Improving Teaching, Improving Learning

The Tracer project investigates the effect of faculty development efforts at Carleton College and Washington State University on teaching and student learning in concrete, identifiable ways. The investigators will study Carleton College's Quantitative Inquiry, Reasoning, and Knowledge Initiative (QuIRK) and Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) programs and Washington State University's 'Critical Thinking' (CT) and WAC programs to evaluate the success of faculty development in these three interdisciplinary programs, using a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods over a three year period (2009-2011). With this research, the investigators seek to create a model of faculty development (and theory of change) that can be utilized by a wide-range of higher education institutions. More about this project.

What's Going On

We are currently employing four types of research strategies:
  1. studies of individual faculty members' assignments, teaching, and student work in order to trace faculty development experiences through to student learning Pathway Study;
  2. an ethnographic study of faculty development, teaching, and learning at Carleton (interviews and participant observation with faculty and staff - now focusing on Carleton's institutional culture of teaching and learning); and
  3. quantitative analysis of faculty development participation and representation in student portfolios, and applicable institutional survey data.

Past Activities:

  1. a collaborative research project with students on their learning, inside and outside of the classroom Student Photo Survey;


Please feel free to contact Gudrun Willett by phone (x4177), email (, or stop in at Cowling 104 if you have any questions.


The Tracer project is funded by the Spencer Foundation in line with its goal to connect education research to concrete improvements in education and the broader society.

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