Innovation Hub: Faculty Collaboratives
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What is the Hub?

The Wisconsin Innovation Hub creates a dynamic, interactive environment to support collaboration between educators for the purpose of student learning. The Hub provides spaces and resources to inspire curricular innovation and assessment, connect educators as they create and enhance the student learning experience, and support integration between two-year and four-year campuses. The Hub is designed around the principles of access, equity, sustainability and quality. Faculty Collaborative Fellows are available to you to make the Hub a virtual dynamic ecosystem. They have generated the following questions to guide you toward various initiatives that may represent a resource for topics representing your greatest interest.

What are learning outcomes?  How do they compare to learning objectives, competencies, and proficiencies?

The need for developing Learning Outcomes has become ubiquitous but what is the definition and why are they considered so important? Are they a blessing or an albatross, of inherent value or a passing fad? Well it depends on how you approach the development of them. When developed from a backward design perspectives the can inform you and your students the identity of what concept, law, principle, skill, etc. is to be learned, what a student will produce as evidence that learning has occurred and the academic activity that will facilitate that learning. While the definition of outcomes, objectives, competencies and proficiencies is somewhat nuances, and not universally agreed upon, it is their use as design parameters for the scaffolded tool for student learning that provides the value for their development and use.

If you are willing to entertain one perspective, here are definitions:

Learning Outcome: Outcomes describe the essential and significant learning that the learner will have achieved at the end of a course or program.
Learning Objective: Objectives describe the intended results or consequences of instruction. The course learning objectives will be a more detailed description of how each learning outcome will be achieved.
Competency: Competencies describe the skills and abilities the student will be able to know and do as a result of instruction. To a degree this has been contextualized in terms of non-traditional students' abilities and related to Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) measures.
Proficiency: Proficiencies describe the level of achievement students are expected to attain to satisfy sufficient achievement of an outcome or competency e.g. degree of mastery required.

Initiatives that relate most closely to this foundational material are the Degree Qualifications Profile, Tuning, and VALUE Rubrics.
What are the learning outcomes essential for a liberal education, and how should they be assessed?

UW-System has been an active partner with the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) Liberal Education and America's Promise (LEAP) initiative since its inception over a decade ago. The LEAP initiative used a framework defined by a set of Essential Learning Outcomes (pdf). Based upon that set, UW System institutions developed and adopted the UW-Shared Learning Goals and they were endorsed by the UW System Board of Regents in December 2008.

The AAC&U initiative has developed multiple methods in support of institutions achieving ELOs. Described in College Learning for the New Global Century (pdf), these essential learning outcomes and a set of Principles of Excellence (pdf) provide a new framework to guide students' cumulative progress through college. High Impact Practices (HIPs) define pedagogically sound methods for benefiting student achievement. LEAP also addresses curricular design principles and methods for making excellence inclusive. The Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education (VALUE) project provided a framework of rubrics to correspond with the Essential Learning Outcomes.

Assessing the impact these initiatives was the focus of the Quality Collaboratives project. Partnered institutions looked at levels of competence which every college student should achieve as they move through degree levels from two-year, four-year and master's programs. The framework for this investigation was the Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP) which, through investigation and feedback, is now on version 2.0.

How do I connect course learning outcomes to program learning outcomes?
Over the last decade increased attention has been placed on mapping course learning outcomes to program learning outcomes. In part, this has been driven by the increase in assessment that now permeates higher education. Course learning outcomes are defined by instructors as the key concepts and skills that students should attain after completing a specific course, whereas, program learning outcomes are the knowledge and skills students should attain by the time they complete their degree.  Program learning outcomes are difficult to attain unless faculty design their courses with program learning outcomes in mind. For example, if a program learning outcome is to be proficient in using quantitative information to solve scientific problems then the courses in the program must include Signature Work that allow students to develop the skills necessary to satisfy the learning outcomes. While this seems like common sense, all too often a lack of fluidity exists between course and program learning outcomes. The material in this section provides support documents to faculty and staff that want to learn more about connecting course and program learning outcomes.    
How can we design curriculum to be accessible to all students? ( e.g., transfer, military, prior learning assessment, dual/concurrent enrolled, etc)

National data show that when students can transfer in 90% or more of their earned credits, they are 2.5 times more likely to graduate than students who transfer in less than 50%.  With students accessing multiple sources for earning credits, how can higher education institutions facilitate credit transfer experiences?  If you are looking to address this issue at the point of curricular development and/or for "retrofitting on-ramps", the Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP) is a tool that can provide a common reference point for credit transfer. Two case studies using the DQP have been published on UW System work:  2-year/4-year collaborative degree development (UW-Parkside and UW Colleges) and transfer of community based co-curricular experiences (UW-Oshkosh and UW Colleges).

What are the best practices in designing student learning activities? ( inter alia, portfolio, capstone work, undergraduate research, high impact practices)

The cornerstone of designing any learning activity should be the student learning outcome. First, taking the learning outcome as a starting point for designing an assignment allows for a "backward design" approach to the assignment, where the purpose of the assignment determines how the student work will be completed. Second, the outcome should be clear to both the instructor and the student, with the design and grading of the assignment clearly linked to the learning outcome that is desired. (The AAC&U LEAP initiative proposes that there are a set of "Essential Learning Outcomes" for any education, and through collaborative work with educators across the country, have created detailed VALUE rubrics with detailed sets of learning outcomes related to each broader outcome.)

The AAC&U has several initiatives linked to broad curriculum goals, and these are all intended to impact students in the quality of the coursework and assignments they are given. Signature Work is a way to conceive of all student work linked to the ultimate learning goals of a liberal education. Attention to Signature Work encourages teachers to ask the question when designing an assignment: in what way should a particular assignment build on previous student learning, and how can it guide students toward future learning?

The most impactful student experiences are sometimes linked to High Impact Practices [link to HUB], the set of activities proven to influence student learning and persistence in college. It is also a best practice to link assignment learning outcomes to disciplinary and degree learning outcomes. These will be the assignments most meaningful to the learning that is required for the discipline or the degree. It is therefore best to create assignments that reference disciplinary standards for learning (Tuning), and the learning outcomes necessary for the student's degree (Degree Qualifications Profile).

What are best practices for assessing student work?

Assessment of student work should be focused on the primary learning objectives outlined for the course, the program (major/minor/general education), and the degree. Determining whether students are actually learning what we intend for them to learn is a primary focus of several AAC&U initiatives. The most significant of these is the VALUE (Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education). The rubrics provided through this initiative are designed to provide a detailed basis for assessing a range of learning outcomes in both coursework and at the programmatic level. Assessment should also be aimed at understanding whether a student learning maps onto the objectives for the overall degree (DQP), and the objectives determined to be essential for particular fields and disciplines (Tuning). Assessment should also aim to understand a student's learning in the context of a student's pathway to completing Signature Work; and determining whether a student has learned what is required at this stage of their education to prepare them for doing the work that will be required of them in the future.

What are best practices in general education design and assessment?

Colleges and Universities are charged with providing all learners with access to a high-quality education.  The general education portion of a liberal arts degree serves as a unique lever from which to address this mandate due to its ubiquitous nature.  AAC&U's General Education Maps and Markers (GEMs) provides an equity-minded framework for this portion of a student's degree.  GEMs is not "another new initiative" but rather integrates general education design with other LEAP outcomes to address: (1) what students should learn (Essential Learning Outcomes); (2) how students learn (High Impact Practices), (3) how learning is demonstrated ( VALUE Rubrics); and (4) at what level ( DQP).  Diverse institution types ranging from elite private Universities to open-access public Community Colleges have benefited from GEMs design principles and tools.  You may find your work can also be supported by these resources and/or that your work can contribute to these national initiatives.

What is critical reflection and why is it important to learning?

There is a conservative tendency in education that enables an acceptance of oppression on both the social and the individual level through the acceptance and adaption of the learner to the subject to be learned.  Critical reflection allows students (and we are ALL students) to think about their local and immediate interaction with a concept, an issue, an event, a context on a personal level.  This encourages not only consumption of knowledge, but application of that knowledge to past present and future experiences.  It makes knowledge wisdom.  As the basis of signature work, it "prepares students….to work with unscripted problems."  And, since so many of our unscripted problems are also unique to ourselves and to our environments, critical reflection can move us towards an education based on equity.  To find our more, go to our pages on equity, signature work, and the DQP.

What is equity mindedness and why is it important to advising?
Equity for our student populations is not accidental or serendipitous.  It requires the development of equity mindedness within and between practitioners in our institutions.  And, equity mindedness emerges from the recognition of, and interaction with, gaps in student outcomes that might be within the realm of institutional control.  The developmentself awareness-reflection-reflexivity diagram. How thinking and action relate to self-awareness, individual experiences to self-reflection and collective referents to self-reflexivity. of equity mindedness must precede equity for our students; that is, practitioners need to come together to understand truly how their actions, institutional frameworks, pedagogies, etc., contribute to an equivalency (or near equivalency) between access to education and the outcomes of an education (degree completion). (Understanding Equity Mindedness, Vicki Washington)  Practitioners need to  develop well prepared educational teams that can re-design curriculum around 21st century learning ( student-centered, problem-centered, transparent [ learning outcomes, competencies]), and shift the  public policy narrative to one based on the assumption that 'postsecondary education is a public good' where through equity we give everyone the probability of being a participatory citizen. (The Emerging Learning System, 2016)

So, how do we create a place where equity mindedness can be developed, especially in those places where students are trying to figure out access?  Student advising is often the first contact students have with the university- it is vital that equity mindedness is reflected in that first meeting, but the advisor is not solely responsible equity; rather, they must be embedded in an atmosphere of institutional equity mindedness.  The Degree Qualifications Framework can support equity mindedness by establishing an academic framework that is transparent to the student and to educators.

What and how do co-curricular and extracurricular activities support student success?

A lot of support exists showcasing that co-curricular activities increase student learning and retention at post-secondary institutions. Co-curricular activities (undergraduate research, learning communities, public service, student organizations, internships, field trips, travel studies, etc.) are those that are an extension of the curriculum. At many institutions these co-curricular activities are described as experiential learning experiences. These experiences can be a requirement for degree completion or simply activities that promote student learning outside of the classroom. Faculty and staff have the opportunity to increase student learning and retention by structuring their courses (and programs) to included co-curricular activities. More than ever, these co-curricular activities need to be part of a students' educational experience because employers suggest these experiences are important in their newly hired employees. The information provided in this section showcases how and why faculty can, and should, use co-curricular activities to improve the overall student experience. Initiatives that provide the foundation for much of this material are the DQP, LEAP, and Signature Work.


By providing answers to these framing questions the Hub can help your students learn, it can connect you to a Community of practitioners across Wisconsin and the nation, and it can help you share your scholarship. Check out the list of initiatives below.

Embedding Equity into Pegagogy

Equity is defined in terms of "access, success, inclusion, and frequent participation in high-impact practices for all students."Our team's objective is to design interfaces for our four proficiency initiatives-DQP, GEMS, VALUE, and tuning- that will allow for the signature/authentic work of students to demonstrate the impact of these four initiatives on student learning. The objectives of these interfaces identify access and placement of: 

  1. Signature strengths for a diverse student population
  2. Signature work that represents a variety of learning styles
  3. Signature work that identifies the unique connections students have with their community
  4. Signature work that can be assessed in ways that honor unique student learning

AACU publications: Committing to Equity and Inclusive Excellence: A Campus Guide for Self-Study and Planning

LEAPing into Wisconsin 

Wisconsin was the first LEAP state (Liberal Education Americas Promise) and celebrates its 10 year anniversary in 2015. This site provides a web-based report evaluating the UW System's LEAP initiative, the statewide engagement with (adoption and implementation of?) the national campaign, Liberal Education &America's Promise or LEAP, developed by the Association of American Colleges &Universities (AAC&U). Many campuses across the UW-System engage with the LEAP initiative; UW-Whitewater hosts a LEAP Day Conference on Feb. 29th. View posters from the most recent event.

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