On September 25, 2015, the Education Research Program of the Social Science Research Council brought together a diverse group of stakeholders to reflect on the first two years of the Measuring College Learning (MCL) project. MCL, which began in 2013, is an SSRC-led initiative that engages faculty and the broader higher education community in an effort to develop tools to understand and improve discipline-specific student learning.
The Project Summit was organized around an introductory session and three thematic panels. The introductory session, which featured presentations from Ira Katznelson (SSRC), Richard Arum (SSRC), Josipa Roksa (University of Virginia), and Carol Geary Schneider (AAC&U), focused on the driving motivations behind MCL, the project’s progress to date, and the connections between MCL and similar efforts, such as AAC&U’s LEAP and VALUE initiatives.
Following the introductory session, a panel of MCL faculty participants reflected on their experiences with the project thus far and discussed the importance of faculty input and engagement in efforts to improve teaching, learning, and assessment in higher education. The panelists, Sam Allgood (Economics, University of Nebraska), Clarissa Dirks (Biology, Evergreen State College), and Jeff Nesteruk (Business, Franklin & Marshall College), represented three of the six disciplines that are engaged with the MCL project. Representatives from the other three disciplines—sociology, history, and communication—presented on the following panel.
The second thematic panel focused on the role of disciplinary associations and assessment designers in the MCL project and related efforts. Sally Hillsman (American Sociological Association), James Grossman (American Historical Association), and Trevor Parry-Giles (National Communication Association) talked about their associations’ role in MCL, and how the project connects to other association-led initiatives to improve teaching, learning, and assessment. Lydia Liu and Thomas Van Essen (Educational Testing Service) highlighted the various ways in which MCL can learn from prior efforts to measure student learning.
The final panel of the day sought to situate the MCL project in the larger higher education landscape and featured insights from Harold Hartley (Council of Independent Colleges), George Mehaffy (American Association of State Colleges and Universities), and Robert Reid (Association for the Advancement of Collegiate Schools of Business). Offering the different lenses of two higher education associations and a major accreditor of business schools, the panelists discussed MCL’s potential to improve the quality of higher education and offered advice regarding next steps.
The meeting concluded with remarks from Richard Arum, who summarized key insights from the day’s discussion and emphasized the need for a broad coalition of stakeholders to come together to develop improved measures of student learning in higher education.
The Education Research Program would like to thank the American Sociological Association for hosting this gathering at its offices, the attendees for their thoughtful contributions, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Teagle Foundation for their generous support of the MCL project. Click here for more information about the Measuring College Learning project.