How can individual faculty members, departments, and institutions better understand what students are learning — and how they’re learning?
How can campuses use what they learn through new assessment methods to enrich the classroom experience and help students learn?
How can the many levels of assessment be integrated to improve our understanding of education in ACM colleges?
These are among the big questions that faculty and administrators from ACM colleges will discuss at “Missions, Majors, and Liberal Education: A Conference on Assessing Student Learning in the ACM” on September 11-12 at Ripon College. The conference is funded by the Teagle Foundation through a grant to Beloit, Knox, Monmouth and Ripon Colleges, and will focus on a variety of Teagle-supported projects at ACM colleges.
The Teagle Foundation, under its president W. Robert Connor, has been a major force in helping American colleges and universities improve their assessment practices. According to Connor, “Systematic, ground-up, faculty-led assessment, we believe, is one of the most powerful ways to improve student learning in the liberal arts. That’s why it is at the center of our grant making.”
The Foundation has been an active partner with the ACM in this work, and all of the ACM colleges have been involved in Teagle-funded projects in recent years through collaborations with each other, with ACM, and with colleges outside the ACM. Connor will be the keynote speaker for the conference’s opening evening.
The conference will take as its starting point the Teagle-funded project “Assessing the Value Added to Liberal Education by Academic Majors,” a three-year effort by Beloit, Knox, Monmouth, and Ripon Colleges. That project focused especially on assessing how general education goals — critical thinking, civic engagement, and quantitative reasoning — are enhanced by coursework and advising in selected majors and on identifying strategies for using the information collected to improve student learning and realize liberal education goals.
The conference provides the four colleges with an opportunity to share what they learned about these questions, while broadening the discussion to include colleagues involved in other ACM-Teagle projects. The result should be a better understanding of consortium-wide assessment efforts and an opportunity to discuss how ACM colleges can continue working together to turn assessment knowledge into action that improves student learning.
Currently, ACM has two consortial projects supported by grants from the Teagle Foundation.
- The ACM-Teagle Collegium seeks to deepen faculty members’ understanding of how students learn and, more specifically, how students acquire metacognitve skills and knowledge that are the hallmarks of education in the liberal arts and sciences. Faculty involved in the Collegium group will offer a workshop at the “Missions, Majors, and Liberal Education” conference, focusing on their classroom research into metacognition — especially how students’ ability to think about their thinking and to monitor their knowledge. The group will also help conference participants make the link between institutional assessment and classroom-based research into student learning.
- In the Teagle-supported Study Abroad Learning and Cost Alliance, ACM is working with the Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA) and the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts at Wabash College to better understand student learning in off-campus study programs — and then to strengthen learning outcomes for students on ACM programs.
For more information about the “Missions, Majors, and Liberal Education” conference, contact conference organizer, Marion Fass, Professor of Biology at Beloit College.