Widener University is one of only 40 colleges and universities nationwide selected by the Council of Independent Colleges to participate in the Engaging Evidence Consortium, an initiative that provides institutions with resources and an expanded professional network to conduct a campus project that uses assessment data to strengthen student learning.
According to Richard Ekman, president of the Council of Independent Colleges, there was a very competitive applicant pool for the program.
“The Council of Independent Colleges received many more high-quality applications for this program than could be accommodated,” Ekman said.
Widener’s winning proposal is for a project to enhance and assess undergraduate learning for critical thinking, especially for cultural competence, so that graduates can work effectively with people of different cultures and different perspectives.
According to Brigitte Valesey, assistant provost for Teaching, Learning and Assessment at Widener and the project team leader, “Curricula in each of Widener’s schools and colleges provide rich teaching and learning opportunities to develop graduates who embrace multiple perspectives and diversity. For this project, faculty across the institution will be working together to share exemplary practices and resources to deepen the learning. We will be gathering assessment evidence regarding how well our students demonstrate learning progress and achievement in their critical thinking related to cultural competence and diversity.”
Valesey is joined by team members Stephen Wilhite, provost, and Stephanie Schechner, assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, in coordinating the project and representing Widener in consortium meetings.
The project is also being pursued in conjunction with the assessment efforts of Widener’s General Education Task Force.
In May 2012, the university will launch campus-wide faculty enrichment programming around diversity and cultural competence.
Faculty will develop and implement discipline-specific and general education projects that infuse cultural competence into various undergraduate courses through the spring of 2013.
The Student Affairs division will also implement at least one project that addresses this diversity dimension of critical thinking.
“We anticipate that these projects may include course or unit redesign; infusion of high-impact and innovative strategies for teaching and learning; critical reflections and writing; experiential learning; and even faculty dialogue around how to promote constructive conversations in the classroom when diversity-related issues arise,” Valesey said. “We will use assessment measures to probe what and how well students have learned.”
Best practices developed through the project will be showcased in May 2013 during the annual faculty enrichment program, and findings from the project will be shared with the university’s General Education Task Force and other university constituents involved in assessment of student learning.
Project developments and findings will also be shared with other member teams in the consortium.
“One of our goals is to develop this project into an ongoing program that advances our strong institutional commitment to preparing graduates for a global world with critical thinking that is integrated with cultural competence,” Valesey said.