In the fall of 2011 we set in motion a college-wide assessment plan where we would collect learning outcome data from each entering cohort, link this data to the various student experience surveys these students complete at different points during their four years at Augustana, then collect the same learning outcome data just before the cohort graduates. This plan allows us to track our students’ four-year change on a specific learning outcome and identify connections between student experiences and variations in the direction and degree of that change.
Obviously it would be logistically impossible (and a little stupid) to tackle all of the Augustana Learning Outcomes every year. So we decided to rotate annually through the three broad categories of learning outcomes starting with intrapersonal conviction, moving to interpersonal maturity, and finally addressing intellectual sophistication before returning to intrapersonal conviction. Because each category includes a variety of more specific outcomes, this framework allows us some flexibility in selecting outcomes that seem particularly pertinent to our students’ success while maintaining a more general pattern that keeps us tuned in to the totality of our learning goals.
The first cohort (starting in the fall of 2011 and graduating in the spring of 2015) provided data on orientations toward different types of motivation, something that undergirds the learning outcome that we have called “Wonder.” I wrote about some of our findings from that study last fall and last winter.
The freshmen who started in the fall of 2012 completed a survey called the Global Perspectives Inventory, an instrument designed to measure intercultural competence (an important aspect of the learning outcome category we call Interpersonal Maturity). In the spring of 2016 we collected the final set of data from this cohort. On September 16th, the Assessment for Improvement Committee (AIC) presented the first of three Friday Conversations (one in each term during the 16-17 academic year) intended to examine this data and explore what it might suggest. For those of you who were unable to attend the Friday Conversation on September 16th, I thought I would post the power point slides below. They give a brief description of intercultural competence, convey the nature of our students’ change on three aspects of intercultural competence as measured by the GPI, and pose some questions for us to begin thinking about what we might explore in preparation for our winter term Friday Conversation.
So click on this presentation of 4-year change at Friday Conversation 9/16/2016 and you will be able to scroll through the power point slides.
As you can see, we found that our students (at least this cohort of students) grew on two of the three elements of intercultural competence. Our students grew the most on the cognitive scale that assesses knowledge of cultures and the implications of differences between cultures. Our students also grew, albeit to a lesser degree, on the behavioral scale that attempts to capture the likelihood to enact behaviors that reflect intercultural competence. Finally, we found that our students made no statistically significant gains on the affective scale that assesses the attitudes that would motivate one to be intercultural competent.
In addition to examining the overall change, we also explored the change among several subgroups of students based on pre-college demographic characteristics. As represented by the bar graphs on several slides, this exploration discovered interesting differences in the intercultural competence growth between men and women, white students and students or color, and students whose ACT score suggested low and high academic preparation.
Reflecting on the changes that we see in our student data, the important next question becomes, Why? Why do our students grow in the way that they do? Why do some students change differently than others? What experiences influence positive or negative changes in intercultural competence? In my mind, these are the more interesting questions to explore because they can point us toward concrete ways that we might improve the education we provide.
Of course, there are an almost infinite number of questions that we could ask of our data. Are there specific experiences from participating in distinct activities that improve intercultural competence? What about the possibility that a combination of experiences (especially in a specific sequence) might do more than any single experience? Finally, is it possible that a particular dynamic that pervades one’s college experience might transcend an individual experience or combination thereof?
Although we were able to solicit a long list of research questions to test from the folks in attendance at our first Friday Conversation, I’m sure there are many more that we have yet to consider. So please add a research question or two in the comments section below. We will test as many as we possibly can. And we will report back at the winter Friday Conversation and on this blog all of what we find.
So put on those hypothesizing caps, and send us your suggestions. If we can find a way to test it, we will!
Make it a good day,