Organization of the DQP

Early in the 20th century, educators decided that the college degree should be organized in terms of depth and breadth, or “concentration” and “distribution.” Depth and breadth, terms applicable to the way students approach their studies in specific knowledge areas, became over time organizing principles for the college degree throughout the United States.

Yet, as educators have worked on hundreds of campuses and in every part of the U.S. to articulate the learning outcomes students need to succeed in 21st century contexts, they have moved well beyond the twin pillars of breadth and depth. In particular, they have specified essential intellectual skills in seeking to ensure that students are well prepared to apply their learning beyond the classroom and to contribute to the life and vitality of the U.S. as a globally engaged democracy. Educators also have expanded the contexts for learning so that students now have many opportunities to develop and apply their learning in field-based settings.

The DQP builds from and further develops insights about higher learning articulated through these deliberations. While “depth” and “breadth” remain component elements of all postsecondary study, the DQP defines the following five essential areas of learning, each of which should be included in the associate degree, the bachelor’s degree and the master’s degree:

Specialized Knowledge 

Independent of the vocabularies, theories and skills of particular fields of study, the DQP outlines what students in any specialization should demonstrate with respect to the specialization, often called a major field. While the DQP frames specialized knowledge outcomes for any field of study, proficiencies in each field will be determined and defined by the specialties themselves. Tuning — or some other field-specific effort to map learning outcomes — is necessary to describe the concepts, knowledge areas, methods and accomplishments that are basic to particular fields of study (Appendix B, Page 33).

Broad and Integrative Knowledge

This category asks students at all degree levels covered in the DQP to develop and consolidate broad knowledge across multiple areas of learning and to discover and explore concepts and questions that bridge multiple fields of study. The DQP recommends that broad and integrative learning should involve students across all degree levels in the inquiry practices of core fields ranging from the sciences and social sciences to the humanities and arts. By exploring global, intercultural, scientific and economic topics, students pursue questions that both prepare them for civic participation and create a larger context for their specialized interests.

Intellectual Skills

The DQP describes a set of proficiencies basic to evidence- based reasoning across fields of study, including: analytic inquiry and operations, use of information resources, engaging diverse perspectives, ethical reasoning, quantitative fluency and communicative fluency. There is an emphasis throughout on the capacity to engage, make and interpret ideas and arguments from different points of reference (e.g., cultural, technological, political).

Applied and Collaborative Learning 

This area focuses on what students can do with what they know, demonstrated by innovation and fluency in addressing both conventional and unscripted problems in the classroom, beyond the classroom and at work. This category includes both undergraduate research and creative activities involving individual and group effort — and may include specific practical skills crucial to the application of expertise.

Civic and Global Learning 

This area of learning fosters students’ integration of knowledge and skills through applications and experiences that prepare them for citizenship. Students engage with, respond to, and reflect on political, social, environmental and economic challenges at local, national and global levels.