April 20, 2012

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In a column in today's New York Times, David Brooks discusses the need for colleges and universities to do a better job of assessing how well students learn. Citing studies that show that students do not make substantial gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills during their college years, Brooks says, "It’s not enough to just measure inputs, the way the U.S. News-style rankings mostly do. Colleges and universities have to be able to provide prospective parents with data that will give them some sense of how much their students learn."

Brooks does find some positive examples. In particular, he points to the Association of American Colleges & Universities website, which puts forward "a dazzling array of experiments that institutions are running to figure out how to measure learning." Among these is the Interactive Qualifying Project, a capstone experience that is a core component of WPI's 40-year-old project-based approach to education.