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First Student Learning Outcome evaluated, further evaluations to come

The Statement of Student Learning Outcomes was passed in 2012 and outlines what skills students should attain by the time of graduation: first, students “will demonstrate intellectual depth and breadth,” second, they “ will think critically and analyze effectively,” third, students “will communicate effectively,” fourth, students “will demonstrate intercultural knowledge and competence;” fifth, they “ will make informed choices and accept responsibility” and finally, students “will engage with the community.”

According to the Associate Dean of the Faculty Kendrick Brown, “the Statement of Student Learning is drawn from the Mission Statement and also from the statement of Purpose and Belief. The Statement of Student Learning reinforces what we’re all about. What we’re trying to have students learn by the time that they graduate from the college.”

Political Science Professor Adrienne Christiansen works with the Student Learning Committee. Christiansen echoed Brown’s statement, saying that the Statement of Student Learning “articulate[s] these broader goals and missions into language that are more actionable.”
The Student Learning Committee is currently in the process of evaluating the second goal: “You will think critically and analyze effectively.”

Brown further stated that there are plans to evaluate each of the learning goals in coming years.
Next, the committee will evaluate the fourth goal that reads: “You will demonstrate intercultural knowledge and competence.”
The impact of the Student Learning goals “will be measured with help of ‘institutional research [that] has collected surveys and data, both for internal purposes and external reporting’ as well as ‘pulling in the existing source’ of the National Survey of Student Engagement,” Brown said.

“We have also looked at General Education assessments that we have done,” he continued. “We’re also taking a look at what has been done by student affairs offices, academic offices and departments. So the focus has been on collecting the existing information and trying to make sense of it as it pertains to a particular learning goal.”

In the future, the Statement of Student Learning may be evaluated using more specific methods.

“Maybe in the future we will start to developing very specific instruments,” Brown said. “We have done a little bit of that until this point but we’re going go more in that direction. Right now, we just need to know and make sense of what we already have.”

According to Brown, alumni surveys have found that alumni were able to relate to each of the goals articulated in the Statement of Student Learning.

The learning goals are intended to help shape students’ educational experience at Macalester.

“[The Statement of Student Learning] has helped us to focus our effort,” Brown said. “The general education requirement, such as the writing requirements … taps into the ‘Communicate Effectively’ goal.”

“The statement [has] influence on programming and planning within student affairs, [helps] staff think about how to incorporate assessment into our program plans and [spurs] conversation about the shape of programs in the future,” Dean of Students Jim Hoppe said.

The learning goals influence Macalester academics at the department level as well. According to Christiansen, the Political Science department has made use of the Statement of Student Learning when they reviewed how, and to what extent, each of their classes addressed the different learning outcomes.

The Statement of Student Learning can be seen throughout Macalester, and the library is no exception. Terri Fishel, the library director said they have used the learning outcomes in their interactions with students within and outside of the library.

“We have done work in the first-year course that all first-year students take, as well as working with the Senior Capstones and also developing a rubric for student employment within the library,” Fishel said. “This rubric has been shared with others on campus as well.”
Christiansen said she views the Statement of Student Learning as Macalester’s promise to students.

“[The Statement] says these are the broad based learning outcomes that we value so highly that we want to ensure every student, regardless of major, has intellectual experience in the classroom or co-curricular experience in student organizations, dorms or student affairs,” Christiansen said.

“That these promises are so important that we guarantee that over the course of a student’s four years at Macalester they can reliably expect to get these items from their Macalester education,” she continued.

December 4, 2015

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