Teagle-Funded Assessment Project
In collaboration with Colorado College and Earlham College, Kalamazoo College has begun a research project, supported with a grant from the Teagle Foundation, in which we will assess the extent to which our students become better educated over their four years in college.
Ours is one of six Teagle-funded projects, involving colleges and universities from across the country, that will demonstrate the effectiveness of a liberal arts education. We are collectively administering the Cooperative Institutional Research Project (CIRP) Survey, the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), and the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) instrument, as well as holding student focus groups and annual summer data sharing conversations to assess the value-added by our institutions to our students' intellectual and personal growth.
Each of our colleges has a strong independent streak: Colorado's adventurous spirit and unique learning opportunities of the Block Plan; Earlham's Quaker traditions, which guide the institution and uphold the pursuit of truth; and Kalamazoo's K-Plan, through which more than 80% of students study abroad and all students complete a senior individualized project. Students at all three institutions become educated in deep and broad liberal arts curricula, are encouraged to study abroad and engage with their local community and, through those experiences, develop a lifelong love of learning, intercultural understanding, and social responsibility. Our distinct academic calendars, unique histories and organizational sagas, and different types of students of similar abilities will allow for interesting inter-institutional comparisons that will help each of our institutions to become more consequential with what we learn while making it easier for other institutions to apply what we reveal as best practices.
By providing funding for our collaborative efforts, the Teagle Foundation serves a catalyst for enhancing knowledge of our own effectiveness, using that knowledge to effect positive change in our institutions, and conveying the benefits of knowledge-based change to broader audiences.
A key element of our study is the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) (see also the Atlantic Monthly article about the CLA). The CLA focuses on assessing what many would agree is at the core of a college education - the ability to think critically, reason analytically, and communicate in writing clearly. All of our students have abilities in these areas when they matriculate, and everyone anticipates improvement in these areas during the college years (and beyond!). The 2005 entering class took the CLA during orientation week. In four years' time, we will ask these students to take the exam again. Because our goal is to measure the College's effectiveness in enhancing the education of our students, we will be using data we collect in the aggregate to illustrate how much the graduating class of 2009, as a whole, develops over four years.