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1818 R Street, NW, Washington, DC Copyright 2007 by the Association of American Colleges and Universities. All rights reserved. ISBN The complete text of the LEAP report is available

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1818 R Street, NW, Washington, DC Copyright 2007 by the Association of American Colleges and Universities. All rights reserved. ISBN The complete text of the LEAP report is available online at To order print copies, or to learn about other AAC&U publications, visit or call Published with support from the Christian Johnson Endeavor Foundation, the Charles Engelhard Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Johnson Foundation, AT&T Foundation, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, and numerous individual donors. The opinions expressed in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the funders. Derek Bok, Interim President, Harvard University Myles Brand, President, National Collegiate Athletic Association Mary Sue Coleman, President, University of Michigan Ronald A. Crutcher (Cochair), President, Wheaton College (MA) Troy Duster, Director, Institute for the History of the Production of Knowledge, New York University; Chancellor s Professor of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley Judith Eaton, President, Council for Higher Education Accreditation James Gentile, President, Research Corporation Gina Glantz, Senior Adviser to the President, Service Employees International Union Freeman A. Hrabowski III, President, University of Maryland Baltimore County Sylvia Hurtado, Director, Higher Education Research Institute, University of California, Los Angeles Wayne C. Johnson, Vice President of University Relations Worldwide, Hewlett- Packard Company Roberts Jones, President, Education Workforce Policy, LLC H. Peter Karoff, Founder and Chairman, The Philanthropic Initiative George D. Kuh, Chancellor s Professor and Director, Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research Barbara Lawton, Lieutenant Governor, State of Wisconsin Stephen Mittelstet, President, Richland College, Dallas County Community College District Azar Nafisi, Visiting Fellow, Foreign Policy Institute, Johns Hopkins University Martha Nussbaum, Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics, University of Chicago Peggy O Brien (Cochair), Senior Vice President, Educational Programming, Corporation for Public Broadcasting James F. Orr III, Chair, Board of Trustees, the Rockefeller Foundation Keith J. Peden, Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Raytheon Company Christi M. Pedra, Chief Executive Officer, Siemens Hearing Instruments Chellie Pingree, President, Common Cause Sally E. Pingree, Trustee, Charles Engelhard Foundation Carol Geary Schneider, President, Association of American Colleges and Universities Wendy Sherman, Principal, The Albright Group, LLC Lee S. Shulman, President, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Donald M. Stewart, Visiting Professor, University of Chicago; Former President, the College Board and Spelman College Deborah Traskell, Senior Vice President, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company Stephen H. Weiss, Managing Director, Neuberger Berman, Inc. Blenda J. Wilson, President and Chief Executive Officer, Nellie Mae Education Foundation Jack M. Wilson, President, University of Massachusetts System Ruth Wooden, President, Public Agenda W. E. B. DuBois FOREWORD... vii ACKNOWLEDGMENTS... ix EXECUTIVE HIGHLIGHTS... 1 INTRODUCTION: A Dangerous Silence... 7 PART 1: What Matters in College? The Essential Learning Outcomes Liberal Education and American Capability PART 2: From the American Century to the Global Century Narrow Learning Is Not Enough The World Is Changing and Liberal Education Must Change Too Engaging Twenty-First-Century Realities Key Questions to Guide School College Planning Fulfilling the Promise of College in the Twenty-first Century PART 3: A New Framework for Excellence The Principles of Excellence Aim High and Make Excellence Inclusive Give Students a Compass Teach the Arts of Inquiry and Innovation Engage the Big Questions Connect Knowledge with Choices and Action Foster Civic, Intercultural, and Ethical Learning Assess Students Ability to Apply Learning to Complex Problems PART 4: A Time for Leadership and Action What It Will Take Liberal Education and America s Promise APPENDIX A: A Guide to Effective Educational Practices APPENDIX B: A Note on Commercial Colleges NOTES... 57 In 2005, on the occasion of its ninetieth anniversary, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) launched a decade-long initiative, Liberal Education and America s Promise (LEAP): Excellence for Everyone as a Nation Goes to College. AAC&U represents over 1,100 colleges and universities of every type and size: large and small, public and private, research and master s universities, liberal arts colleges, community colleges, and state systems. It is the only major higher education association whose sole focus is the quality of student learning in the college years. AAC&U launched the LEAP initiative because the academy stands at a crossroads. Millions of students today seek a college education, and record numbers are actually enrolling. Without a serious national effort to recalibrate college learning to the needs of the new global century, however, too few of these students will reap the full benefits of college. College Learning for the New Global Century, published through the LEAP initiative, spells out the essential aims, learning outcomes, and guiding principles for a twenty-first-century college education. It reports on the promises American society needs to make and keep to all who seek a college education and to the society that will depend on graduates future leadership and capabilities. The LEAP National Leadership Council comprises educational, business, community, and policy leaders who are strong advocates for educational excellence and change in higher education. These leaders have come together to recommend the essential learning outcomes described in this report because of their own belief in the power of liberal education and its importance in meeting the challenges of the new global century. But they have also been insistent that liberal education cannot be restricted, as it has been in the past, mainly to colleges of arts and sciences, or to the general education courses that most students take in addition to courses in their majors. The essential learning outcomes described in this report apply to the professional and occupational majors as well as the more traditional settings for liberal and liberal arts education. Each member of the council has already been a vigorous advocate both for educational excellence and for far-reaching change in the way college learning is designed and implemented. Each brought his or her own insight and expertise to the table as this report was being prepared. On behalf of the entire higher education community, we thank them for their wisdom, commitment, and practical advice. The LEAP report also builds on the work of educators at AAC&U s member campuses and especially those involved since 2000 in AAC&U s Greater Expectations initiative. Through that earlier initiative, AAC&U organized a wide-ranging collaboration with colleges and universities already significantly involved in educational renewal and with many other educational organizations, accrediting groups, state policy makers, higher education executive officers, P 16 leaders, and business and civic leaders. The recommendations in this report are informed and grounded by the many promising examples of educational change identified through these collaborations. The LEAP Initiative: 2007 and Beyond The LEAP initiative will continue at least through 2015, the occasion of AAC&U s centennial anniversary. Four discrete but intersecting lines of activity have already been launched. A LEAP Campus Action Network now includes over 150 colleges and universities, as well as numerous Liberal Education & America s Promise AAC&U partner organizations that are working, in ways appropriate to their mission, to achieve a more empowering liberal education for all today s college students. LEAP also is working in partnership with leaders in several states, connecting the learning outcomes recommended in this LEAP report with educational priorities for student achievement in those states. In addition, LEAP is both disseminating evidence about student learning outcomes to colleges and universities and providing assistance to colleges and universities about ways to use assessment to deepen student learning. Finally, LEAP will continue to work, with the National Leadership Council and with AAC&U member presidents across the United States, to champion the value and importance of a twentyfirst-century liberal education for all college students. The United States is faced today with an unprecedented opportunity to provide far more students than ever before with the kind of life-enhancing, liberal and liberating education that once was available only to a fortunate few. This nation s future depends on our ability to fulfill the promise of education for all our citizens. In today s knowledge-fueled world, ensuring the most empowering forms of learning for all students should be our top educational priority. Ronald A. Crutcher President, Wheaton College (MA) Cochair, National Leadership Council for Liberal Education and America s Promise Peggy O Brien President, Educational Programming, Corporation for Public Broadcasting Cochair, National Leadership Council for Liberal Education and America s Promise Robert Corrigan President, San Francisco State University Chair, Board of Directors of the Association of American Colleges and Universities Carol Geary Schneider President, Association of American Colleges and Universities AAC&U Foreword This report is the culmination of more than a year of sustained and collective work by the LEAP National Leadership Council, AAC&U staff members, and numerous advisers throughout the United States. We are especially appreciative of the time and effort council members devoted to the development of this report. Their expertise, wisdom, and commitment were essential in shaping an analysis that reflects the perspectives of educators, employers, and philanthropic and civic leaders. The LEAP initiative was made possible through a major grant from the Christian Johnson Endeavor Foundation and through complementary funding from many other sources, including the Charles Engelhard Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Johnson Foundation, AT&T Foundation, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, and numerous individual donors. Particular thanks go to our partners in the several foundations, including Julie J. Kidd, Sally E. Pingree, Daniel F. Fallon, Eugene Tobin, Boyd Gibbons, Carol Johnson, and Robert Vaughan. Their interest and active support have been invaluable. We also thank the many colleges, universities, and partner organizations that have joined us in shaping the LEAP initiative as members of the LEAP Campus Action Network. Numerous other advisers contributed in significant ways both to this report and to the LEAP initiative. Donald Harward, former president of Bates College and senior fellow at AAC&U, helped spark the entire effort. Special thanks also are due to Ronald Calgaard, W. Robert Connor, Richard Hersh, Stanley Katz, Rebecca Karoff, Lee Knefelkamp, Kevin Reilly, Cora Marrett, Dale Marshall, Richard Morrill, John Nichols, David Paris, Gregory Prince, Robert Shoenberg, and the late Edgar F. Beckham. The AAC&U Board of Directors played a key role both in framing the initiative and in supporting its revisionist views of liberal education. John Casteen, a past member of the AAC&U Board of Directors, also gave active support at crucial points. Carol Geary Schneider, president of AAC&U and a member of the LEAP National Leadership Council, translated the insights of council members and many other advisers into the analysis and recommendations included in the report. Bethany Zecher Sutton, Ross Miller, Nicole DeMarco, Ursula Gross, and Gretchen Sauvey provided invaluable assistance with research and in coordinating and recording the work of the council. AAC&U Vice Presidents Alma Clayton-Pedersen, Terrel L. Rhodes, and Caryn McTighe Musil contributed insights and editorial assistance. Members of the AAC&U Office of Communications and Public Affairs and President s Office brought their expertise to the preparation of the report for publication. Special thanks go to Debra Humphreys, Shelley Johnson Carey, Michael Ferguson, and Darbi Bossman for their tireless assistance in planning, editing, design, and production. David Tritelli was the ideal editor, working with dedication to shape the concepts as well as the language. Numerous additional readers reviewed earlier drafts of this report and provided invaluable feedback. Finally, LEAP builds from AAC&U s earlier initiative, Greater Expectations: The Commitment to Quality as a Nation Goes to College. We gratefully acknowledge the thousands of campus leaders who contributed to that work, and especially its key leaders: Andrea Leskes, now president of the Institute for American Universities, and Judith Ramaley, now president of Winona State University. Liberal Education & America s Promise AAC&U ix College Learning for the New Global Century is a report about the aims and outcomes of a twenty-first-century college education. It is also a report about the promises we need to make and keep to all students who aspire to a college education, especially to those for whom college is a route, perhaps the only possible route, to a better future. With college education more important than ever before, both to individual opportunity and to American prosperity, policy attention has turned to a new set of priorities: the expansion of access, the reduction of costs, and accountability for student success. These issues are important, but something equally important has been left off the table. Across all the discussion of access, affordability, and even accountability, there has been a near-total public and policy silence about what contemporary college graduates need to know and be able to do. This report fills that void. It builds from the recognition, already widely shared, that in a demanding economic and international environment, Americans will need further learning beyond high school. The National Leadership Council for Liberal Education and America s Promise believes that the policy commitment to expanded college access must be anchored in an equally strong commitment to educational excellence. Student success in college cannot be documented as it usually is only in terms of enrollment, persistence, and degree attainment. These widely used metrics, while important, miss entirely the question of whether students who have placed their hopes for the future in higher education are actually achieving the kind of learning they need for a complex and volatile world. In the twenty-first century, the world itself is setting very high expectations for knowledge and skill. This report based on extensive input both from educators and employers responds to these new global challenges. It describes the learning contemporary students need from college, and what it will take to help them achieve it. Preparing Students for Twenty-First-Century Realities In recent years, the ground has shifted for Americans in virtually every important sphere of life economic, global, cross-cultural, environ- Liberal Education & America s Promise AAC&U mental, civic. The world is being dramatically reshaped by scientific and technological innovations, global interdependence, cross-cultural encounters, and changes in the balance of economic and political power. These waves of dislocating change will only intensify. The context in which today s students will make choices and compose lives is one of disruption rather than certainty, and of interdependence rather than insularity. This volatility also applies to careers. Studies show that Americans already change jobs ten times in the two decades after they turn eighteen, with such change even more frequent for younger workers. Taking stock of these developments, educators and employers have begun to reach similar conclusions an emerging consensus about the kinds of learning Americans need from college. The recommendations in this report are informed by the views of employers, by new standards in a number of the professions, and by a multiyear dialogue with hundreds of colleges, community colleges, and universities about the aims and best practices for a twenty-first-century education. The goal of this report is to move from off-camera analysis to public priorities and action. What Matters in College? American college students already know that they want a degree. The challenge is to help students become highly intentional about the forms of learning and accomplishment that the degree should represent. The LEAP National Leadership Council calls on American society to give new priority to a set of educational outcomes that all students need from higher learning, outcomes that are closely calibrated with the challenges of a complex and volatile world. Keyed to work, life, and citizenship, the essential learning outcomes recommended in this report are important for all students and should be fostered and developed across the entire educational experience, and in the context of students major fields. They provide a new framework to guide students cumulative progress as well as curricular alignment from school through college. The LEAP National Leadership Council does not call for a onesize-fits-all curriculum. The recommended learning outcomes can and should be achieved through many different programs of study and in all collegiate institutions, including colleges, community colleges and technical institutes, and universities, both public and private. AAC&U Executive Highlights THE ESSENTIAL LEARNING OUTCOMES Beginning in school, and continuing at successively higher levels across their college studies, students should prepare for twenty-first-century challenges by gaining: KNOWLEDGE OF HUMAN CULTURES AND THE PHYSICAL AND NATURAL WORLD Through study in the sciences and mathematics, social sciences, humanities, histories, languages, and the arts by engagement with big questions, both contemporary and enduring INTELLECTUAL AND PRACTICAL SKILLS, INCLUDING Inquiry and analysis Critical and creative thinking Written and oral communication Quantitative literacy Information literacy Teamwork and problem solving extensively, across the curriculum, in the context of progressively more challenging problems, projects, and standards for performance PERSONAL AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY, INCLUDING Civic knowledge and engagement local and global Intercultural knowledge and competence Ethical reasoning and action Foundations and skills for lifelong learning through active involvement with diverse communities and real-world challenges INTEGRATIVE LEARNING, INCLUDING Synthesis and advanced accomplishment across general and specialized studies through the application of knowledge, skills, and responsibilities to new settings and complex problems Liberal Education and American Capability Reflecting the traditions of American higher education since the founding, the term liberal education headlines the kinds of learning needed for a free society and for the full development of human talent. Liberal education has always been this nation s signature educational tradition, and this report builds on its core values: expanding horizons, building understanding of the wider world, honing analytical and communication skills, and fostering responsibilities beyond self. However, in a deliberate break with the academic categories developed in the twentieth century, the LEAP National Leadership Council disputes the idea that liberal education is achieved only through studies in arts and sciences disciplines. It also challenges
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