This Week's Message
Please join me in congratulating Michael Nolan and Tim Schermer, who have together now completed final reports on the work of a four-year Teagle Foundation grant. In this effort, we worked with five other Midwest Alliance for Learning in the Liberal Arts (MALLA) colleges --Alma, Gustavus, Illinois Wesleyan, Luther and Wittenberg--to study the value added by our institutions in the areas of writing, critical thinking and civic engagement. I've highlighted some of the most interesting findings below; see the attached reports for more information.
Mike served as principal investigator of the grant, and Tim led institutional research efforts for the six colleges involved in the study. Below you will find a summary of our findings; as you will see, we have much to build upon from the data.
Our work through this Teagle grant has led to two subsequent grants in the last few years. In addition to the funding, these grants are important recognition of the work of Augustana faculty. Many thanks to all of those who have participated!
MALLA Civic Engagement of Alumni 1997 and 2002
MALLA Civic Engagement Analysis College Senior Survey 2007-2008
MALLA Collegiate Learning Assesment Value Added Report
MALLA Longitudinal Writing and Critical Thinking
Summary of Findings
Writing and Critical Thinking
In our longitudinal study of writing and critical thinking at the first-year and junior or senior levels we looked at looked at results of the national Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) exam and our reading of student papers written for regular course work. We found:
- A pattern of evidence of value-added growth in both writing and critical thinking for our students that would indicate the six MALLA institutions on average were achieving growth at or above levels indicated by the best available national comparative data.
- For our reading of senior papers last June, average scores varied significantly by major. Across all six schools, English and foreign language majors had the highest average scores for the papers assessed, and business and education majors had the lowest average scores. After controlling for major and other student and paper characteristics, the differences for the six MALLA institutions were minimal.
- Results from the 2008/9 Collegiate Learning Assessment exam showed that growth in writing and critical thinking for the MALLA students is above the national average; five of the six institutions scored in the top 9% of institutions using the CLA based on their total score, and well above average for scores adjusted for student SAT scores.
As you will recall, the primary focus of the final year of our study was civic engagement, and we are collectively encouraged by our results. The MALLA institutions are doing excellent work in preparing and motivating students for civic engagement, and are having a significant impact on the development of students' civic values. Among our findings from our alumni survey:
- MALLA alumni are engaged in voting and volunteer activities at rates well above those indicated by national data for the general population.
- The rich set of extracurricular activities that we provide has a positive effect: such activity among our students correlates with engagement in civic engagement among alumni. Service learning appears to be particularly effective in encouraging involvement as alumni in civic organizations that address societal problems.
- Structural and curricular diversity in a broad sense (racial/ethnic, gender, religious, political, etc.) is valuable for the development of civic values and engagement. The curriculum, co‐curriculum, and faculty pedagogy should promote positive interactions among persons of heterogeneous backgrounds, and challenge students with ideas that are different from their own.
- Students in certain majors, particularly business/accounting and the natural sciences, may be missing experiences that would be helpful in developing civic engagement values and skills, and we might investigate ways to encourage their participation.
- Fraternities and sororities may impede development of civic values if they isolate students into homogeneous groups that enable students to avoid exposure to students with different backgrounds and opinions, or emphasize social status over social values.
- Our foreign study programs, intercollegiate athletic programs and campus ministries programs have evidenced potential for promoting civic values and skills. We should consider their impact as we alter or develop these programs
Finally, we have gained additional evidence that 'high impact practices' are effective in deepening civic engagement. There appears to be a positive association between study abroad, internships, independent study, and off‐campus employment and higher alumni civic involvement. We need further study to understand the causes of these associations and how these programs might be designed to utilize their full potential with regard to encouraging alumni civic engagement, and we are just now planning a proposal to the Spencer Foundation to continue the work that Teagle funding has started.