Academic journal article Journal of Applied Research in the Community College

Tuning in Community Colleges: A Study of the Development and Uses of Student Learning Outcomes

Academic journal article Journal of Applied Research in the Community College

Tuning in Community Colleges: A Study of the Development and Uses of Student Learning Outcomes

Article excerpt

The European Union (EU) was formed in 1993 for the purpose of creating an economic powerhouse and to increase the social mobility of its citizens. With the formation of the EU, many higher education students were moving across European countries' borders to continue their postsecondary education. However, this newfound mobility created a great challenge because of variations among the education systems across European countries. Consequently, the EU's postsecondary institutions and ministries of education were challenged to come together to address this problem.

In 1999 the Bologna Accords were created. The Accords established a set of agreements among EU member countries to ensure comparability in the standards and quality of higher education qualifications (CoRe Project, 2010). While there was agreement in principle, there needed to be a process to actualize the agreements. Tuning emerged as the process to support the Bologna Accords. Tuning spread across the Eu and gained the attention of the Lumina Foundation in the U.S. In 2009, the Tuning process was brought to this country.

The Tuning Process

Tuning was anticipated to be a way to address quality in education by creating consistency across postsecondary institutions about the meaning of a degree at the Associate's through the Master's level by discipline. Tuning, as it is practiced in the U.S., is a facultydriven process that asks faculty who teach in a discipline to work together; and to scaffold and align student learning outcomes at each degree level, across institutions.

The Lumina Foundation developed pilot projects in three states: indiana, Minnesota, and Utah. Six initial disciplines were tuned: history, biology, chemistry, physics, elementary education, and graphic design. In 2011 the institute for Evidence-Based Change (IEBC) was asked to expand the Tuning process from the pilot phase to nationwide implementation. IEBC facilitated Tuning projects in the states of Kentucky and Montana, as well as in the Midwest Higher Education Compact (MHEC) states, and discipline associations including the American Historical Association and the National Communications Association. Hundreds of postsecondary faculty have since engaged in Tuning throughout the United States.

The Tuning process provides numerous benefits (IEBC, 2013) including: (a) facilitating student success and retention, especially among students from underserved groups, by creating clear expectations for, and pathways to, degree completion; (b) simplifying the process for students transferring credits between institutions; (c) emphasizing lifelong learning and important but often undervalued transferable skills; (d) aligning the roles of higher education institutions; thereby increasing higher education's responsiveness to changes in knowledge and its application; and (e) ensuring that knowledge and applied skills associated with coursework align with civil, societal, and workforce needs

Tuning utilizes a five-step process. First, faculty come together to draft a degree profile including identifying core concepts underpinning student learning and drafting measurable student learning outcomes statements. The second step of the process is researching student career destinations and developing a career pathways map. Research is conducted to determine which occupations and industries students enter after they achieve a degree in the discipline. The third step requires partici- pants to identify stakeholders including alumni, employers, and current students. These stakeholder groups are then surveyed about the alignment of what students learn in academic programs with occupational expectations. In the fourth step, stakeholder feedback is used as a reference point to modify the original core concepts and student learning outcomes. The last and final step is to localize the work of the Tuning group at each college or university and to make the work distinctive based on the specific focus of each academic department. …

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