The Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning (DCAL), in collaboration with the Harriet W. Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning at Brown University, has received a $200,000, two-year grant from the Teagle Foundation. The funds will help academic departments and programs on both campuses define learning outcomes for their majors and develop measurable assessments of those outcomes.
“This grant represents an important opportunity to examine how and what we are teaching and what our students are learning,” said Dean of the Faculty Michael Mastanduno. “We must take a systematic approach to assessing student learning outcomes if we are going to meet our responsibility to provide every Dartmouth student with an exceptional education.”
Four departments at Dartmouth (two per year across the two-year term of the grant) will participate in demonstration projects. With the support of DCAL, faculty participants will articulate the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that successful students should acquire as majors in their departments. Faculty will then work to align their department’s courses and course assessments to these stated learning outcomes, with the goal of instituting best teaching practices throughout the department.
“We want to make the process visible,” said Tom Luxon, Cheheyl Professor and director of DCAL, whose mission is to provide professional development of Dartmouth’s teachers. “The goal is to encourage faculty to adopt learner-centered practices in course design, teaching, and assessments, and to foster a community of scholars committed to understanding how their students learn.”
Dartmouth participants will have opportunities to share their processes and results with colleagues at Brown through a combination of in-person meetings, teleconferences, and online information sharing. DCAL has sent a call for proposals to all department chairs, and the first participating departments will be selected for the 2011–2012 academic year.
According to Provost Carol Folt, the grant will allow faculty to more fully integrate the resources of DCAL within departments. “DCAL is now poised to launch an effort to help embed best faculty development practices into the structures of individual departments,” she says.
The collaboration with Brown is crucial, Folt notes. “In partnering with Brown on this initiative, we have a tremendous opportunity to share and build on what we learn in the process. We expect the project to serve as a model well beyond Dartmouth.”
The Teagle Foundation’s mission is to strengthen liberal education by providing the intellectual and financial resources necessary to ensure that today’s students have access to challenging, wide-ranging, and enriching college educations, and that they succeed at the highest possible level.