Association of American Colleges and Universities announced today a new project supported with funding from the Lumina Foundation for Education and designed to advance systemic change in eight higher education state systems. The Quality Collaboratives Initiative will provide $880,000 in direct funding to state systems and individual institutions for faculty and state system leaders and assessment experts to test ways to assure that students can demonstrate achievement of essential competencies across all areas and levels of learning, regardless of where they begin or end their educational journeys. This project is part of Lumina Foundation's beta testing of the value of a shared Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP).
"We must ensure that all students—including those from traditionally underrepresented groups and those who begin at a two-year institution but seek to transfer to a four-year institution—achieve the most important outcomes of a liberating college education," said AAC&U President Carol Geary Schneider. "AAC&U is very pleased to build on our prior work on learning outcomes, assessment, curricular change, and transfer and use the DQP as a vehicle to increase the quality of student learning. This ground-breaking project will help chart a path by which we can increase completion rates while we also raise students' levels of achievement. Our students' hopes for their futures depend specifically on the breadth and quality of their learning in college."
Quality Collaboratives is a three-year project that is part of AAC&U's ongoing Liberal Education and America's Promise (LEAP) initiative. Beginning in October 2011, it will engage teams of educational, assessment, and policy leaders in California, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Oregon, Utah, Wisconsin, and Virginia. Two- and four-year institutions in each of these states have already been working extensively within the LEAP network of projects, states, and institutions on issues of learning outcomes, curricular change, high-impact practices, and assessment. They will all build on these prior efforts to clarify, map, assess, and improve the achievement of learning outcomes essential for success in life, work, and citizenship in the twenty-first century.
The project is built on a consensus framework of learning outcomes—articulated in the DQP—that charts levels of competence which every college student should achieve and integrate in five areas: broad and specialized knowledge, intellectual skills, applied learning, and civic learning.
Using this framework, the project will test a family of assessment approaches that assess learning demonstrated in samples of students' actual work. This family of approaches will help campuses develop educational practices that:
— Help students achieve essential outcomes at appropriately high levels;
— Document students' attainment of outcomes; and
— Facilitate students' transfer of courses and competencies from two-year institutions to four-year institutions on their way to completing college degrees.
"It is exciting that so many states and campuses are eager to explore and develop measures of achievement for all students," said AAC&U Vice President and QC Project Director Terry Rhodes. "It is recognition in higher education, echoed by employers, that it isn't enough to simply earn a degree, but essential that the quality of learning and level of competence also be an integral part of determining degree attainment."
Quality Collaboratives will be led by Rhodes, with additional leadership from AAC&U Vice Presidents Susan Albertine and Debra Humphreys and two esteemed panels of advisers.
A Policy Advisory Board will include:
Michelle Asha Cooper, president, Institute for Higher Education Policy;
Peter Ewell, vice president, National Center for Higher Education Management Systems;
Paul Lingenfelter, president, State Higher Education Executive Officers;
Jane Wellman, executive director, National Association of System Heads and the Delta Project on Postsecondary Education Costs, Productivity and Assessment
Garrison Walters, executive director, South Carolina Commission on Higher Education; and one policy leader from each participating state.
An Assessment Advisory Board will include:
Trudy Banta, professor of higher education and senior advisor to the chancellor for academic planning and evaluation, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis;
Charles Blaich, director of inquiries, Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts at Wabash College;
Helen Chen, research scientist, Stanford Center for Innovations in Learning, and co-facilitator of Electronic Portfolio Action and Communication, Stanford University;
Kent Phillippe, associate vice president, research and student success, American Association of Community Colleges;
Deborah Santiago, vice president for policy and research, Excelencia in Education; and one assessment leader from each participating state.
Two national experts will also support the work of the project. They include Judith Ramaley, president of Winona State University, and Gary Brown, director of the Center for Online Learning, Portland State University, who will provide additional leadership on issues of policy and faculty leadership and on assessment.
The QC initiative will result in:
— A set of new national reporting templates and strategies for assessing student competence on essential learning outcomes for use in student transfer;
— Recommended practices, models, and demonstration sites for institutionally fostering faculty leadership; and
— Recommended practices, policies, and examples for incorporating evidence of students' demonstrated competence on a range of learning outcomes within transfer policies and priorities.
Founded in 1915, AAC&U now comprises more than 1,250 member institutions, including accredited public and private colleges and universities. The organization focuses on the quality, vitality, and public standing of undergraduate liberal education.