Integrative Learning: Opportunities to Connect

Carleton College

One North College Street

Northfield, Minnesota

USA 55057

ILP Snapshot - 2006

Founded in 1866, Carleton College is an independent and highly selective liberal arts college with a diverse and exceptionally able student body, a talented faculty whose first priority is teaching, and a continued commitment to the liberal arts. Carleton is a national college enrolling approximately 1,900 students drawn from all 50 states and 27 different countries.

A four-year college, Carleton offers the bachelor of arts degree. Its students can choose from 34 major fields of study, as well as numerous special programs, area studies or concentrations.

Carleton College occupies more than 900 scenic acres of campus, arboretum, and athletic fields. Located in Northfield, MN, roughly 40 miles south of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Carleton offers access to the cultural advantages of a major metropolitan area while preserving a collegial environment conducive to an intensive academic life.

Carleton College Homepage

The Perlman Center for Learning and Teaching at Carleton

The Carleton Writing Program

The Dean of the College Office at Carleton

The Office of Institutional Research at Carleton

The Office of Off-Campus Studies at Carleton

Project Description

The Carleton ILP team hypothesized at the beginning of our project that our faculty were overly conscientious about curricular integration--so much so that each instructor was likely to attempt to deliver a complete liberal arts experience in every course. We also asked what fundamental literacies are faculty trying to develop in different classes, where is the learning related to these literacies occurring in the curriculum and how does this learning accumulate along common paths that students take through Carleton? (See the original Carleton proposal.)

Our approach to answering these questions has had three parts:

1. surveying students on their beliefs about their learning in Carleton courses;

Fall 2005 CSEQ results: Responses from a cohort of approximately 450 students distributed among all four classes (first-year through senior) who responded to nineteen Carleton-specific questions on the College Student Experiences Questionnaire (CSEQ) produced the following graph. The percentage of students answering "quite a bit" or "very much" to questions about how much a given course helped a student learn are shown on the vertical axis, and the relevant skills are listed on the horizontal axis. Students were allowed to choose a course in which they were currently enrolled for this tally. [See Overall Findings Graph and More information and graphs regarding the CSEQ survey.]

ILP course survey: The 19 ILP questions on the CSEQ were an early draft of the full ILP course-specific survey, which we refined throughout the 2005-06 year, with the help of students in a Sociology/Anthropology Research Methods course and two pilot tests. Some of the results from the administration of the course level survey this past spring term (Spring 2006) administered in Physics & Astronomy, Political Science, Classics, and Sociology/Anthropology courses, will be presented at the ILP meeting in July. [See the revised survey.]

2. faculty discussions of the literacies; and

In the last five or so years, several Carleton departments have discussed their course and major goals using a matrix of skills and courses. These discussions have successfully helped departments "place" where students acquire and reinforce discipline-specific skills (such as three-dimensional thinking and writing papers in a particular professional style).

At the College level, across departments and programs, the Perlman Center for Learning and Teaching and other groups, especially interdisciplinary programs, have fostered many discussions focused on identifying literacies and "habits of mind" we think all students should have when they graduate. [link to list of LTC events.] These discussions have also promoted (and been promoted by) a burgeoning number of curricular initiatives, some linked to specific literacies, others to particular academic divisions. [link to list of initiatives.]

A broad-ranging review of the entire curriculum is now underway and the discussions at the department and college level will advance the larger curricular conversation. For an example see [link to Intentional Learning Goals and the Carleton Curriculum]

[See the list of LTC events related to literacies and the ILP.]

3. use of the writing portfolio (and other student work) to seek evidence for student learning.

We have written several articles and made conference presentations about the writing portfolio and its use as a tool to evaluate student learning. These include:

Carol Rutz and Jacqulyn Lauer-Glebov, "Assessment and Innovation: One Darn Thing Leads to Another." Assessing Writing 10.2 (2005), 80-99. [See link.]

Portfolios Transform Writing Assessment at Carleton College [See link.]

Conference workshop for the Collaboration for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning [See link.]

Scott Bierman, Elizabeth Ciner, Jacqulyn Lauer-Glebov, Carol Rutz, and Mary Savina. "Integrative Learning: Coherence out of Chaos." Peer Review, Summer/Fall 2005, 18-20. [See link.]

[See the initiatives list.]

More What We've Learned

Evaluating Writing and QR

Intentional Learning Goals

Peer Review Article

Writing Portfolios for the Collaboration

Assessment and Innovation

CSEQ Questions

CSEQ Further Explained

Overall Findings Graph

Initiatives List

ILP Survey

LTC Events

More Survey Data

Overall Findings
Overall Findings

Project Results

Discussion: What We've learned

  • Curricular conversations at Carleton have changed since 2003, simultaneously with our participation in the ILP project.
  • The literacies and cross-disciplinary initiatives have energized the faculty and staff, and promoted cross-departmental activities, ranging from conversations, to projects, to courses, to curricula. Increasingly, these initiatives are connecting with each other, particularly through the central role of writing and the writing portfolio in faculty development and assessment of college goals.

    The discourse about literacies and skills has changed from (simply) teaching skills and techniques to teaching habits of mind. (One can, for instance, recast and understand the requirements for the writing portfolio as habits of mind in the guise of techniques). Curricular review focusing on habits of mind, both at the department level and at the college level, will be quite different from review focused on skills and methods. One of the distinctions is the increased focus on repetition and transferability, in contrast to the "inoculation" model.

    Another way the discourse has changed is that we've moved from asking "Should we do Quantitative Reasoning" (QR) (or ethics, or Academic Civic Engagement (ACE), or visuality) to "How can we do QR with writing, ACE with visuality?", etc.

  • Robust working groups and initiatives have developed around several cross-cutting curricular initiatives. [link to list of initiatives.] A good example of such an initiative in the Quantitative Inquiry, Reasoning and Knowledge (QuIRK) program. [See link and Evaluating Writing for Quantitative Reasoning] which began with informal faculty and staff discussions in about 2002.
  • Individual integrative learning projects, assignments and courses are all over campus. Many of these projects (e.g. an Introduction to Latino Studies project on Latinos in Northfield; a remake of the computer science comps) have been highlighted in LTC presentations.
  • We believe we have validated our initial hypothesis about faculty attempts to cover the entire suite of liberal arts goals in each class.
  • Statements supporting this hypothesis have come up again and again in discussions with faculty. In fact, we predict that faculty response to the CSEQ graphs will be to try to boost the students' experiences with visual, oral and foreign language skill in their courses.

  • The CSEQ and ILP surveys served our initial purposes for analyzing college-level goals well but will need to be modified if they are to be used again. For more information about the surveys, click this link.
  • Where do we go from here?

  • Broaden the conversation on campus, using some of the graphs generated by our recent surveys to spark conversation.
  • Continue to work to integrate the "literacies and skills" groups with each other and into a broader curricular review.
  • Settling on the most important questions to ask in the curriculum review and the ways in which to ask them.
  • Figuring out how to highlight and what to highlight about individuals' efforts in integrative learning so that their innovations can be intelligently transferred by other faculty.
  • Consider the nexus of skills and literacies that naturally connect together and use these as ways to center discussions.
  • Strive for more transparency in describing our overall, curricular, and course goals to ourselves and our students.
  • The CSEQ shows that students are less confused about what it means to communicate in writing than many of the other competencies we looked at. This result is not surprising, given the high profile of the writing program, the writing portfolio and the long term commitment of Carleton faculty to writing. We're making progress, and this is certain to be a theme of the curricular review.

    (A relevant side note: Carleton is involved in a longitudinal assessment study that includes administration of the Collegiate Learning Assessment, an instrument that purports to measure gains in critical thinking. We will be interested in how the CLA results compare to the CSEQ and ILP data.)