Fri, Nov 8, 2013
Jennifer Stephens Helm
Dean and Vice-President of Institutional Research and Assessment, American Public University System
To enhance the learning experience for students and ensure they are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and abilities they need for success, American Public University System (APUS) adopted the Lumina Foundation’s Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP) framework across its associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in 2011. APUS is among approximately 400 schools across the nation using the framework.
The DQP framework illustrates students’ expected knowledge and skill set upon earning a degree. Based on more than a decade of research across all levels of higher education, the DQP framework defines five expected learning outcomes that all graduates need for work, citizenship, global participation, and life:
- Applied learning is used by students to demonstrate what they can do with what they know.
- Intellectual skills are used by students to think critically and analytically about what they learn, broadening their individual perspectives and experiences.
- Specialized knowledge is the knowledge students demonstrate about their individual fields of study.
- Broad knowledge transcends the typical boundaries of students in the first two years of higher education and encompasses all learning in broad areas through multiple degree levels.
- Civic learning is that which enables students to respond to social, environmental and economic challenges at local, national and global levels.
The DQP framework closely aligns with APUS’s mission of providing a quality higher education while preparing students for service and leadership in a diverse, global society. Recently, the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) asked us to write a summary of our experience with the DQP framework.
APUS approached the DQP with the following goals:
- Strengthen the overall university and discipline level curriculum
- Ensure that curriculum is current and relevant with industry standards
- Assist in the focus on core learning and interdisciplinary studies
- Provide transparency to the student by establishing expectations of the student life cycle
- Ensure that students are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and abilities they need for success in work, citizenship, global participation, and life
As a result of our preliminary work over the past two years, strategies, tools, processes, and resources were developed to implement the DQP framework. The work conducted across programs includes:
- The current DQP work serves as a tool and framework for a “deep dive” analysis of the curriculum and provides a roadmap for future program development.
- The overall curriculum is enhancing to address the civic skill area of learning, which encourages students to take an active role in the community (work, service, co-curricular activities) and examines civic issues encountered and insights gained.
- The overall curriculum is improving to address the broad integrative skills area that encourages instructional methods to expand beyond the discipline or field of study to ensure an interdisciplinary approach for students.
- The process helps faculty gain a holistic picture on how their courses fit into the overall progression and sequencing of curriculum.
- The process provides a solid framework for the progression and sequencing of courses through the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s levels from the student perspective.
Adoption of New Institutional Learning Outcomes
As part of this process, the decision was made to replace the existing APUS institutional learning outcomes with the five areas of learning as defined in the DQP framework, plus the additional learning area of digital information literacy that is unique to our mission. Digital Information Literacy is concerned with responsibly, safely, ethically, effectively and efficiently accessing, evaluating, collaborating, organizing, and distributing information in the digital world. It includes using tools, technologies, techniques, and best practices, to develop responsible and safe consumers and communicators of information in the digital information world to support research and to solve real world problems.
The adoption of the new institutional outcomes ensures that our courses and programs are current with industry standards and that our students are prepared for success in work, citizenship, global participation, and life.
The university is now beginning to communicate the new institutional learning outcomes to stakeholders. The planning for the next phase of DQP implementation is under way as the framework is integrated into our processes and systems.
About the Author
Dr. Jennifer Stephens Helm, Dean and Vice-President of Institutional Research and Assessment, American Public University System, leads the Institutional Research and Assessment department at American Public University System. She has an extensive background in learning outcomes assessment where she has consulted with schools, school districts, state departments of education, and school reform organizations. She has taught at both K-12 and higher education levels. She has presented and published at both national and international conferences in the areas of school reform, distance learning, faculty development, institutional research, and assessment. She holds a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology with an emphasis on learning, development, and instruction from Texas A&M University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from the University of North Texas.