In the Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education we use a longitudinal approach, assessing first-year students shortly after they arrive on campus and then following them for at least four years. This approach allows us to gauge how much students change during their time at college.
We collect student and institutional data at multiple points during the study, supplementing quantitative data from surveys and assessments with interviews at a subset of institutions. In what is perhaps the most critical component of our work, we collaborate with institutions to ensure that they can use study data to address their unique concerns and improve student learning.
We are collecting demographic information, reports of precollege and collegiate experiences, and measurements of liberal arts outcomes from students at all 49 institutions. These data will enable us to understand how specific college experiences impact the achievement of liberal arts outcomes.
Participating students complete surveys, including the NSSE, that ask about their high school and college experiences, including:
- Participation in activities
- Exposure to effective teaching
- Diversity-related experiences
- Involvement in active learning and integrative experiences
- Cocurricular/out-of-class involvement
- Influential interactions with faculty and peers
Students also complete quantitative instruments designed to assess six liberal arts outcomes.
Students are assessed a total of three times—in the fall and spring of their first year and again in the spring of their fourth year.
We are conducting in-depth interviews with a subset of students from six institutions in the 2006 group. These interviews will help us understand the ways educational experiences affect students' achievement of the seven selected liberal arts outcomes and how students interpret these experiences. The interviews will also help us develop theories to test in the quantitative component.
- Involve approximately 50 students from each of the following six institutions: Bard College, Columbia College (SC), Wabash College, Whittier College, San José State University, and the University of Notre Dame
- Are both structured and open-ended, conducted with a holistic approach grounded in self-authorship
- Are approximately 90 minutes long
- Began in fall 2006 and will continue each year through fall 2009 to document changes in development
Data from the Wabash National Study can be used to address a variety of institution-specific questions about issues such as retention, persistence, and student success. It can also provide feedback on specific campus programs. We are working with faculty, staff, and students to discover the questions that are of central importance to their institution so that we can customize our data analysis to address their specific questions, and help them use the data to improve student learning and strengthen liberal arts education. We can connect an institution’s existing student data with Wabash National Study data to examine a wide range of issues. When institutions have similar questions, we can also facilitate collaborations between institutions.