profile as directional signs, California State University–Northridge and Pierce College have created three interdisciplinary general education paths for students through social justice, global studies, and sustainability. Rather than creating new courses, these three paths utilize existing general education courses. As an added incentive to students, five of the six courses in a path leading to an interdisciplinary minor can be completed at the community college (Pierce) with the sixth completed at CSU–Northridge—a setup which has been met with positive student response.