Learning trend creeps into higher education

July 21, 1996|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

A new trend is creeping into higher education. It's called "learning."

Not that students haven't been doing that already, but community colleges around the country are paying more attention now to documenting what students gain from a course, said Donald Jansiewicz, faculty director of learning at Carroll Community College.

The college has just finished writing specific goals, or "outcomes" for each course and has set up tests to measure those specific skills. Florida community colleges even have standardized tests students take at various intervals.

"Accountability is the new watchword in the public sector," Jansiewicz said. "People are saying, 'We're spending a lot of money on higher education. What are we getting for it?'"

This shift toward measuring learning and setting specific goals mirrors the outcomes-based education in K-12 public schools since the late 1980s. Maryland is developing high school tests that students would have to pass on each subject to get a diploma.

A shift in emphasis to learning might sound logical, but any change finds resistance, said CCC President Joseph F. Shields. The outcomes movement created a stir in K-12 education, partly from conservative groups that interpreted it as a shift from academics.

"It's things like this that can get presidents fired," Shields said. With a secure contract for the three years before he retires, he said, he is in an enviable position to take the risk.

Pub Date: 7/21/96

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