Stopping the academic drift

Many college students are getting a credential, not an education, writes Carol Geary Schneider, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, in a guest post on College, Inc. Lumina Foundation‘s Degree Qualifications Profile will provide a mooring for students who are “academically adrift,” argues Schneider, who helped draft the framework.

The profile spotlights “what students actually do with their academic time in college,” calling for “a new regimen of practice and constantly applied learning to help students get back on course,” Schneider writes.

Drawing from hundreds of on-campus discussions across the U.S., the profile outlines the competencies students should develop and demonstrate through their specialized studies (the major), through broad, integrative studies (general education redefined) and by constant practice of intellectual skills such as analytical inquiry, use of information resources, engaging diverse perspectives, quantitative analysis and communication to different audiences.

The Degree Profile underscores the significance of “applied” learning, students’ ability to integrate their learning and apply it directly to problems that that matter in the economy and in global and civil society.

. . . students should apply their learning to real problems while in college — through projects, research, creative work, internships, involvement in community-based debates and problem-solving. Students should work on tasks, in other words, that both develop the skills they need and show what they actually can do with their knowledge.

The Degree Profile is a road map with a set of alternative routes, Schneider writes.

There are many ways that students can achieve the expected competencies — depending on what they choose to study in college — but whatever the route they choose, certain kinds of knowledge, skill, applied learning and civic problem-solving need to be acquired by the end of the journey-and demonstrated as the basis for the degree.

Using high-tech assessment tools, professors can track how well students are   developing and demonstrating the expected competencies.

Faculty can discover–before it’s too late — that Suzie is doing almost no writing; that Rafe (who took the one required math course as a duel enrollment while in high school) hasn’t done a single assignment using quantitative analysis since he entered college; and that neither of them knows much of anything about the global developments that are creating such turbulence in the economy and in democracy.

Professors will have to design assignments “to build students’ ability to tackle complex, unscripted problems,” Schneider writes. That could be a challenge.

POSTED BY Joanne Jacobs ON February 2, 2011

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What does a degree mean? — Joanne Jacobs

[...] Many college students get a credential but not an education, writes an author of the Lumina Foundation’s proposed framework for defining what competencies students should master. [...]

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