How Quickly We Learn

August 24, 2010

“Higher education should ensure that the mounds of data already collected on students are converted into useful information and fed back [to campus officials and faculty] in ways that enhance student learning and lead to improvement in programs, teaching practices, and the environment in which teaching and learning take place. We argue that institutions should be accountable not only for stating their expectations and standards, but [also] for assessing the degree those ends have been met. In practical terms, our colleges must value information far more than current practices imply” (p. 21).”

That’s from the 1984 (!) Study Group on the Conditions of Excellence in American Higher Education report on Involvement in Learning: Realizing the Potential of American Higher Education.

More than a quarter century later, we are still struggling to live up to that wise guidance, awash in junk science rankings that tell us nothing about whether students are learning.  The fault lies less with the publications that do ranking and more with colleges and universities that do not try to assess whether students or learning or that do not make public what they know.

About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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