Quality Collaboratives: Assessing and Reporting Degree Qualifications Profile Competencies in the Context of Transfer

Quality Collaboratives (QC): Assessing and Reporting Degree Qualifications Profile Competencies in the Context of Transfer was a three-year initiating project launched in October 2011 with support from Lumina Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation as a part of AAC&U’s ongoing Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) initiative. Through the QC project, AAC&U engaged teams of educational, assessment, and policy leaders in California, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, Wisconsin, and Virginia. Campuses already working on learning outcomes assessment in each of these nine states used Lumina Foundation’s Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP) to clarify, map, assess, and improve the achievement of learning outcomes essential for success in life, work, and citizenship in the twenty-first century. Two- and four-year transfer partner institutions in seven of the nine project states collaborated in campus and statewide faculty development efforts related to teaching, learning, and assessment, linking degree completion with students’ demonstrated accomplishment (the other two states, North Dakota and Oregon, participated similarly at the state system level).

The QC project was built on a consensus framework of learning outcomes—articulated in the DQP. The DQP charts levels of competence which every college student should achieve and integrate in five areas: broad and specialized knowledge, intellectual skills, applied learning, and civic learning. Using this framework, the project tested a family of assessment approaches that assess learning demonstrated in samples of students’ actual work. This family of approaches supports campus development of educational practices that:

  • help students achieve essential outcomes at appropriately high levels;
  • document students’ attainment of outcomes; and
  • facilitate students’ transfer of courses and competencies from two-year institutions to four-year institutions on their way to completing college degrees.

Culminating efforts in each of the QC states helped to initiate two specific strands of work currently connected to on-going projects at AAC&U. These two strands, assessment and faculty leadership, highlight critical issues for equity and transfer policy—including the need for disaggregated student success data based on proficiencies and quality indicators.

The assessment strand is continuing through the Multi-State Collaborative for Learning Outcomes Assessment (MSC), a partnership between AAC&U, the State Higher Education Executive Officers’ association (SHEEO), twelve state higher education commissions or systems, and approximately 100 two- and four-year public campuses in the twelve states. The MSC  campuses collect samples of authentic student work that are then scored by selected  faculty members who are trained to assess the student work using the VALUE rubrics, resulting in student success data that reflect achievement of important learning outcomes. Additional four-year liberal arts colleges are participating through parallel VALUE projects, the Minnesota Collaborative and the Great Lakes Colleges Association, supported by the Spencer Foundation and the Sherman Fairchild Foundation.

The faculty leadership strand of the QC project is continuing through AAC&U’s Faculty Collaboratives project, which is creating large-scale, sustainable networks of faculty connecting through resource hubs across ten LEAP states (with outreach to four additional states). The project focuses on faculty participation, collaboration, and leadership—with supporting resources, tools, and pedagogies connected to local and nationally significant initiatives for student learning and success (i.e., DQP/Tuning, GEMs, VALUE/MSC, HIPs, Assignments/Signature Work).

AAC&U’s Committing to Equity and Inclusive Excellence connects to both of these strands, with campus teams from thirteen institutions developing action plans to advance equity in student learning and success—action plans that focus, in part, on increased faculty assessment of underserved students’ demonstrated achievement using direct measures (e.g., the VALUE rubrics).

The project summary document makes further connections between the QC strands and these three projects (click the "Project Summary" sidebar link under "About The Project").

Four publications emerged from the QC project. The first publication, The Quality of a College Degree, focuses on how the current higher education policy environment affects efforts to place student learning at the center of transfer. The second publication, Collaboration for Quality Student Transfer, highlights key findings from the QC project and focuses on the integral entwining of assessment and faculty leadership for transfer student success. Two other publications are in booklet form. Assessment Practices for Advancing Transfer Student Success highlights collaborative efforts between two- and four-year institutions around learning outcomes assessment in the transfer context. Action Steps for Advancing Transfer Student Success highlights lessons learned from the QC transfer partners’ cross-campus engagement that facilitated robust collaborations and project success. All four QC publications are useful for campus practitioners who are actively working to lift up and enhance transfer student success while utilizing the Degree Qualifications Profile and demonstrated student learning as a basis for transfer.