DePauw University: Co-Curricular Inventory

Ken Kirkpatrick, Registrar

For its CIC/DQP Consortium project, DePauw University has been developing an inventory of co-curricular activities. This inventory is part of each student’s advising transcript and is intended to be used mainly as an advising tool. As a residential liberal arts college, DePauw offers a rich variety of co-curricular activities. These feature prominently in the claims we make about the “value of a DePauw education.” But before the Co-Curricular Inventory (CCI), participation in these activities was not centrally recorded. It was difficult to assess the educational impact of these activities because we really did not know who did what.

Even the students who participated in activities did not seem to know what they did. Staff members in our Hubbard Center for Student Engagement reported that students intensely engaged in co-curricular activities often could not articulate the role of these activities in their own development.  The CCI, originally conceived as a transcript-like record, began to evolve toward richer descriptions. We can now describe activities at three levels: activity, offering and individual student. And we’ve begun to shift the focus of these descriptions from the activity itself to the skills students develop and the competencies they demonstrate through their participation.

This is where the DQP has helped. At first, it seemed like we were really stretching things to associate participation in a co-curricular activity with a DQP outcome. But, if the activities did not meet an outcome, they often were important steps toward meeting it.  For example, our Winter Term in Service program aims to expose participants “to relevant social and political issues,” engage them in reflecting on their values and experiences, and increase their understanding of “diverse communities’ interconnectedness.” A Winter Term in Service project with a medical focus noted that participants had a “strong sense of obligation towards service and philanthropy,” but that this project would take them a step further: besides giving them the opportunity to serve, it would also ask them to “support their actions with practical intellectual arguments.” This shift from simply participating in an activity to developing an important skill or competency through it is very typical of the way DQP outcomes are phrased. For this particular activity, we found three DQP outcomes, one in Civic Learning, one in Broad, Integrative Knowledge, and one in Intellectual Skills that were directly related to that process of developing an argument out of experience.

Now that the Co-Curricular Inventory is up and running, we are in the process of rewriting activity descriptions and indexing activities to DQP outcomes. This is an iterative process because indexing an outcome to an activity often prompts a revision of the description. At this point, the DQP outcome assignments are meant to be suggestive. We’re not prepared yet to take the evaluative leap and say that in this activity this student achieved this outcome. The activity descriptions represent our attempt to articulate what students might get out of an activity; the DQP is an attempt to describe important outcomes of a college education. By associating the two, we’re suggesting where students might look to discover their own learning.