Susan Peters, chair of the International Business & Marketing department, has been appointed to serve on a national advisory committee that could change the way student learning and achievement are assessed on college campuses.
Part of the Rising to the Challenge project will examine if a college education produces graduates who offer meaningful contributions to society and the workplace. Specifically, the committee wants to determine if there is something about the college experience that increases participation in civic activities such as voting and enhances job skills such as working with diverse groups of people.
It is not an easy task before Peters and the committee members because they have to find ways of measuring attributes that are largely intangible.
“Colleges have not been as diligent to assess what else the student learns from being actively engaged in a university life,” Peters said. “If subject matter material is all we teach, a student could sit at home with a textbook and do as well. Job readiness skills and civic engagement are only a small part of these extra skills a university education provides, but it's a start.”
Nationwide, there is a movement to provide students, parents and universities with information that goes beyond test scores and grades. Arguably, U.S. News & World Report, provides the most well-known and publicly available information on colleges but its yearly rankings have upset some college and universities officials that believe the magazine's criteria are arbitrary and inessential to a quality education. USA Today recently wrote about several higher education groups that are providing alternatives to college rankings. The groups backing Peters' advisory committee were among those mentioned in the article.
The advisory committee's work is funded by a $2.4 million grant from U.S. Department of Education. The Association of American College and Universities (AAC&U), the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) and the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges (NASULGC) applied for the grant and will work jointly on the project. Together, these groups have 1,360 members that range from two-year colleges to four-year universities as well those that at are geared toward a liberal arts education and those that are research-oriented.
Peters attended the advisory committee's first meeting in early November in Washington, D.C., and the members will meet periodically until July. After the committee gives its recommendations, college freshman and seniors in various parts of the country will be assessed.
The advisory committee included representatives from Cal State Long Beach, San Francisco State University, Ferris State University, Pennsylvania State University and Indiana University-Purdue University Ft. Wayne.