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Measuring Learning in Post-secondary Education

The shockwaves generated by the January release of the book, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, are still being felt as more professors, administrators, and policymakers are finding time to read more than the book’s jacket. The conversation about the quality of post-secondary education will continue as a result of a new framework released by the Lumina Foundation.

The Degree Qualifications Profile
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The Degree Profile offers a framework of specific student learning outcomes intended to transcend arbitrary distinctions between the pursuit of degrees in the arts and sciences and those in applied and professional fields. The framework spells out reference points for what students should be learning and demonstrating at each degree level in five areas: Broad, integrative knowledge; specialized knowledge; intellectual skills; applied learning; and civic learning.

The framework benchmarks the associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees, regardless of a student’s field of specialization. Doctorates are not included at this time because of their emphasis on advanced research skills specific to individual disciplines

A Degree Profile illustrates what students are expected to know and do across different degree levels (see Figure 1). Such frameworks are usually presented in a table or matrix that arrays an ascending sequence of credentials (e.g., associate, bachelor’s, master’s) on one axis, and specific areas of knowledge or performance (e.g., written communication, use of specialized tools, using data) on the other axis.

A spider map of five variables perceived to impact student learning outcomes: Broad, integrative knowledge; specialized knowledge; intellectual skills; applied learning; and civic learning.

Degree Profile

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, Two regional accreditors of higher education, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools’ Higher Learning Commission, and a private-college association, the Council of Independent Colleges, have already agreed to test Lumina’s proposed framework.

The Lumina Foundation for Education, an Indianapolis-based private foundation, is committed to enrolling and graduating more students from college — especially 21st century students: Low-income students, students of color, first-generation students and adult learners. Lumina’s goal is to increase the proportion of Americans who hold high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by 2025. Lumina pursues this goal in three ways: By identifying and supporting effective practice, through public policy advocacy, and by using our communications and convening power to build public will for change.

A key question for educators interested in universal design centers on how such a learning measurement system will inform universal design efforts? That is, will such the Degree Profile be useful for measuring the outcomes of universal design in education?