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Association of American Colleges & Universities

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1 Association of American Colleges & Universities
Communicating Effectively About the Aims and Outcomes of Liberal Education Modeling Equity, Engaging Difference October 2012 Debra Humphreys Association of American Colleges & Universities


3 LEAP Areas of Work Public Advocacy/Communication—leadership through National Leadership Council, Presidents’ Trust, and work in selected LEAP states to make the case for the value of a 21st century engaged and public-spirited liberal education and importance of essential learning outcomes Campus Action—technical assistance and networking to support campus efforts to increase all students’ achievement of essential learning outcomes and to communicate more effectively about liberal education Authentic Evidence—reports on public opinion, high-impact practices, assessment approaches that deepen student learning and national reports on student achievement

4 Liberal Education Today
Liberal Education is an approach to learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity, and change. It provides students with broad knowledge of the wider world (e.g. science, culture, and society) as well as in-depth study in a specific area of interest. A liberal education helps students develop a sense of social responsibility, as well as strong and transferable intellectual and practical skills such as communication, analytical and problem-solving skills, and a demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and skills in real-world settings.

5 Why Make Advocacy and Communications a Priority
Intentionality and coherence of educational experience=better learning outcomes Lack of awareness about what really matters in college—especially among first-generation students and their families—can lead to some students not making the most of college Slipping public confidence in higher education and lack of awareness of what a 21st century liberal education is all about results in ill-informed policy making

6 Three Questions What do you think the majority of the general public thinks about higher education’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion? What do you think your students perceive as the most important learning outcomes of a quality college education? What do students think is the value of learning in a diverse environment or about issues of diversity?

7 National Context We know, however, that we are now doing this work in a much changed environment—an environment heavily influenced by the current economic downturn and a longer-term overall anxiety about our economic future. We can see this anxiety and an increasing skepticism about the role of higher education in this environment in various media—and in the larger education debate we are having nationally.

8 The Education Debate: college should…
…provide a broad, well-rounded education that enables discovery of interests and abilities to help students realize their full potential in life …provide students with specific career knowledge and skills to help them realize their full potential in the workforce “I’m thinking that if I realize my full potential, and discover that here, and have a broad range of appreciating who people are and cultures outside my own, then I will be okay. [The] second will come from the first.” Student, California State University System “I worry that if I go through this great diverse education, but I can’t go out and find a decent paying wage at the end of it, then, while I may be a better person for it, I’m still basically [out of luck].” Student, Oregon University System

9 Public Opinion In 2004, 93% of Americans viewed higher education institutions as one of the most valuable resources to the US. Public ranked colleges as high as military and churches. (Chronicle of Higher Ed) In 2009, 55% of Americans viewed higher education as absolutely essential to success, up from 31% in (Public Agenda) In 2010, 87 percent of Hispanics agreed that a college education is important for a person to get ahead in life. (Univision/AP)

10 Public Opinion In 2009, 60% agreed that “colleges today are like most businesses and care more about the bottom line than about making sure students have a good educational experience. (up from 52% in 2007). (Public Agenda) 52% agree that “unless colleges and universities do a better job of teaching students about the world, our children will not be prepared to compete in the global economy.” (NAFSA, 2011)

11 The Communications Challenges
External challenge (public, prospective students, parents, policy) What is a “good educational experience”? What are the essential elements of a good educational experience and do people equate this definition of liberal education with quality? Internal challenge (current students, faculty, colleagues) How do particular learning goals (diversity, global, civic) fit into the larger goals and mission of institution? How are we collectively providing a quality education that includes attention to equity, diversity, and inclusion?

12 General Communications Tips
Communicating messages about aims of education is everyone’s responsibility Students receive messages from multiple sources (Web sites, syllabi, faculty, advisors, career counselors) Multiple messages must be consistent, repeated, and reinforced in multiple settings Know your audience; hone core messages; use them!

13 Main LEAP Messages There is an emerging consensus about the essential learning outcomes students need for success—and an engaged liberal education provides these outcomes. We must raise levels of student achievement of these outcomes to meet the demands of a volatile economy and globally interdependent world. College is not only about professional success; the future of our democracy and our shared futures depends on colleges educating informed citizens who understand what responsible actions mean in a diverse and globally engaged democracy.

14 Narrow Learning is Not Enough The LEAP Essential Learning Outcomes
Knowledge of Human Cultures and the Physical and Natural World Focused on engagement with big questions, enduring and contemporary Intellectual and Practical Skills Practiced extensively across the curriculum, in the context of progressively more challenging problems, projects, and standards for performance Personal and Social Responsibility Anchored through active involvement with diverse communities and real-world challenges Integrative Learning Demonstrated through the application of knowledge, skills, and responsibilities to new settings and complex problems

15 Why are these outcomes “essential?”
In an economy where every industry…is challenged to innovate or be displaced, all students need the kind of intellectual skills and capacities that enable them to get things done in the world…(creative and practical intelligence) In a democracy that is diverse, globally engaged, and dependent on citizen responsibility, all students need an informed concern for the larger good…(responsibility) In a world of daunting complexity, all students need practices that require them to practice skills and integrate and apply their learning to challenging questions and real-world problems (real-world application)

16 Know Your Audience: LEAP/AAC&U Research
Focus groups with college-bound high school students, advanced college students, employers ( ) National surveys—business leaders (2006/2007/2009) and recent graduates (2006) National survey—AAC&U member CAOs (2009) National survey—AAC&U member presidents (2011; co-sponsored by Gates Fdn; unpublished) Focus groups with policy influencers (2011)

17 LEAP Student Focus Groups
Top Tier reasons for going to college: Preparation for long-term career success Increased employment opportunities

18 LEAP Student Focus Groups
Bottom-Tier reasons for going to college: A college degree will help to ensure a higher paying job; Attending college will give me an opportunity to learn about and from people and cultures different from my own; A college education will prepare me for a life of civic responsibility and leadership

19 Reasons Students Give for Pursuing a College Degree: It Isn’t Only One Thing
Get a better job (85.9%) Learn more about things of interest (82.9%) Train for a specific career (77.6%) Gain a general education and appreciation of ideas (72.4%) Source: Chronicle of Higher Education Almanac In spite of the anxiety they may have about jobs and the economy—expressed in that quote—they actually have multiple goals in coming to college. They define success in multiple ways.

20 Other Student Views: What 2010 high school graduates say
What is most important to you in a job or career? Work that I find interesting or care about (59%) Work that helps other people (28%) Job that pays bills while I have fun outside work (28%) Job security (19%) Making a lot of money (18%) Being able to work with my hands (9%) Being my own boss (6%) Source: “One Year Out” Hart Research Associates for College Board (summer 2011)

21 What Do Students Think? Selected Focus Group Findings
High-school students feel uninformed about the college curriculum and uncertain of its demands. Students are focused on choice of major rather than what they will learn; long-term professional success is paramount goal. Students lack understanding of liberal education. Once informed of definition of liberal education, student embrace the concept, but complain that reality not living up to ideal.

22 Outcomes of College: Student Views
The outcomes of college that HS and college students think are most important: maturity, time management, work habits, self-discipline, teamwork. The outcomes students think are least important: values, cultural diversity, science, American history and culture, computer skills, global awareness, civic engagement. Students don’t connect outcomes to the curriculum. Long-term professional success overwhelmingly primary reason to go to college

23 What Employers Say At IBM, our vision is that both individuals and institutions are on a journey of increasing capabilities. The key is to find college graduates who are interdisciplinary, team-oriented, real-world problem solvers, and who are also informed global citizens.” Jim Sphorer, IBM University Programs World-Wide

24 What Employers Say We’re always looking for students who are able to understand the total global environment…The students we see who don’t live up to what we’re looking for—they really miss the critical thinking skills. They don’t understand the broad-based world they live in. They are not prepared to work in a team environment. Wayne Johnson, former VP, Hewlett Packard (2008); now VP, Cal Tech

25 What Employers Say In a 2012 Forbes survey, 85% of respondents said diversity is crucial for their businesses, and approximately 75% indicated that their companies will put more focus in the next 3 years on leveraging diversity to achieve business goals.

26 What Recent Graduates Say
“People with a liberal education are able to think about and view the world from several perspectives. This results in a better understanding of how things are the way that they are, an in an ability to reasonably decide if and how things need to change to make a situation better. This ability to understand and adapt is very valuable in today’s workplace. John Starbuck, 2005 Anthropology graduate

27 National Surveys of Employers on College Learning and Graduates’ Work Readiness
AAC&U commissioned Hart Research Associates (in 2006, 2007, and in late 2009) to interview employers (C-level suite executives and, in 2009 additional human resource professionals) whose companies report that hiring relatively large numbers of college graduates Findings are summarized in the following reports: How Should Colleges Prepare Students to Succeed in Today’s Global Economy? (AAC&U, 2007) How Should Colleges Assess and Improve Student Learning? Employers’ Views on the Accountability Challenge (AAC&U, 2008) Raising the Bar: Employers’ Views on College Learning in the Wake of the Economic Downturn (AAC&U, 2010) See:

28 HART RESEARCH P e t e r D A S O T E C I Raising The Bar Employers’ Views On College Learning In The Wake Of The Economic Downturn Key findings from survey among 302 employers Conducted October 27 – November 17, 2009 for

29 2009 AAC&U Survey Methodology
Survey among 302 executives at private sector and non-profit organizations that have 25 or more employees Each reports that 25% or more of their new hires hold an associate’s degree from a two-year college or a bachelor’s degree from a four-year college. Overall margin of error = +5.7 percentage points Source: Raising the Bar (AAC&U, 2010)

30 Employers’ Expectations of Employees Have Increased
% who agree with each statement Our company is asking employees to take on more responsibilities and to use a broader set of skills than in the past Employees are expected to work harder to coordinate with other departments than in the past The challenges employees face within our company are more complex today than they were in the past To succeed in our company, employees need higher levels of learning and knowledge today than they did in the past

31 Broad Skills/Knowledge AND Specific Skills/ Knowledge Are Needed for Career Success
Which is more important for recent college graduates who want to pursue advancement and long-term career success at your company? BOTH in-depth AND broad range of skills and knowledge Broad range of skills and knowledge that apply to a range of fields or positions In-depth knowledge and skills that apply to a specific field or position

32 Employers’ Top Priorities For Student Learning Outcomes In College
% saying two- and four-year colleges should place MORE emphasis on helping students develop these skills, qualities, capabilities, knowledge Effective oral/written communication Critical thinking/ analytical reasoning Knowledge/skills applied to real world settings Analyze/solve complex problems Connect choices and actions to ethical decisions Teamwork skills/ ability to collaborate Ability to innovate and be creative Concepts/developments in science/technology

33 Other Areas of Learning Needing Increased Emphasis
% saying two- and four-year colleges should place MORE emphasis on helping students develop these skills, qualities, capabilities, knowledge Locate/organize/evaluate information Understand global context of situations/decisions Global issues Understand & work with numbers/statistics Understand role of U.S. in the world Knowledge of cultural diversity in US/world Civic knowledge, community engagement Source: “Raising the Bar: Employers’  Views on College Learning in the Wake of the Economic Downturn” (AAC&U and Hart Research Assoc. 2010)

34 Message Challenges Bridging gap between student understandings and employer needs; Translating curricular requirements and educational opportunities into actual demonstration of accomplishment Exploiting concerns about economic success and global competitiveness without sacrificing larger diversity and global learning goals related to responsible citizenship Lessons from failed communications efforts; Foreign aid example; Employers’ views of study abroad.

35 Diversity and Economic Messages Can Be Effective Together
Colleges and universities are uniquely positioned to model and teach respectful democratic dialogue and problem solving in diverse settings. There is a civic dimension to every field of study, including career and technical fields, as well as to every workplace. Industries and services have ethical and social responsibilities of their own.

36 Civic and Economic Messages Can Be Effective Together
A flourishing economy requires the same skills that support citizenship in a diverse democracy. Civic and democratic learning opportunities (e.g. service learning, community-based research, courses on US history, diversity, and global issues) provide broad skills and knowledge that are useful both for success in the workplace and to prepare students to be active and engaged citizens.

37 Messages That Work Liberal education outcomes are key to success in today’s global economy and for responsible citizenship in a diverse society. Narrow training is not enough. Students must gain broad knowledge and have multiple opportunities to hone skills over time and in real-world settings. General education is an essential part of providing students these outcomes and opportunities.

38 Messages That Work Liberal Education outcomes are important because students are likely to change jobs multiple times Liberal education introduces students to multiple perspectives and develops their own independent critical judgment. Students needn’t choose either a liberal education or preparation for professional success—both forms of education can be pursued together in mutually reinforcing ways.

39 Strategies for Making the Case
Focus on the outcomes of a good liberal education and their value in the knowledge-based, global economy Use data (employers; alumni; field trends) that demonstrate that employers want broadly educated, responsible graduates with intercultural skills and global knowledge Use research on positive impact of diverse learning environments. Note the common set of skills and knowledge needed for work and citizenship—the both/and argument Real-world experience matters: provide students with real-world applied learning, but also help them translate those experiences into skills and capacities employers can understand Add slide about Liberalis magazine (history dept at Utah State) Story about study abroad at Michigan State and Christi Pedra and skepticism about study abroad.

40 Ways to Get the Message Out
Wisconsin Student Essay Contest Student Focus Groups Op-Eds, blogs, speeches Orientation and advising Alumni magazines and events Use LEAP tools—campus tool kit; speeches, surveys; student brochures Web sites--

41 AAC&U Resources Why Do I Have To Take This Course? A Student Guide to making Smart Educational Choices (see section on “Becoming a Citizen of the World”) What Will I Learn in College? What You Need to Know Now to Get Ready for College Success (available in print; bulk prices available) What is a Liberal Education? and Why is it Important to My Future? (available in bulk; 500 minimum order) The Civic and Economic Case for Liberal Education


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