This Week's MessageAs we work to improve student learning and articulate the value of a liberal arts education, it has become clear that we need to make explicit the educational and developmental outcomes of an Augustana education. Collectively we need to craft a clearly-articulated statement that outlines our essential learning outcomes. This means going beyond broad mission statements or other planning documents to spell out what we endeavor to deliver-what cognitive, affective, and interpersonal skills and dispositions students can expect to develop over the course of four years at Augustana College, irrespective of the major(s) they choose or the activities in which they participate.
We need to develop this document now for three reasons. First and foremost, we need to clearly communicate the outcomes of an Augustana education to our students and their families so they understand the value of the education we offer.
Second, an agreed upon set of learning outcomes will allow: a) both curricular and co-curricular programs to clarify the ways in which programmatic learning outcomes contribute to the educational goals of the college, and b) programs to identify opportunities for synergy across the curricular and co-curricular landscape to improve student learning.
Finally, a clear statement of college-wide learning outcomes mapped to our curriculum is required by the Higher Learning Commission prior to our next accreditation visit in 2015-16. Moreover, Augustana College is a public signatory of the Presidents' Commitment to the New Leadership Alliance for Student Learning and Accountability, a nationally-recognized commitment to prioritize student learning and continuously work to improve the educational quality of the institution. A set of college-wide outcomes is an important piece of such a commitment.
Fortunately, much of the preliminary work for such a document has already been done. Over the years, our faculty have developed learning outcomes in the processes of developing AGES, Senior Inquiry and several new majors and programs. Mark Salisbury has compiled these learning outcomes into a "draft I SLO document" that has been circulated widely. To move this document to the next stage, reflecting our collective goals for our students' educational and developmental outcomes, the Assessment for Improvement Committee (AIC) will work with the Gen Ed Committee and EPC to develop a draft II document that will be presented to Faculty Senate at the end of spring term. In the fall of 2012, we will continue this conversation with departments and all faculty members, with the intention of approving a final document by December 2012. This effort is not related to the current curricular realignment discussion; we need to undertake this assignment irrespective of the college calendar.
In the recent past, Augustana College has received substantial national recognition as a leader in using its assessment data to improve the quality of its students' education. Collectively developing a college-wide set of student learning outcomes will help us deliver on our promise to students and provide a clear message about the value of an Augustana liberal arts education.