Dan Barrett's piece over the weekend in The Chronicle, "The Next Great Hope for Measuring Learning," deserves a close read. He describes in some detail a ground up effort by faculty and administrators across several institutions to define and measure what it is that students are learning and why it's important. In doing so, these faculty and administrators are moving beyond looking simply at content mastery and focusing on broader skills of quantitative reasoning, writing and critical thinking. It's forcing them to develop new approaches to reviewing student work, moving away from the idea of "grading" and toward "scoring" against a rubric that looks more sophisticated learning outcomes.
The effort, directed by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) – an active advocate in this space (see Michael’s earlier blog post, “Outcomes-Based Education and the Conservative Radicalism of the AAC&U”), is not without its skeptics, including many participants in the actual project. That said, the approach is being watched closely as a way for higher education to define and measure appropriate criteria that lead to improvements in teaching and learning while simultaneously speaking to accountability issues around which there is so much attention.
Like many promising initiatives in higher education recently highlighted by e-Literate, well thought out, collaboratively developed homegrown solutions usually trump those imposed by third parties working in isolation.
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