Vassar College Context
1. What is the status of Quantitative Reasoning programming on your campus?
One of Vassar's requirements for graduation is successful completion of one of the courses designated a "quantitative analysis course." A subcommittee of our Committee on Curricular Policy assesses what kinds of work constitute "quantitative analysis," and which courses students may use to fulfill the graduation requirement. The work of this Committee involves an ongoing process of reflection and assessment. In 2008-09 the college is to begin planning for the establishment of a Quantitative Skills Center (or Quantitative Reasoning Center or Quantitative Analysis Center) that will parallel and complement our well-established Writing Center, both of which will be housed in our Learning and Teaching Center.
2. What are the key learning goals that shape your current programming or that you hope to achieve?
We seek to make certain that students have the tools to engage in quantitative analysis across a wide variety of academic disciplines. There is continuous discussion about the relative importance of the ability to perform mathematical calculations and the ability to engage in quantitative reasoning, and about how to give proper emphasis to both aspects of quantitative analysis. The idea behind the establishment of the QR Center is not to pre-empt the work of this QA Committee, but rather to think about what kinds of services and programs would enhance the ability of our students to complete these courses and enhance their analytical skills, and to provide opportunities for pedagogic development to faculty who teach quantitative reasoning.
3. Do you have QR assessment instruments in place? If so, please describe:
We rely on the instructors of each course to assess student competence in quantitative reasoning for that course. Beginning in 2007 Vassar has participated in the Wabash National Study of Liberal Education, a large-scale, longitudinal study to investigate critical factors that affect the outcomes of liberal arts education. The study is designed to help colleges and universities improve student learning and enhance the educational impact of their programs. As part of the Wabash study students complete an assessment during their freshman and senior years consisting of a battery of instruments designed to examine different outcomes. Institutions can add their own questions and assessments to the study, and part of our conversation over the upcoming year will be to consider additions to the Wabash National Study which will allow us to assess our QR programming.
4. Considering your campus culture, what challenges or barriers do you anticipate in implementing or extending practices to develop and assess QR programming on your campus?
There is little resistance on campus to implementing and extending practices to develop and assess QR programming, but discussion on how best to do this is just beginning. There is a need to create time and space for reflective and informed discussion about these issues, and that is always difficult when people are as busy as they are. It is also not clear how the new QR Center will be funded, particularly if it requires the outside hiring of a Director. The Center will be part of the Learning and Teaching Center, but must not be funded by taking monies from existing programs. We are actively engaged in exploring sources of outside funding for the LTC (including a QRC).
5. Considering your campus culture, what opportunities or assets will be available to support your QR initiatives?
The college wishes to establish a QR center that will parallel our Writing Center, both of which will be housed within the Learning and Teaching Center. We are at the beginning of the planning process, and have the support of the relevant faculty and the administration.