The value of the DQP for students

American college students choose from among hundreds of fields of study, often with scant information to guide them on the learning implications of their choices. Because the DQP clearly defines the learning that each degree should reflect, regardless of major field of study, it can help students develop and pursue a thoughtful, coherent and meaningful education plan. It can serve as a roadmap for navigating the often-fragmented landscape of higher education.

While students must master the content and methods in the fields they study in depth, the DQP can contribute to that goal by providing general reference points for acquiring field-specific knowledge and skills, i.e., essential dimensions of higher learning that specific fields will elaborate in greater detail.

Because the DQP clearly defines the learning that each degree should reflect, it can help students pursue a coherent and meaningful education plan.

Moreover, because most students will change jobs many times during their lives, the DQP strongly emphasizes the kinds of broad, integrative studies and crosscutting proficiencies that graduates need for continuous learning in complex and changing environments.

A fundamental assumption behind the DQP is that study in breadth (traditionally associated with general education) and study in depth (traditionally associated with the major) are both vital. The DQP also assumes that general education and the major must work together. Degree recipients benefit from a curriculum in which general education and the major are clearly aligned in the pursuit of a shared commitment to assuring accomplishment of degree-level proficiencies.

There are pedagogical and practical benefits in such clarity. Students who understand the purposes of the courses they take and the congruence between course-level and degree- level objectives learn more effectively. The DQP offers a resource to guide that understanding. Moreover, working adults and students returning to higher education after an extended absence may find the DQP useful because it enables them to “ladder” their applied learning experiences.

shutterstock_21874783Use of the DQP also should help students commit themselves to prepare fully for citizenship, for contributing to the economy and for the accomplishment of personal goals. As colleges and universities make clear their resolve to support students pursuing such preparation, they might invite students to formalize a shared resolve at the beginning of their college career, perhaps through a statement that says, “I have read and understand the proficiencies for the degree I seek and commit myself to investing the time, energy and creativity to qualify for that degree.” An overarching learning agreement for each degree — an agreement that also affirms an institution’s commitment to give each student the support needed to pursue a degree — should be an important outgrowth of the framework envisioned here.