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College Learning for the New Global Century

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College Learning for the New Global Century is a report about the aims and outcomes of a twenty-first-century college education. It is also a report about the promises we need to make--and keep--to all students who aspire to a college education, especially to those for whom college is a route, perhaps the only possible route, to a better future.


The posting below is an excerpt from the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) publication, College Learning for the New Global Century. SKU #: LEAPRPT

ISBN/ISSN: 978-0-9779210-4-1, 2007 Pages: 76. ?2007 All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

Rick Reis

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College Learning for the New Global Century



College Learning for the New Global Century is a report about the aims and outcomes of a 21st century college education. It is also a report about the promises we need to make--and keep--to all students who aspire to a college education, especially to those for whom college is a route, perhaps the only possible route, to a better future. This report, based on extensive input both from educators and employers, responds to the new global challenges today's students face. It describes the learning contemporary students need from college, and what it will take to help them achieve it.

Excerpt for College Learning for the New Global Century

College Learning for the New Global Century is a report about the aims and outcomes of a twenty-first-century college education. It is also a report about the promises we need to make--and keep--to all students who aspire to a college education, especially to those for whom college is a route, perhaps the only possible route, to a better future.

With college education more important than ever before, both to individual opportunity and to American prosperity, policy attention has turned to a new set of priorities: the expansion of access, the reduction of costs, and accountability for student success.

These issues are important, but something equally important has been left off the table.

Across all the discussion of access, affordability, and even accountability, there has been a near-total public and policy silence about what contemporary college graduates need to know and be able to do.

This report fills that void. It builds from the recognition, already widely shared, that in a demanding economic and international environment, Americans will need further learning beyond high school.

The National Leadership Council for Liberal Education and America's Promise believes that the policy commitment to expanded college access must be anchored in an equally strong commitment to educational excellence. Student success in college cannot be documented-- as it usually is--only in terms of enrollment, persistence, and degree attainment. These widely used metrics, while important, miss entirely the question of whether students who have placed their hopes for the future in higher education are actually achieving the kind of learning they need for a complex and volatile world.

In the twenty-first century, the world itself is setting very high expectations for knowledge and skill. This report--based on extensive input both from educators and employers--responds to these new global challenges. It describes the learning contemporary students need from college, and what it will take to help them achieve it.

Preparing Students for Twenty-First-Century Realities

In recent years, the ground has shifted for Americans in virtually every important sphere of life--economic, global, cross-cultural, environmental, civic. The world is being dramatically reshaped by scientific and technological innovations, global interdependence, cross-cultural encounters, and changes in the balance of economic and political power.

These waves of dislocating change will only intensify. The context in which today's students will make choices and compose lives is one of disruption rather than certainty, and of interdependence rather than insularity. This volatility also applies to careers. Studies show that Americans already change jobs ten times in the two decades after they turn eighteen, with such change even more frequent for younger workers.

Taking stock of these developments, educators and employers have begun to reach similar conclusions--an emerging consensus--about the kinds of learning Americans need from college. The recommendations in this report are informed by the views of employers, by new standards in a number of the professions, and by a multiyear dialogue with hundreds of colleges, community colleges, and universities about the aims and best practices for a twenty-first-century education.

The goal of this report is to move from off-camera analysis to public priorities and action.

What Matters in College?

American college students already know that they want a degree. The challenge is to help students become highly intentional about the forms of learning and accomplishment that the degree should represent.

The LEAP National Leadership Council calls on American society to give new priority to a set of educational outcomes that all students need from higher learning, outcomes that are closely calibrated with the challenges of a complex and volatile world.

Keyed to work, life, and citizenship, the essential learning outcomes recommended in this report are important for all students and should be fostered and developed across the entire educational experience, and in the context of students' major fields. They provide a new framework to guide students' cumulative progress--as well as curricular alignment--from school through college.

The LEAP National Leadership Council does not call for a "onesize- fits-all" curriculum. The recommended learning outcomes can and should be achieved through many different programs of study and in all collegiate institutions, including colleges, community colleges and technical institutes, and universities, both public and private.

The Essential Learning Outcomes

Beginning in school, and continuing at successively higher levels across their college studies, students should prepare for twenty-first-century challenges by gaining:


* Through study in the sciences and mathematics, social sciences, humanities, histories, languages, and the arts

Focused by engagement with big questions, both contemporary and enduring


* Inquiry and analysis

* Critical and creative thinking

* Written and oral communication

* Quantitative literacy

* Information literacy

* Teamwork and problem solving

Practiced extensively, across the curriculum, in the context of progressively more challenging problems, projects, and standards for performance


* Civic knowledge and engagement--local and global

* Intercultural knowledge and competence

* Ethical reasoning and action

* Foundations and skills for lifelong learning

Anchored through active involvement with diverse communities and real-world challenges


* Synthesis and advanced accomplishment across general and specialized studies

Demonstrated through the application of knowledge, skills, and responsibilities to new settings and complex problems

Liberal Education and American Capability

Reflecting the traditions of American higher education since the founding, the term "liberal education" headlines the kinds of learning needed for a free society and for the full development of human talent. Liberal education has always been this nation's signature educational tradition, and this report builds on its core values: expanding horizons, building understanding of the wider world, honing analytical and communication skills, and fostering responsibilities beyond self.

However, in a deliberate break with the academic categories developed in the twentieth century, the LEAP National Leadership Council disputes the idea that liberal education is achieved only through studies in arts and sciences disciplines. It also challenges the conventional view that liberal education is, by definition, "nonvocational."

The council defines liberal education for the twenty-first century as a comprehensive set of aims and outcomes that are essential for all students because they are important to all fields of endeavor. Today, in an economy that is dependent on innovation and global savvy, these outcomes have become the keys to economic vitality and individual opportunity. They are the foundations for American success in all fields--from technology and the sciences to communications and the creative arts.

The LEAP National Leadership Council recommends, therefore, that the essential aims and outcomes be emphasized across every field of college study, whether the field is conventionally considered one of the arts and sciences disciplines or whether it is one of the professional and technical fields (business, engineering, education, health, the performing arts, etc.) in which the majority of college students currently major. General education plays a role, but it is not possible to squeeze all these important aims into the general education program alone. The majors must address them as well.

A New Framework for Excellence

The LEAP National Leadership Council recommends, in sum, an education that intentionally fosters, across multiple fields of study, wide-ranging knowledge of science, cultures, and society; high-level intellectual and practical skills; an active commitment to personal and social responsibility; and the demonstrated ability to apply learning to complex problems and challenges.

The council further calls on educators to help students become "intentional learners" who focus, across ascending levels of study and diverse academic programs, on achieving the essential learning outcomes. But to help students do this, educational communities will also have to become far more intentional themselves--both about the kinds of learning students need, and about effective educational practices that help students learn to integrate and apply their learning.

In a society as diverse as the United States, there can be no "onesize- fits-all" design for learning that serves all students and all areas of study. The diversity that characterizes American higher education remains a source of vitality and strength.

Yet all educational institutions and all fields of study also share in a common obligation to prepare their graduates as fully as possible for the real-world demands of work, citizenship, and life in a complex and fast-changing society. In this context, there is great value in a broadly defined educational framework that provides both a shared sense of the aims of education and strong emphasis on effective practices that help students achieve these aims.

To highlight these shared responsibilities, the council urges a new compact, between educators and American society, to adopt and achieve new Principles of Excellence.

Informed by a generation of innovation and by scholarly research on effective practices in teaching, learning, and curriculum, the Principles of Excellence offer both challenging standards and flexible guidance for an era of educational reform and renewal.

Taken together, the Principles of Excellence underscore the need to teach students how to integrate and apply their learning--across multiple levels of schooling and across disparate fields of study. The principles call for a far-reaching shift in the focus of schooling from accumulating course credits to building real-world capabilities.

A Time for Leadership and Action

The Principles of Excellence build from a generation of innovation that is already well under way. As higher education has reached out to serve an ever wider and more diverse set of students, there has been widespread experimentation to develop more effective educational practices and to determine "what works" with today's college students.

Some of these innovations are so well established that research is already emerging about their effectiveness. This report provides a guide to tested and effective educational practices.

To date, however, these active and engaged forms of learning have served only a fraction of students. New research suggests that the benefits are especially significant for students who start farther behind. But often, these students are not the ones actually participating in the high-impact practices.

With campus experimentation already well advanced--on every one of the Principles of Excellence--it is time to move from "pilot efforts" to more comprehensive commitments. The United States comprehensively transformed its designs for learning, at all levels, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Now, as we enter the new global century, Americans need to mobilize again to advance a contemporary set of goals, guiding principles, and practices that will prepare all college students--not just the fortunate few--for twentyfirst- century realities.

What will it take?

As a community, we should

* make the essential learning outcomes and the Principles of Excellence priorities on campus;

* form coalitions, across sectors, to advance all students' longterm interests;

* build principled and determined leadership, including

* high-profile advocacy from presidents, trustees, school leaders, and employers

* curricular leadership from knowledgeable scholars and teachers

* policy leadership at multiple levels to support and reward a new framework for educational


* put employers in direct dialogue with students;

* reclaim the connections between liberal education and democratic freedom.

While recognized leaders can make higher achievement a priority, faculty and teachers who work directly with students are the onlyones who can make it actually happen. At all levels--nationally, regionally, and locally--they will need to take the lead in developing guidelines, curricula, and assignments that connect rich content with students' progressive mastery of essential skills and capabilities. Equally important, those responsible for educating future teachers and future faculty must work to ensure that they are well prepared to help students achieve the intended learning.

Liberal Education and America's Promise

With this report, the LEAP National Leadership Council urges a comprehensive commitment, not just to prepare all students for college, but to provide the most powerful forms of learning for all who enroll in college. Working together, with determination, creativity, and a larger sense of purpose, Americans can fulfill the promise of a liberating college education--for every student and for America's future.