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The Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education at Beloit College

In the fall of 2010 Beloit College announced its participation the Wabash National Study 2010, joining 29 other liberal arts institutions from across the country.  The first iteration of the Wabash Study, conducted from 2006-09, gained national acclaim for its efforts to identify teaching practices, programs, and institutional structures that support liberal arts education while developing related methods of assessment (the resulting research reports may be accessed here: 

Informed by those efforts, the 2010 Wabash Study shifts focus from data gathering towards the analysis of existing data (focusing in particular on actual student work) as part of an assessment portfolio, the use of the data to inform and identify campus priorities, and the implementation and assessment of institutional responses designed to address those priorities.

Overview of the Wabash Study 2010, including list of participating institutions

At Beloit, the goals of our study include analyzing student engagement with the concept of Liberal Arts in Practice (LAP) on multiple levels, starting with the extent to which students participate in activities and structures that purposefully emphasize synthesis and transfer, examining writing and other student work for direct evidence of understanding and skill in these areas, and gathering qualitative and quantitative indirect evidence regarding campus beliefs about the Liberal Arts in Practice concept including its definition and importance.

Click here to read the full Overview of the Wabash Study 2010 at Beloit College

The Liberal Arts in Practice (LAP) Impact Rubric Draft

One of the central outcomes of the first year of the study at Beloit has been the creation of a draft rubric with the intended uses of articulating the meaning and value of  LAP to both on- and off-campus audiences, serving as an instrument to examine student work across the campus for evidence of LAP, and serving as a potential customizable resource that individual courses or programs on campus may adapt to their needs.  The rubric’s three broad categories of connections (of facts and experiences), transfer (of skills and methodology), and reflection & self-assessment were adapted in part from the AAC&U VALUE Rubric for Integrative Learning.

To create and test the rubric, a wide variety of student work, along with accompanying assignments and syllabi, was gathered from across the campus.  Sources included Study Abroad, internships, a new IDST capstone course, student teaching, the Duffy Community Service Program, and Symposium presentations; samples identified as strong representations of the categories described in the rubric were explicitly sought.  The rubric was drafted by the "Student Outcomes" working group of the Wabash study, consisting of campus faculty, students, and staff, and a larger cohort of faculty, students, and staff provided samples of student work and offered guidance.  An early series of student discussion groups convened by working group provided important feedback on how students value LAP, where they identify it in their own experiences, and areas where the language of the rubric was unclear.

It is our hope that our intense clarification process will provide a template for future conversations, a guide to common misunderstandings, and a model for the possibility of successful consensus across campus. 

Click here to access the Beloit College Liberal Arts in Practice Impact Rubric

Proposed Beloit Wabash Study Timeline:

September 2010 - Wabash Leadership team initial meeting with Senior Staff (completed)

October 2010 - Academic Senate, Staff Council , Student Affairs, Beloit Student Congress (in progress) 

November 2010 - Critical Constituency groups formed / organized

November 2010 - May 2011 - Critical Constituency groups will review, collect, review, summarize and make sense of the data with the guidance from members of the leadership team in consultation with others as appropriate. 

Summer 2011 - Senior Staff and Wabash Leadership Team will use information, data to construct the draft for the Institutional Change Narrative. 

Fall 2011 - Draft presented to Academic Senate, Staff Council, Student Affairs, Beloit Student Congress for discussion. 

Fall 2012 - Implementation




Beloit College's Application to the Wabash Study 2010  (.pdf file)

Beloit College Wabash Study 2010 Campus Plan  (Draft, 10/01/2010; .pdf file)

Wabash Assessment Portfolio Description  (From the Wabash Center for Inquiry; .pdf file)

Beloit College Data  (some information is restricted to campus-only access)

Beloit College Assessment  Resources