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New learning pilot targets Interstate Passport Initiative

June 10th, 2016

learning pilot

Six institutions to use Aqua by Taskstream to assess student learning and proficiency as part of a new framework to aid student transfer and improve graduation rates

The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) and Taskstream – a provider of assessment management and e-portfolio solutions for higher education – just announced the formation of a new partnership to pilot a mapping process in support of the Interstate Passport Initiative‘s new framework for the block transfer of lower-division general education based on learning outcomes and proficiency criteria.

With the cost of higher education under constant scrutiny, the goal of the Interstate Passport is to eliminate unnecessary repetition of academic work after students transfer, improve graduation rates, shorten time to degree, and save students money by developing a new framework for transfer based on learning outcomes and transfer-level proficiency criteria. The new framework is being developed and tested by faculty at institutions in 16 states.

During the first two phases of the development of the Passport (funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Lumina Foundation), faculty representatives from participating institutions developed the Passport Learning Outcomes (PLOs) – what a student should know and be able to do – and attendant Proficiency Criteria – examples of assignments faculty use to determine that their students achieved the learning outcomes – in nine knowledge and skill areas to build the new framework.

The nine areas, which reference the LEAP Essential Learning Outcomes developed by the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U), include oral communication, written communication, quantitative literacy, natural sciences, human cultures, creative expression, human society and the individual, critical thinking, and teamwork and value systems. Each participating institution constructs its Passport Block – a list of courses or learning experiences by which its students can achieve proficiency with the PLOs and earn a Passport. When a student with a Passport transfers to another Passport institution, his learning is recognized as a block; he will not be required to repeat or take additional courses to meet lower-division general education requirements in the Passport’s nine areas.

Now entering Phase III of the Passport’s development, funded by a First in the World (FITW) grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the initiative is conducting a pilot study to look at ways faculty map their assignments to the PLOs. The study will also examine the related student artifacts for the selected assignments. Six institutions – pairs of two-year and four-year institutions from Colorado, Montana, and New Mexico are participating in the pilot. The National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) is developing two new sets of rubrics to score the assignments and student work samples.

This pilot will provide an external evaluation of the validity of the framework’s processes, provide recommendations on future improvements, and inform how this process might be expanded to guide future candidate institutions in applying for Passport status or in improving their performance in the Passport program.

“By engaging faculty in a closer look at how and what types of assignments are being used to determine proficiency with the Passport Learning Outcomes within and across institutions, our goals are to share ideas in proficiency assessment among participating institutions and to expand faculty understanding and choices of assignments in courses they include in their institution’s Passport Block,” said Pat Shea, Director of Academic Leadership Initiatives at WICHE and Project Director for the Interstate Passport.

As the technical partner on this project, Taskstream is collaborating with WICHE and NCHEMS to refine plans for the pilot – including the design and testing of new rubrics directed at the Passport Learning Outcomes – and providing the technology to support scoring exercises involving faculty and NCHEMS staff. Faculty from the six pilot institutions will score assignments in lower-division general education courses as well as the responding student artifacts in Aqua by Taskstream. Faculty will self-score these samples at their home institutions before they are cross-scored by faculty at the five other institutions and then by Peter Ewell from NCHEMS.

“We’re excited to help advance the Interstate Passport Initiative,” said Webster Thompson, President at Taskstream. “We see this as a natural progression from the work we are doing with the Multi-State Collaborative to Advance Learning Outcomes Assessment (MSC) and our mission to help institutions, states, and consortia improve student learning through meaningful outcomes assessment.”
All regionally accredited, public and private, non-profit institutions across the nation can apply for Passport status beginning July 1.

About the Author:

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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