Ensuring the quality of a liberal arts education requires a commitment to regular assessment and ongoing improvement. In 2008, the General Education Council devised and circulated ten overarching learning goals as benchmarks of student learning. Since then, an Assessment Advisory Board, which advises the Dean of Faculty Office and reports to the Curriculum Committee, has overseen a system for self-assessment by all departments and programs offering majors. Learning goals span a wide range of reinforcing outcomes, integral to the liberal arts and Trinity’s commitment to offering students a well-rounded education that prepares them for lifelong learning and the future of work. The First Year Seminar Program has also articulated a set of learning goals, consistent with College-wide and major-specific learning goals.
College Learning Goals
- Develop the ability to critically read complex texts;
- Develop research and analytical skills;
- Learn and practice effective strategies for working both independently and collaboratively;
- Develop the ability to communicate clearly, coherently, and effectively in written and oral expression;
- Acquire quantitative skills;
- Develop scientific literacy;
- Develop artistic literacy;
- Attain competency in a language other than English;
- Cultivate the ability to make informed ethical judgements; and
- Acquire knowledge of diverse cultural traditions and global perspectives.
Develop ability to critically read complex texts
The ability to read complex texts with understanding and acuity is a fundamental skill of an educated person. It requires practice and patience, focus and attention. This is not a skill peculiar to any division or department or program. Indeed, we construe the notion of “complex texts” widely, to include not only linguistic texts, but also, to name but two, narrative texts, such as film, that are composed of visual images, as well as the complex texts constructed by the notational patternings of musical compositions. Training students to become critical readers encourages them to examine texts closely in order to find the patterns and connections, as well as the disjunctions and tensions that, taken together, establish meaning. Moreover, critical reading alerts students to the ways in which the meaning of any complex text is multivalent, often ambiguous, and sometimes frustratingly incapable of being “pinned down” or determined with objective certainty. The ability to read texts critically is central to apprehending and comprehending the ways in which meaning is made.
Develop research and analytical skills
Various forms of research skills characterize different disciplines, but all disciplines seek to foster techniques of research and investigation, analysis and problem-solving, that provide the basis for discovery and validation in their fields. In the sciences, such procedures are at the heart of specific methodologies of discovery and research and provide the means for confirmation and falsification of conjectures and hypotheses. In the humanities, they lie at the heart of scholarship and the careful distinguishing among many forms of historical inquiry, textual analysis, and sustained argument in defense of objection and reply. In the arts, they bolster aesthetic judgment and refine strategies for creative innovation and artistic composition. Included here is the need for students to become fully conversant in the use of information technology, which is rapidly transforming the nature and conduct of research across the disciplines.
Learn and practice effective strategies for working both independently and collaboratively
All students must develop facility in both independent work and collaborative efforts. Facility in such work is not innate, but rather the result of gradual and gradated learning throughout one’s college career. Thus, it requires training, constructive feedback, and repeated opportunities to learn. In the thesis or independent project, these skills come to more sophisticated application when students seek to make sense of relatively large and complicated problems or questions and to contribute their own original solutions to them. It is through successful collaborative work that students can develop essential skills in cooperating with others. What is more, whether in the lab or the studio, the seminar room or the theater, students will experience the pleasure and the productivity that come when minds, imaginations, and talents merge and inspire each other to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Develop the ability to communicate clearly, coherently, and effectively in written and oral expression
The ability to communicate clearly, coherently, and effectively in writing and in speech is one of the most important faculties and facilities that we can cultivate in our students. Writing is so essential a skill that it must be mastered by all Trinity students. Additionally, throughout their lives, our students will need to express themselves orally in the clearest, most persuasive ways they can. Oral expression may be cultivated in seminar discussion-based courses, formal presentations, etc. These abilities are central to all our fields, programs, disciplines, and divisions. They are central to our functioning in life.
Acquire quantitative skills
In order to participate in society in an informed way, all Trinity students must be able to understand the quantitative data deployed in a wide variety of contexts and found at the center of an equally wide variety of problems. They must be able to interpret such data intelligently in order to evaluate and to solve these problems. What is more, like the ability to write clearly and cogently, the ability to reason quantitatively is a fundamental skill necessary in many courses throughout the curriculum.
Develop scientific literacy
All Trinity students should have a basic grasp of scientific methods. In particular, they should understand that the business of science is to construct models of the nature of the world and to test the validity of these models using empirical evidence. Without this understanding, students will be ill-equipped to participate in society as informed citizens; they will be unable to assimilate the constantly changing nature of scientific knowledge and make reasoned decisions about the many science-related public issues that they will confront in the years to come. Understanding scientific methods is not enough, however, to prepare students for these changes; they should have familiarity with (at least some of) the major scientific ideas of the modern world.
Develop artistic literacy
Students develop artistic literacy by cultivating their creative resources in arts practice courses and/or by engaging in the study of art as a form of cultural expression. Art is the vehicle by which we construct meaning and identity through the use of the creative intellect. Given art’s centrality to the way in which individuals as well as whole cultures give tangible expression to their deeply held values and beliefs, it is critically important for students to explore a range of arts practices and traditions as part of liberal arts study. Artistic literacy in the 21st Century means: being aware of the various roles both art and individual artists have played in societies and cultures of the past; being informed about the diversity of current arts practices and understanding the ways in which such practices shape and are shaped by the contemporary world; being able to discern aesthetic value with a regard for the cultural specificity of any such values; and engaging directly in art-making processes as an articulation of our experience of being in the world. Studio courses in the arts allow students the possibility to formulate through artistic media a rendering of a world that is compelling and transformative. Courses that explore art through history and across cultures expose students to the major practices, media, and ideas that define art as a unique mode of human expression.
Attain competency in a language other than English
Culture is embedded in language. By achieving competency in a language other than English, students learn about deep differences and similarities between cultures through comparing their means of expression. Learning a language other than English opens up opportunities for direct communication with a wide range of communities; it allows engagement with world literatures unmediated by translation; and it enhances the ability to learn additional languages. Ensuring that students gain facility in a language other than English underscores Trinity’s commitment to preparing its students to become global citizens. Moreover, achieving competency in a language other than English requires students to develop skills of reading, writing, and speaking. Through this process, students learn more about how their own language works and about how to use it more effectively.
Cultivate the ability to make informed ethical judgments
No one course or major has a special monopoly on moral and ethical reasoning, yet our lives are constantly infused with the necessity of making such judgments. In an academic community there are special occasions for such judgments involving academic integrity and honesty, fairness and respect. Students’ educations must acquaint them with multiple and diverse cultural constructions of moral and ethical behavior. What is more, students must be given the opportunity to explore the complexities of ethical questions and debates and to develop their own informed and reasoned responses to them. They must understand that this is an ability that needs to be central to the “examined lives” their educations are preparing them to lead. The Student Integrity Contract, we hope, will be an additional mechanism for encouraging right conduct among students in both the academic and the social aspects of their lives in a residential college setting.
Acquire knowledge of diverse cultural traditions and global perspectives
Familiarity with a large range of diverse, divergent, and yet interconnected cultures, both national and international, is a powerful way to free one’s mind from parochialism and prejudice. Our students, in Martha Nussbaum’s phrase, need to become “citizens of the world,” able to understand, appreciate, and respect views of life, mores, customs, and perspectives other than, but also including their own. The study of different racial, sexual, ethnic, cultural, historical, and linguistic communities provides a partial standpoint for thinking reflectively and reflexively about one’s own community and the ways in which it shapes one’s identity and consciousness. It is a mark of an educated person to be able imaginatively to inhabit the lives of others and thereby gain perspective on his or her own. It is another vehicle for self-knowledge. Further, quite apart from the self-knowledge and self-consciousness that multicultural literacy encourages, a knowledge of other cultural traditions for their own sakes, in and of themselves, should be a paramount goal of a Trinity education if our students are to have anything like an adequate understanding of the complexity of the world in which we live.
Learning Goals by Major
|Art History||Classics||Anthropology||Biology||American Studies|
|Music||English ||Economics||Chemistry||Educational Studies|
|Studio Arts||History||Political Science||Computer Science ||Environmental Science|
|Theater and Dance||Language and Culture Studies||Psychology||Engineering||International Studies|
|Public Policy and Law|
|||||||||Women, Gender, and Sexuality|