Defining Outcomes, Demonstrating Quality

DQP Consortium report cover

​Because of their commitment to the voluntary measurement and improvement of student learning outcomes, colleges and universities that are members of the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) have been at the forefront of the national shift from teacher-centered to student-centered learning. The institutions participating in the CIC Degree Qualifications Profile Consortium in 2012 and 2013 contributed significantly to this pattern by exploring various ways in which the Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP) can be used to facilitate student learning. Supported by a generous grant from the Lumina Foundation, CIC established a network of 25 colleges and universities committed to working together to find ways in which the DQP could help develop new or strengthen existing efforts to improve academic programs on their campuses (see page 27). The 25 institutions were selected from 81 applicants that had expressed interest in participating in the CIC/DQP Consortium.

The Lumina Foundation commissioned four individuals to create “a framework for defining the learning and quality that college degrees should signify”. Inspired by the Bologna Process, which created common standards for European degrees, the Lumina profile reflects distinctive characteristics of American higher education. The DQP identifies five areas of student learning that can be assessed: Applied Learning; Intellectual Skills; Specialized Knowledge; Broad, Integrative Knowledge; and Civic Learning. Applied Learning “is used by students to demonstrate what they can do with what they know.” Intellectual Skills “are used by students to think critically and analytically about what they learn....” Specialized Knowledge “is the knowledge students demonstrate about their individual fields of study.” Broad, Integrative Knowledge “…encompasses all learning in broad areas through multiple degree levels.” Civic Learning “…enables students to respond to social, economic, and environmental challenges at local, national, and global levels” (Adelman, Ewell, Gaston, and Schneider 2011). Foundational to the DQP is the assumption that a college education should progress “vertically” rather than “horizontally” so that a student’s skills and understanding should increase at each stage of learning. To this end, the document provides general student learning outcomes at the associate’s, baccalaureate, and master’s levels for each of the five areas of learning. These outcomes are described in narrative form, in chart form, and in graphic form in the Lumina DQP document and referred to as the “spiderweb”.

The Lumina Foundation seeks to improve the nation’s higher education attainment rate by increasing the proportion of Americans with high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025. Lumina leaders believe that assuring the quality of academic programs in American colleges and universities is essential to successful achievement of this ambitious goal. Because a major goal of CIC is to help member colleges and universities improve student learning and maintain academic quality, CIC saw the potential of the Degree Qualifications Profile to further its own goals and was one of the first three groups to receive pilot grants from the Lumina Foundation. A challenge to contemporary American higher education is the need to prepare college graduates for a changing workplace in an increasingly global economy. The grant provided an excellent opportunity to demonstrate how small and mid-sized private institutions can be leaders in educational improvement.

​Council of Independent Colleges
By Terry Grimes
January 2014

Student Outcomes