Our Path to College-Wide Outcomes and Assessment

The Assessment Committee began with nationally recognized learning outcome standards, in particular the essential learning outcomes of AAC&U’s LEAP (Liberal Education and America’s Promise) campaign, and the Lumina Foundation’s DQP (Degree Qualifications Profile). We then compared these outcomes to Grinnell’s long-standing and faculty-approved statements of mission and core values. We then adapted the elements of our mission and core values statements into a set of outcomes in language similar to the DQP and the LEAP essential learning outcomes.

The Assessment Committee carefully considered the conundrum of how to define learning outcomes in the context of an institution with only one required course! This led us to the elaborations (linked on our home page) of details for each outcome that listed a variety of ways that these outcomes might be expressed, a variety of ways that students might gain these skills and experiences, and a variety of ways that we might assess the success.

The Assessment Committee also appreciates the tension between rapid feedback (useful for formative purposes) and meaningful, insightful assessment of the higher level skills that characterize our learning outcomes. We are therefore developing a combination of both fast, quantitative assessments that can be used in a dashboard manner, such as participation rates and simple surveys, and more detailed assessments such as the portfolio approach with careful use of rubrics, rater training, internal checks of consistency, and blind evaluations.

Each year, the Assessment Committee will commission an assessment project focusing on one of the six major College-Wide Outcomes. In 2014, the committee launched a comprehensive, multi-year writing assessment project that addresses Learning Outcome 3. In 2015, the committee began a similar project focusing on the much different Learning Outcome 2, relating to issues of social responsibility.

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