Initial Publication Date: April 13, 2015

Ideal Student Exercise

This exercise asks faculty members to write a recommendation letter for the ideal student graduating from their department. What skills, knowledge, experiences, and values should they have been exposed to or gained from going through the program? This visioning process helps the department as a whole to lay out its program-level goals explicitly and begin to think strategically about how to attain them.

The Assignment

Write a recommendation letter for an ideal student in your program who is a new graduate, applying for graduate school or a job. In the letter, describe some of the following:

  • What kind of person will this graduate be?
  • What will they be able to do?
  • What will they know?
  • What skills will they have?
  • How will they behave?
  • What will they value?

You can assume that these graduates have already met (in general) the institutional student learning outcomes.

This exercise was developed for use at Carleton College by Mary Savina (Geology), Deborah Gross (Chemistry) and Cherry Danielson (Institutional Research and Assessment). NAGT's Traveling Workshops Program adopted it to help departments articulate their program level goals for their students. Many departments cited it as one of the most beneficial activities of their visiting workshop, so we are sharing it here. We recommend having each department member complete the exercise, then gathering as a department to share and discuss the results, perhaps at a departmental retreat. It can be used very effectively as an introduction to the Matrix Approach to Curriculum Design.