UMW QEP Outcomes, Nov 10, 2011

Areas of Focus with Learning Outcomes (November 10, 2011)

At the 11/10 meeting, we agreed to focus on the items in bold.

1.  Communicate effectively in written and oral forms

  • (ideas) Students will demonstrate satisfactory knowledge of the varying strategies to convey arguments, main ideas and support/evidence
  • (organization) Students will demonstrate satisfactory knowledge of the varying patterns of composition, organization, and development
  • (appropriate writer’s voice) Students will demonstrate satisfactory knowledge of appropriate voice, tone, and rhetorical strategies for a specified audience
  • (process) Students will demonstrate satisfactory knowledge of the writing process
  • [Oral outcomes based on speaking intensive outcomes]

2.  Evaluate critically academic and non-academic material

  • Students will be able to synthesize and analyze information from sources to develop a coherent position
  • Students will be able to identify competing positions, supporting premises, and background assumptions of arguments
  • Students will be able to develop conclusions based on evidence and reason

3.  Take responsibility for achieving their educational and personal goals within the Liberal Arts context

  • Students will be able to complete required work and identify and take advantage of opportunities to expand knowledge, skills and abilities.
  • Students will engage in opportunities that help them explore the role that the liberal arts play in their educational and personal development
  • Students will be able to articulate the main goals of a liberal arts education.

4.  Improve learning, personal reflection and respect for diverse people through cooperative engagement/teamwork

  • Students will be able to provide assistance and encouragement to team members
  • Students will demonstrate the ability to identify conflict but work towards a common goal
  • Students will be able to meet deadlines in order to complete group projects
  • Students will be able to facilitate their contribution to group work by restating the views of others and/or asking questions of group members for clarification.

5.  Develop standards of personal integrity and ethical behavior

  • Students will participate in civic-engagement activities generated from course requirements
  • Students will be able to articulate the honor code and identify its importance in the values of the University
  • Students will have the opportunity to reflect on their own attitudes and beliefs to see how they may be different from those of other cultures and communities.

Areas of focus / learning outcomes. (October 20, 2011)

Short list of QEP focus areas

1. Communicate effectively in written and oral forms

2. Evaluate critically academic and non-academic material

3. Take responsibility for and achieve their educational and personal goals by engaging in the Liberal Arts

4. Improve learning, personal reflection, and increased respect for diverse people through collaboration with other students and faculty in and outside of the classroom.

5. Develop standards of personal integrity and demonstrate ethical behavior. Act as engaged and informed citizens.

More Details on our QEP Focus Areas

This document presents our current list of “areas of focus.”  These five (5) areas of focus are what we have called outcomes.  These statements are not yet specific enough to be learning outcomes.  We changed our terms during the meeting on 10/20/2011.  Before looking at our current areas of focus, we should understand that our areas of focus are the same focuses that many colleges and universities consider important areas of learning for all students.  Below is an extended quote from the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU 2002, Greater Expectations).  The AACU actively promotes a program called Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP).  Their program and outcomes were generated by thousands of conversations with faculty from colleges and universities across the U.S. This statement places our areas of focus in a broader context.  In addition, the idea of “intentional learner” sounds much like the conversation we had toward the end of our meeting on 10/20/2011.  That is to say, we all agreed that we want all of our students to be learners.

“The education all students need prepares them for personal success and fosters a just, democratic society. The panel believes that the elements of such an education can bring together the many expectations various groups hold for college study. The central question is simple: What should all students be learning in college? No matter their aspirations or prior preparation, what will all graduates require to lead personally fulfilling and socially responsible lives? What learning should result from an undergraduate education of quality, whether gained from study at a selective liberal arts college, an urban university, an open enrollment community college for part-time adults, online courses, or a combination of them all?

Though easily framed, the question is not easily answered. By raising substantive issues, it looks for a response that goes far beyond a simple list of courses completed or books read.

The [AACU] panel recommends that colleges and universities place new emphasis on educating students to become intentional learners. In a turbulent and complex world, every college student will need to be purposeful and self-directed in multiple ways. Purpose implies clear goals, an understanding of process, and appropriate action. Further, purpose implies intention in one’s actions. Becoming such an intentional learner means developing self-awareness about the reason for study, the learning process itself, and how education is used. Intentional learners are integrative thinkers who can see connections in seemingly disparate information and draw on a wide range of knowledge to make decisions. They adapt the skills learned in one situation to problems encountered in another: in a classroom, the workplace, their communities, or their personal lives. As a result, intentional learners succeed even when instability is the only constant. For intentional learners, intellectual study connects to personal li e, formal education to work, and knowledge to social responsibility. Through understanding the power and implications of education, learners who are intentional consciously choose to act in ethical and responsible ways. Able to place themselves in the context of a diverse world, these learners draw on difference and commonality to produce a deeper experience of community.”

I will restate our current areas of focus.  Following each area of focus, I give the perspective and / or words used by AACU for each area of focus.  I find these statements help clarify and focus our intentions.

1. By the end of the first year, students will be able to communicate in writing and orally better than their college entry level and at a level appropriate for rising sophomores.  Appropriate levels to be decided.

The AACU has an almost identical statement. Communication skills fall within the AACU’s intellectual and practical skills” category (AACU 2005, Liberal Education Outcomes).  Students will effectively communicate in diverse settings and groups, using written, oral, and visual means, and in more than one language (AACU 2002, Greater Expectations).

2. By the end of the first year, students will be able to critically evaluate academic and non-academic material better than their college entry level and at a level appropriate for rising sophomores.  Appropriate levels to be decided.

Critical thinking skills fall within the AACU “intellectual and practical skills” category (AACU 2005, Liberal Education Outcomes).  Critical thinking is a habit of mind characterized by the comprehensive exploration of issues, ideas, artifacts, and events before accepting or formulating an opinion or conclusion.  Critical thinking requires interpreting, evaluating, and using information discerningly from a variety of sources (AACU, Critical Thinking Value Rubric).

[This is a combination of statements 3,4, and 6.]
3. By the end of the first year, students will explore a broad-based liberal arts education

  • by engaging in coursework that enhances their understanding of the sciences and liberal arts
  • engaging in opportunities that help them explore the role that the liberal arts plays in their educational and personal development
  • learn how to identify, take responsibility for, and achieve their educational and personal goals, at a level appropriate for rising sophomores.  Appropriate levels to be decided.

AACU and Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) program describes these ideas as foundations and skills for “lifelong learning.”   The AACU and LEAP include all of the knowledge and skills areas we have describe as part of liberal education, not just the focus areas we numbered 3, 4, and 6.  Their description of lifelong learning fits our ideas of 1) educational and personal development and 2) learning to identify, take responsibility for, and achieve educational and personal goals.  Lifelong learning is “all purposeful learning activity, undertaken on an ongoing basis with the aim of improving knowledge, skills and competence”. An endeavor of higher education is to prepare students to be this type of learner by developing specific dispositions and skills while in school.  The skills and dispositions involved in lifelong learning are curiosity, transfer [of knowledge], independence, initiative, and reflection (AACU, Foundations And Skills For Lifelong Learning Value Rubric).

4. By the end of the first year, students will collaborate with other students and faculty in and outside of the classroom.  Collaboration leads to improved learning, personal reflection, and increased respect for diverse people.

The AACU called these ideas teamwork and these ideas fall in the “intellectual and practical skills” category (AACU 2005, Liberal Education Outcomes).  Teamwork is defined as “behaviors under the control of individual team members (effort they put into team tasks, their manner of interacting with others on team, and the quantity and quality of contributions they make to team discussions.)”  Collaboration is also considered a “high impact practice (Kuh 2008, High Impact Educational Practices). “Collaborative learning combines two key goals: learning to work and solve problems in the company of others, and sharpening one’s own understanding by listening seriously to the insights of others, especially those with different backgrounds and life experiences. Approaches range from study groups within a course, to team-based assignments and writing, to cooperative projects and research.

5. By the end of the first year, students will develop standards of personal integrity and demonstrate ethical behavior, at a level appropriate for rising sophomores.  Students will act as engaged and informed citizens.  Appropriate levels are to be decided.

The AACU presents these ideas in their category called “individual and social responsibility.” The AACU splits our single focus statement into “civic responsibility and engagement,” and “ethical reasoning.”

Civic engagement is “working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes.” (Excerpted from Civic Responsibility and Higher Education, edited by Thomas Ehrlich, published by Oryx Press, 2000, Preface, page vi.) In addition, civic engagement encompasses actions wherein individuals participate in activities of personal and public concern that are both individually life enriching and socially beneficial to the community (AACU, Civic Engagement Value Rubric).

Ethical reasoning is reasoning about right and wrong human conduct. It requires students to be able to assess their own ethical values and the social context of problems, recognize ethical issues in a variety of settings, think about how different ethical perspectives might be applied to ethical dilemmas and consider the ramifications of alternative actions. Students’ ethical self identity evolves as they practice ethical decision-making skills and learn how to describe and analyze positions on ethical issues.

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