Contexts for the DQP
The DQP focuses on issues, strengths and opportunities for improvement that are of particular importance to higher education in the U.S. These include a commitment to access, to diversity, to academic freedom and its responsibilities, to broad liberal education as well as specialized learning, to civic education for a democracy, and to innovative, integrative, inquiry-focused and collaborative pedagogies. For instance, because U.S. higher education emphasizes the application of knowledge, the DQP draws attention to the importance of field-based projects, performances, investigative research, demonstrations, collaborations and other settings where knowledge is actually used.
The DQP also considers the varied ways in which students demonstrate their proficiencies. While conventional testing may still be useful, the DQP holds that students provide more persuasive evidence of their learning through completion of assigned tasks and major projects within and beyond the classroom. The DQP proficiency statements are written accordingly, with such modes of demonstration as reference points.
Fortunately, the U.S. is not starting from scratch in crafting a transformational, proficiency-based DQP. Many institutions throughout American higher education are engaged in defining and addressing learning outcomes. Faculty members, administrators and researchers are working to improve the understanding of such outcomes and of the experiences and practices that move students toward them. Several fields of study have shown leadership in clarifying objectives for learning and engaging multiple stakeholders to establish benchmarks for these objectives (e.g., “Tuning USA” efforts in history, communications, civil engineering, marketing, chemistry and graphic arts). But these laudable efforts are largely separate from one another and largely unknown to the public. One aim of the DQP is to create a platform where such undertakings can come together.
While the DQP focuses on higher education and defers to others regarding pre-collegiate learning standards, it recognizes the importance of sound preparedness for college, career and life. Students with inadequate preparation often must remedy shortcomings and thus face a greater challenge in attaining the college-level DQP proficiencies. Hence the DQP acknowledges recent efforts to reach a deeper understanding of K-12 educational outcomes. In particular, initiatives such as that represented by the Common Core State Standards offer a promising opportunity for dialogue between the K-12 and higher education sectors.4