Guest editorial

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 22 May 2007



Shupe, D. (2007), "Guest editorial", On the Horizon, Vol. 15 No. 2.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Guest editorial

For nearly 20 years colleges and universities have sought ways to generate data on actual student learning outcomes while maintaining an institutional information context that is itself indifferent to outcomes. As a result, outcomes assessment has been problematic, since the institutions themselves lack the capability to focus on student learning. This special issue examines a bold alternative, changing the context itself, through the lens of seven different articles.

My initial article, “Significantly better: the benefits for and academic institution focused on student learning outcomes” defines what it takes, in any institution, to change that context and shows that the surprising result can be an educational process that is much better on academic principles.

The next two articles examine what astute academics have learned over the last ten years about the challenge of institutional attention to student learning outcomes, the first being Lynn Priddy’s summary from the viewpoint of the Higher Learning Commission, the second being Professor Bob Ferguson’s view as a faculty member within Buena Vista University.

The next two articles explore academic implications of this change. John Tagg, author of The Learning Paradigm College here envisions that this change will change our understanding of general education – from a bureaucratic emphasis on distributed courses to an academic emphasis on the development of general expertise. Carlos Guerrero of Los Angeles City College then examines how a consistent emphasis on student learning outcomes can mediate between faculty expectations of student achievement and the expectations of underprepared students.

The last two articles are case studies of colleges that are have in common a new learning outcomes management system and are beginning to go through this transformation. Kieke, Moroz, and Gort are three faculty members at Concordia University in Saint Paul, Minnesota and report on the initial results of the first two years of implementation. Rich Edwards, of Kirkwood Community College shows how the same software can be used to do real-time assessment that directly engages students.

For all their differences, these authors share a new understanding that the reason to focus on student learning outcomes is not external expectations but academic excellence, that the means for doing this now exist, that information on outcomes is not an end in itself, but the means for better teaching and learning, and that this challenge can be met by the evaluation of student work using explicit standards.

David Shupe

Related articles