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Improving Quality in American Higher Education: Learning Outcomes and Assessments for the 21st Century

Improving Quality in American Higher Education: Learning Outcomes and Assessments for the 21st Century

Richard Arum, Josipa Roksa, Amanda Cook

ISBN: 978-1-119-26850-5 May 2016 Jossey-Bass 352 Pages


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An ambitious, comprehensive reimagining of 21st century higher education

Improving Quality in American Higher Education outlines the fundamental concepts and competencies society demands from today's college graduates, and provides a vision of the future for students, faculty, and administrators. Based on a national, multidisciplinary effort to define and measure learning outcomes—the Measuring College Learning project—this book identifies 'essential concepts and competencies' for six disciplines. These essential concepts and competencies represent efforts towards articulating a consensus among faculty in biology, business, communication, economics, history, and sociology—disciplines that account for nearly 40 percent of undergraduate majors in the United States. Contributions from thought leaders in higher education, including Ira Katznelson, George Kuh, and Carol Geary Schneider, offer expert perspectives and persuasive arguments for the need for greater clarity, intentionality, and quality in U.S. higher education.

College faculty are our best resource for improving the quality of undergraduate education. This book offers a path forward based on faculty perspectives nationwide:

  • Clarify program structure and aims
  • Articulate high-quality learning goals
  • Rigorously measure student progress
  • Prioritize higher order competencies and disciplinarily grounded conceptual understandings

A culmination of over two years of efforts by faculty and association leaders from six disciplines, this book distills the national conversation into a delineated set of fundamental ideas and practices, and advocates for the development and use of rigorous assessment tools that are valued by faculty, students, and society. Improving Quality in American Higher Education brings faculty voices to the fore of the conversation and offers an insightful look at the state of higher education, and a realistic strategy for better serving our students.

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About the Editors

About the Contributors


Chapter 1 Defining and Assessing Learning in Higher Education
Josipa Roksa, Richard Arum, and Amanda Cook

Chapter 2 Measuring College Learning in History
Lendol Calder and Tracy Steffes

Chapter 3 Measuring College Learning in Economics
Sam Allgood and Amanda Bayer

Chapter 4 Measuring College Learning in Sociology
Susan J. Ferguson and William Carbonaro

Chapter 5 Measuring College Learning in Communication
Nancy Kidd, Trevor Parry-Giles, Steven A. Beebe, and W. Bradford Mello

Chapter 6 Measuring College Learning in Biology
Clarissa Dirks and Jennifer K. Knight

Chapter 7 Measuring College Learning in Business
Jeffrey Nesteruk and Sara Beckman

Chapter 8 A Set of Further Reflections on Improving Teaching, Learning, and Assessment
Peter Ewell, Natasha Jankowski, George Kuh, Carol Geary Schneider, Charles Blaich, and Kathleen Wise


Chapter 6 appendices