Sunday, July 20, 2008

"Mapping" Cadet Learning at West Point

Inside Higher Ed has an interesting piece about a long-term effort to evaluate West Point's "product"--an educated, adaptable lieutenant.

“Our graduates are likely to be stationed all over the world. They’re going to confront challenges that quite frankly we couldn’t have prepared them for. We couldn’t have known what the challenges would be,” said Bruce Keith, a professor of sociology and associate dean for academic affairs. “We have to develop in them a foundation for lifelong learning.”

With broad goals of lifelong learning and liberal education at the fore, West Point professors are diligently pursuing an ongoing effort to map where, in what classes, and how students achieve the outcomes West Point wants. Yet, even considering West Point’s heavy core curriculum — which consists of about 30 courses, Keith said, 26 of which are taken in common by all students — the circled route consists of many branching roads that ultimately, faculty hope, converge.

And while West Point is of course a unique institution, some suggest it could be a model for how colleges can become more intentional in linking all of these branches of the undergraduate experience.

I'm usually skeptical of such evaluation programs, but if any institution can do them correctly, our service academies can.

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