Definitions of key DQP terms


The meanings provided here are not meant to challenge standard dictionary definitions. Rather, they seek to describe how words frequently used in academe are employed in the DQP and closely related discipline-specific Tuning processes.

Analytic inquiry

A set of proficiencies included under Intellectual Skills. The ability to recognize, describe and solve problems through differentiation, categorization and other relevant tools of inquiry and reasoning.   

Applied and Collaborative Learning

The proficiency (one of five) that enables students to demonstrate what they can do with what they know by addressing existing problems.


A process for the collection and analysis of evidence about the achievement of student learning outcomes used to determine student proficiency and improve or to demonstrate the effectiveness of an educational program or institution.


A problem, task or creative undertaking designed by faculty that students within a course or program of study must complete in order to develop, advance and document their proficiency. Assignments are the principal vehicle for certifying DQP proficiencies.

Broad and Integrative Knowledge

The proficiency (one of five) that reflects student attainment in bringing together learning from different fields of study. Broad, integrative knowledge represents a priority for the entire curriculum.

Civic and Global Learning

The proficiency (one of five) that reflects student attainment in articulating and responding to political, social, environmental and economic challenges at local, national and global levels.

Communicative fluency

Demonstrated skills, oral and written, in effectively creating and expressing a sustained argument, narrative or explication to multiple types of audiences and in more than one medium or language.


A term often used to describe the accomplishment of objectives within a specific course or learning experience.

Competency-based degree

An academic credential awarded for demonstrated competency rather than for the accumulation of credit hours through taking courses. However, for purposes of record keeping or transfer, demonstrated competencies may be assigned credit as one measure of the time committed or volume of effort required.

Core fields

Students’ required studies — both disciplinary and interdisciplinary — across the humanities, arts, sciences and social sciences. The DQP calls for students to connect their broad learning across their core fields and to their majors.


A unit of measurement for completion of a traditional college course traditionally based on time spent in its pursuit, it is also applied as a proxy for time or volume of effort in the demonstration of competencies through assessments and portfolios.


A particular type of credential conferred by an accredited academic institution in recognition of demonstrated academic proficiencies. The DQP addresses three degree levels — associate, bachelor’s and master’s.


A document issued by an educational provider that purports to document a student’s successful completion of a curriculum. Customary use speaks of high school diplomas, college degrees.


A field of study, whether academic (e.g., history, accounting, geology) or professional (e.g., medicine, law, engineering). For undergraduates, discipline is often synonymous with major and field of study.

Ethical reasoning

Analysis and resolution of issues involving conflicts in cultural, professional, occupational and economic codes of conduct.

Field of study

Sometimes used synonymously with discipline but also used to describe applied, occupationally oriented programs such as culinary arts, automotive technology, graphic design or medical records administration.

Field-based study

Refers to learning pursued outside a traditional classroom setting (whether physical or online) that offers opportunity for independent work on projects.


Speed, accuracy, flexibility and in-depth understanding as applied to quantitative, verbal or psychomotor skills. So far as second language acquisition is concerned, fluency ordinarily denotes a level of idiomatic facility corresponding to native speaking.


A descriptor for intermediate stages of growth in knowledge and skills. A formative stage in student development enables diagnostics, adjustments and refinements.

Global literacy

Demonstrated global learning that includes both factual prerequisites for describing differences among nations and regions (demography, geography, economics, culture, migration, etc.), and the principles and dynamics of problems, tensions and interactions among nation states and peoples.


An accredited college, community college or university, whether public, private not-for-profit, or private for-profit.

Intellectual Skills

One of five broad categories in the DQP, proficiencies that transcend the boundaries of particular fields of study and overlap, interact with, and enable the other major areas of learning described in the DQP. Includes analytic inquiry, use of information resources, engaging diverse perspectives, ethical reasoning, quantitative fluency, and communicative fluency.

Learning outcome

A clear statement that describes the demonstrated learning expected of students at the completion of an assignment, a course, a major or a degree program. (See also proficiency and competency.)


A field of study chosen by a student as a principal area of focus, usually (but not exclusively) at the baccalaureate level. For undergraduates, major is often synonymous with discipline and field of study. However, some undergraduates may study more than one discipline (e.g., biology, philosophy) or draw on two or more fields in pursuit of another (e.g., coastal ecology).   


A form of assessment directed principally to documentation of performance in comparison with others in a group of participants in a given assessment.


A label for a set of demonstrations of knowledge, understanding and skill that satisfy the levels of mastery sufficient to justify the award of an academic degree. 


For the purposes of the DQP, the set of proficiencies evident in demonstration of knowledge and skills that justify the award of a degree. In the DQP lexicon, “qualification” does not mean a credential.

Quantitative fluency

The adept use of calculations and symbolic operations, including essential arithmetical skills, visualization, symbolic translation and algorithms.

Specialized Knowledge

The proficiency (one of five) that demonstrates command of the vocabularies, theories and skills of the field of study on which a student has focused.


Expectations of proficiencies shared broadly enough to constitute a collegial consensus.


The process of seeking conformity with a declared set of expectations.


A descriptor for the level of mastery of a proficiency that an institution indicates is required for the award of a degree.


A faculty-led, discipline-by-discipline attempt to determine what students should learn and be able to do (often referred to as learning outcomes mapping or alignment) at applicable stages of the disciplinary curriculum. Originally a European initiative associated with the Bologna Process, Tuning projects are moving forward in several states of the U.S. and in Latin America, Africa and Central Asia. They also have been explored in both China and Australia.