The Measuring College Learning Project (MCL), an initiative to enhance the higher education community’s ability to articulate, measure, and improve student learning, is aimed at addressing three core challenges in higher education: supporting institutions in instructional improvement, reducing transfer inefficiencies, and enhancing credential signaling between students and employers.
MCL builds on decades of prior work by the higher education community, including efforts to develop guidelines for general learning outcomes in higher education. These efforts have led to the creation of a range of tools that faculty can use to measure students’ general skills, such as critical thinking, complex reasoning, and problem solving. However, as beneficial as these resources are, they do not cover the full scope of learning in higher education. The next step in this process, and the main focus of MCL, is to concentrate on field-specific learning. MCL brings faculty together and engages them in conversations about the essential twenty-first-century competencies, conceptual knowledge, and practices that students in their field should develop in college, at the introductory level as well as the major level. Of course, given the breadth of each field and the wide variety of institutions in which they are taught, it would be impossible to generate exhaustive or comprehensive lists of learning outcomes. With this in mind, the project aims to help faculty develop consensus around a limited set of empirically measurable “representative competencies” for their field, representing key skills, habits of mind, expert thinking, and the like, rather than surface-level content knowledge.
Improving the landscape of assessment in higher education is a significant undertaking, and one that must be approached thoughtfully and deliberately. To this end, MCL is dedicated to the following core principles:
- Faculty should be at the center of defining and developing transparent learning outcome standards for undergraduates.
- Students from all backgrounds and institutions should be given a fair opportunity to demonstrate their skills when transferring from one institution to another and when transitioning into the workforce.
- Measures of student learning should be rigorous and high-quality and should yield data that allow for comparisons over time and between institutions.
- Assessment tools should be used by institutions on a voluntary basis.
- Any single measure of student learning should be part of a larger holistic assessment plan.