ERIC Number: EJ861148
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Reference Count: 9
Strengthening the Foundations of Students' Excellence, Integrity, and Social Contribution
Colby, Anne; Sullivan, William M.
Liberal Education, v95 n1 p22-29 Win 2009
In its Liberal Education and America's Promise (LEAP) initiative, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) outlines four clusters of learning outcomes that are essential for all college students in the twenty-first century and that, taken together, represent a high-quality liberal education. These include: (1) knowledge of human cultures and the physical and natural world; (2) intellectual and practical skills; (3) personal and social responsibility; and (4) integrative and applied learning. Core Commitments, a related AAC&U initiative, focuses specifically on the third of these clusters. This initiative is designed to strengthen the academy's capacity to foster students' personal and social responsibility. In order to clarify what that means, the Core Commitments initiative has outlined five key goals within the broader category of personal and social responsibility. Initial surveys conducted for the Core Commitments initiative have shown strong consensus among faculty, administrators, and students that these five aspects of personal and social responsibility are important goals of a college education. Unfortunately, however, many fewer respondents say that their institution is working toward these goals in an effective way. Why are so few institutions working to achieve these outcomes if so many acknowledge their importance? A likely explanation is that, despite evidence to the contrary, many educators hope and expect that these outcomes will be achieved as by-products of a college education, that they do not require explicit attention. The relative lack of institutional investment in students' personal and social responsibility reflects the widespread assumption that academic content knowledge and the intellectual skill of analytic or critical thinking, quite divorced from either action or responsibility, are the overriding aims of higher education and that the development of personal and social responsibility is only distantly connected with those aims. In this article, the authors take issue with both of these assumptions, arguing that colleges should aim to teach students how to use knowledge and criticism not only as ends in themselves but also as means toward responsible engagement with the life of their times. They also argue that this can be accomplished best by addressing some core developmental dimensions or processes that underlie and tie together the various elements of personal and social responsibility articulated by the Core Commitments initiative.
Descriptors: General Education, Colleges, Academic Achievement, Integrity, Social Responsibility, Higher Education, Outcomes of Education, Critical Thinking
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Authoring Institution: N/A