Learning Outcomes and Meaning-Making

In the forward to their book “Helping College Students Find Purpose: The Campus Guide to Meaning-Making,” Robert Nash and Michele Murray make this statement:  

This book invites us to reclaim the core of the intellectual life, inviting our students into a disciplined, far-reaching dialogue that begins with “Why…?”  “How do we know…?”  and “For what…?”  Here faculty, administrators, and student affairs professionals are reminded that meaning-making is a domain that cannot be deferred to presumed cultural norms already in place.  This call for a more adequate understanding of what we mean by higher education asks all of us to relinquish our tendency the bigger questions to “experts” – be they philosophers or counselors.  

If you attended the Northwest Vista Faculty Development day program on August 18, you have received a copy of their book, but whether you are in the classroom or supporting students outside the classroom, you will gain from the writing of Murray and Nash an understanding that everyone here plays an important role in creating and cultivating meaningful, purposeful learning outcomes. 

During the coming year, there will be substantial dialogue across NVC and the Alamo Colleges about learning outcomes. Much of that dialogue will focus the Alamo Colleges Core Learning Outcomes which are built on the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board core curriculum objectives and the additional outcome of leadership. There will be information about the outcomes, about course outcomes agreements to be made across the colleges, about the forms, etc. It would be easy to get mired in the details and forget to have the vital conversations about the meaning and purpose we desired, individually and collectively, to create for students.  It is my hope that in each discipline, faculty dialogues begin with creating a shared vision. As I think about doing that, I am reminded of the time spent a few years back creating the NVC Vision: 

To become responsible members of our world community, we create exemplary models for:

Learning to Be…
Learning to Work…
Learning to Serve…
Learning to Lead…         Together. 

Out of a shared vision the key learning outcomes will emerge as will ways to create meaning around those outcomes, both in the classroom and outside. In some disciplines, those dialogues have already been occurring and will continue as we tackle the task of measuring and improving student outcomes. It is important work to do because after all, that is why we are all here: to help our students find meaning for their inner lives, for their work, for service and for leadership…together.