Uses for the DQP

Although it is difficult to anticipate all of the purposes that the DQP can serve, there are several obvious and important applications that deserve mention. The more than 400 colleges and universities that have experimented with the DQP have already taken action on many of these applications.

  • At the institutional level, the DQP provides reference points that allow faculty members to articulate and better align institutional student learning outcomes with departmental objectives. Instructors and students can then refer to the DQP as a common source of understanding and point of departure for agreement on more detailed and specific expectations about programs, courses, assignments and assessments. For those engaged in educational innovations and experiments, the DQP provides a framework for describing the multiple kinds of learning that students need to accomplish and demonstrate.
  • In guiding students, advisers can use the DQP as a framework to explain the structure and coherence of the curriculum with a particular emphasis on the interdependence of general education and the major. In such a context, students will be able to make better-informed choices as to which courses to take and better understand how the parts of their education add up to a whole. Advisers will also be able to better inform and guide all types of students, including those working toward a degree, those who intend to transfer from one institution to another, and those returning to higher education after a period of absence.
  • Recognizing that many students attend a community college intending to transfer to a four-year institution and that others may attend several institutions before completing their degrees, the DQP provides a framework useful for aligning degree requirements across institutions. This gives prospective students a clear statement of the proficiencies they will be expected to achieve wherever they enroll while also providing a platform for transfers that are both vertical (two-year to four-year institution) and horizontal (among similar institutions).
  • The DQP provides resources for strengthening accreditation. Regional accreditors should find that the DQP prompts them to reach the consensus on specific, concrete learning outcomes being sought by many leaders and opinion makers. And specialized accreditors can use the DQP to relate disciplinary expectations to broad institutional goals for student learning outcomes.
  • The DQP’s focus on student learning and demarcation of increasing levels of challenge as a student progresses from one degree level to the next should enable a continuing and sustainable emphasis on learning as the proper determinant for the quality and value of degrees. This will help correct the tendency to view the credential as an end in itself, independent of the learning it is meant to represent.
  • The DQP will inform refinement and further elaboration of points of alignment between and among secondary schools and postsecondary institutions regarding achievement levels in specific knowledge, skill and application areas.
  • The DQP can inform the expansion and elaboration of connections between school-based learning and out-of-school learning, including prior learning (e.g., from employment, military service and volunteer activity).
Key terms in the DQP

Proficiency: Proficiency designates the knowledge, understanding and skill that satisfy the levels of mastery sufficient to justify the award of an academic degree. The DQP uses the term “proficiency” rather than “competency” because the DQP focuses on the degree as a whole and the continuum of learning across increasingly higher degree levels. The term “competence” describes formative attainment goals within specific learning experiences (e.g., in courses) along the path to degree-qualifying proficiencies.

Field-based: Study pursued beyond traditional academic locations, whether on or off campus. Field-based study is characterized by work in “real time” (rather than that measured by the classroom clock), in “real space” (rather than in designated academic facilities), and in “real urgency” (arising from immersion in issues and an environment).

Field of study: Sometimes used as a synonym for discipline but used also to describe applied programs such as culinary arts, graphic design or medical records administration.

Tuning: Faculty-led, discipline-by-discipline projects to determine what students should know and be able to do (mapping and alignment of learning outcomes) stage by stage through the curriculum. Originally a European initiative associated with the Bologna Process, Tuning projects are moving forward in several states of the U.S. as well as in Latin America, Africa and Central Asia.