, Volume 49, Issue 2, pp 107-125
Date: 30 Oct 2007

The Effects of Liberal Arts Experiences on Liberal Arts Outcomes

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Abstract

Despite scholars’ praise of liberal arts education as a model form, very little research has examined the actual impact of liberal arts education on learning outcomes. The elaborate rhetoric and anecdotal support, long used to advance liberal arts education as the premier type of education with value for all, is no longer sufficient. The practices and conditions that lead to outcomes of a liberally educated student remain an empirical black box. Guided by the work of Pascarella et al. [2005, Liberal arts colleges and liberal arts education: New evidence on impacts. ASHE Higher Education Report, 31(3)], this study examined the extent to which an institutional ethos, that values student–student and student–faculty interaction within a supportive environment characterized by high expectations for developing the intellectual arts, manifests in the lived experiences of students and predicts the development of outcomes theoretically associated with the liberal arts. Specifically, we investigated the construct and predictive validity of the liberal arts experience scale relative to liberal arts outcomes. Using data from the first phase of the Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education, net of student background characteristics and institution attended, we found liberal arts experiences had a positive effect on four of six liberal arts outcomes, including intercultural effectiveness, inclination to inquire and lifelong learning, well-being, and leadership.