Wabash National Study 2010

The College of Charleston was selected by the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts at Wabash College to participate in a nationwide examination of student learning and the liberal arts. The Center’s work has put it at the forefront of research efforts on student learning outcomes linked to the curriculum of the liberal arts and sciences, and it provides coaching to other institutions through funding from the Lilly and Teagle Foundations.

The Center periodically invites proposals for research from other institutions that identify an area of student learning to which the institution is committed. Campuses are expected to propose a challenging project, mine the data they have on hand, collect new data, and implement changes in curricular and co-curricular programs and offerings. Students, faculty, and staff are all involved in this process.

Research Questions proposed by the College of Charleston

How, when, and under what conditions does integrated learning occur:

  1. in the First Year Experience?
  2. in other high impact learning experiences such as senior capstone, undergraduate research, internship/field placement, global immersion, study  abroad, and community engagement?
  3. in interdisciplinary minors, majors, and programs of study?

To address integrative learning, the College is employing the definition of integrative learning authored by the Association of American Colleges and Universities:

“Integrative learning is an understanding and a disposition that a student builds across the curriculum and cocurriculum, from making simple connections among ideas and experiences to synthesizing and transferring learning to new examples, complex situations within and beyond the campus.”

Initial research involves the first year experience courses: freshman seminars and learning communities (two linked courses). These courses were selected because they are foundational.  The later intention, over the course of a few years, is to examine integrative learning evidence found in study abroad, internships, leadership opportunities and civic engagement opportunities. Excavation  of learning artifacts from career planning and major capstone courses will be included as well.

Proposed Outcomes

  • Outcome 1: Students will demonstrate integrative learning skills through their FYE coursework based on the AAC&U Value Rubric (Expectation: scores will fall within the levels of 1 and 2 on a 4 point continuum where 0 is a possible score for the elements “connections to experience” and “connections to discipline”).
  • Outcome 2: Students will demonstrate integrative learning skills through a study abroad/ global immersion experience based on the AAC&U Value Rubric. (Expectation: scores will fall within the levels of 2 and 4 on a 4 point continuum where 0 is a possible score for the elements “transfer” and “reflection and self-assessment”).

Direction for Institutional Change

One of the main goals of participation in The Wabash National Study is to focus on the formative use of evidence to promote institutional changes. Thus, the following question is proposed for consideration as the assessment study proceeds:

How can the infrastructure for these elements (in particular, FYE and study abroad) be changed to promote better quality integrated learning?