A Proposed Two-Pronged Project about Graduate Education
in Preparation of the HLC Visit in Fall 2015
Descriptive Research Project #1
What are the comprehensive learning outcomes of master’s-level education at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater?
The Graduate Council approved in April 1997 a list of global learning outcomes for UW-W graduate programs. These outcomes were derived from an analysis of the academic assessment plans filed by the 13 existing master’s degree programs. The list served to define the broad comprehensive educational purposes of graduate education at UW-Whitewater, and also provided the basis for the exit questionnaire about learning administered to degree completers from all graduate programs (see attachment). (Since fall 2000, more than 5,000 graduating students have provided feedback regarding what they perceive to be the importance of acquiring sub-competencies of the comprehensive learning outcomes, and the extent to which their master’s degree contributed to the accomplishment of these sub-competencies. That data is available.)
With the emergence (and UW-W adoption) of LEAP essential learning outcomes in 2010, there is a renewed focused on looking at essential learning outcomes of graduate education. Some of this impetus comes from a by-product of the LEAP outcomes being grafted onto the graduate experience (through LEAP workshops), and also the realization that after more than 15 years, it’s time to revisit and potentially reconstruct these outcomes to see if they still accurately portray broader educational purposes of master’s level education at UW-Whitewater. These renewed outcomes will be used, much as the LEAP essential learning outcomes have been employed, to further dialogues about student learning in graduate education.
Data Collection Procedures
- Review of learning outcomes of all UW-W master’s degree programs.
- Interviews with graduate program coordinators.
- Interviews and/or surveys with UW-W faculty teaching in graduate programs.
Project #1 Outcome
A 5-7 page written report of the comprehensive learning outcomes for master’s level education effective fall 2014. The report will be shared and the list of outcomes will be reviewed and approved by the Graduate Council.
Also, there should result a revised exit survey instrument to be deployed through Digital Measures.
Descriptive Research Project #2
How does master’s level learning differing from undergraduate learning at UW-Whitewater, both in terms of its intent and in how master’s students are educated?
For many years (dating back to the 1980’s), there has been a list of criteria for graduate-level coursework at UW-Whitewater (see attachment) developed during Larry Davis’s reign as Dean of Graduate Studies. That list has been a part of the UW-W Curricular Handbook (see p. 11), and was used in 2000 to construct a summary of how graduate-level was to differ from baccalaureate-level learning in dual-listed courses (i.e., 400/600 courses). This list, however, probably exists in a vacuum as it is not widely known by faculty (graduate or otherwise). Nor is there any evidence to suggest that such tenets are adhered to when designing graduate curricula, teaching graduate students, evaluating graduate student competency, etc.
Visiting accreditation teams from the Higher Learning Commission in 1995-96, and again in 2006 have either stated directly or strongly encouraged the campus to further explore what differentiates the “undergraduate experience” from the “graduate experience.” The feedback provided by the visiting team in 2006 included the remark: “The Graduate Council needs to have a discussion about what really constitutes the difference between a graduate level program and a corresponding undergraduate program and how it should ensure that such a difference exits and is maintained.” That dialogue, the tyrannical Dean of Graduate Studies thinks, should be fueled by some empirically gathered data about what is happening in graduate education vis-à-vis undergraduate education.
Data Collection Procedures
- Review of UW-W School of Graduate Studies Learning Outcomes and Satisfaction Survey Results (since 2000)
- Review of programmatic conclusions for the 2012-13 UW-W Academic Program Degree Qualifications Reports
- Interviews/surveys of faculty teaching in graduate programs
- Interviews/surveys of current graduate students (and alumni as appropriate and necessary)
Project #2 Outcome
A 5-7 page written summary of the findings from completing the research project, and a presentation of these findings to the Graduate Council.
An update of the document entitled: Criteria for Graduate-Level Coursework at UW-Whitewater to reflect what was gathered from this project.