IIE Networker - Fall 2010 - (Page 36)

IMPROVING QUALITY Applying European Approaches to U.S. Higher Education By Kevin Corcoran, Marcus Kolb and Jamie Merisotis IN MID2008, LUMINA Foundation for Education, the largest private foundation in the United States focused primarily on postsecondary access and attainment, began exploring the potential applications of the Bologna Process within the context of American higher education. Upon reflection and consultation with European experts and American higher education authorities, in spring 2009 Lumina opted to pilot the primary elements of the Tuning, a process focused on student learning outcomes that evaluates and increases education quality, in three U.S. states: Indiana, Minnesota, and Utah. As the Tuning pilot began, the Foundation was completing a new strategic plan to increase the share of working-age Americans with quality college degrees and postsecondary credentials from the current level of nearly 40 percent to 60 percent by 2025. The Foundation firmly believes that meeting this ambitious goal will require awarding millions of additional degrees, and that these degrees must be defined by their high quality. Traditional measures of quality in higher education have involved rankings or proxies such as the size of a college or university’s endowment or its reputation among researchers. However, we believe that rankings offer little information on what students actually learn in degree programs at colleges and universities, and that a focus on rankings as a measure of quality is seriously misplaced. chose the faculty-led process of Tuning, with its clear focus on student learning outcomes and the relevance of degrees to the workforce, as a starting point for exploring the implications of Bolognarelated reforms in the United States. Tuning existed prior to Bologna, but this discipline-specific process has emerged as a faculty response to the perceived top-down process by which the meaning of credentials within qualifications frameworks has been traditionally defined. These frameworks set expected levels of mastery across a number of learning dimensions, with incremental increases in these learning expectations as students progress. Because Tuning clarifies what students must know, understand, and be able to do to earn degrees in specific disciplines, it provides a useful structure for increasing quality and measuring results. Tuning also points to the need for a common degree framework in the United States to help unify the outstanding work around learning outcomes already taking place at institutions nationwide. Many of these institutional efforts were undertaken in response to regional accrediting standards and broader efforts, such as the Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) initiative of the American Association of Colleges and Universities. Tuning offers other benefits as well. Once a discipline is “tuned,” students can seamlessly transfer from one institution of general and discipline-specific competencies—independent of credit hours and “seat time”—creates opportunities for innovation in the delivery of higher education, including the assessment of prior learning. Introducing Tuning to U.S. Faculty Lumina began exploring Tuning in mid-2008 under the guidance of a cadre of international experts. In the United States, involving faculty members in efforts to improve student success has always been difficult. In the American tradition, faculty create the curriculum and deliver instruction, often based on what they individually believe should be taught. Many faculty believe that whatever learning happens after the lecture is up to the student. The Tuning process has provided a new way to engage faculty. Higher education in the United States has come under increasing scrutiny by federal and state policy makers for its alleged excesses, the failure of colleges and universities to graduate large numbers of students who enroll, and the growing achievement gap between white students and others. Faculty are beginning to realize that unless they can prove that their choices of curricula and delivery methods result in real learning among students of diverse backgrounds and abilities, the government may intervene at some point to dictate what must be taught. A selling point of the facultyled approach to tuning disciplines is that by taking control of their disciplines and defining them in terms everyone can understand, faculty members can potentially preempt this possibility. After a meeting in December 2008 to discuss the parameters of a Tuning experiment, Indiana, Minnesota, and Utah applied to Lumina for grants to support their work in Tuning USA. Indiana opted to tune elementary education, history, and chemistry; Utah chose physics and history; and Minnesota identified graphic design Rankings offer little information on what students actually learn in degree programs at colleges and universities. The Case for Tuning In the Foundation’s view and in the view of U.S. employers, quality in higher education is a function of what students learn and the skills and knowledge they are able to apply. For this reason, Lumina 36 to another. Students who are the first in their families to attend college are able to gain a clearer understanding of degree program requirements and the workforcepreparation value of a given credential. In addition, defining degree quality in terms

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of IIE Networker - Fall 2010

IIE Networker - Fall 2010
Message from Allan E. Goodman
IIENetworker University Presidents Interview Series
Ten Years On: Bologna’s Global Dimension and Its Limits at Home
A New Europe: Creating the European Higher Education Area
What’s New in Brussels? Visions for the EU and the European Higher Education Area
Trends in English-Taught Master’s Programs in Europe
Promoting Higher Education in Spain: The Creation of the Universidad.es Foundation
The Joint European/International Doctorate: A Strategic Tool to Enhance Worldwide Institutional Collaboration
More Europeans Seek Undergraduate Degrees in the United States
European Schools in America, American Schools in Europe: Outposts Along the Path to the Global University
Out of the Office and Into the World: A Personal Perspective on the Fulbright International Education Administrators Program
Applying European Approaches to U.S. Higher Education
Advertisers’ Index
IIE Program Profile: IIE in Europe

IIE Networker - Fall 2010