The Effects of Liberal Arts Experiences on Liberal Arts Outcomes
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.
KeywordsLiberal arts education Learning outcomes Liberal arts Liberally educated
- American Association for Liberal Education (2003). The academy’s education standards. Retrieved April 19, 2005 from http://www.aale.org/highered/edstand.htm.
- Aristotle (350 B.C.E.). Politics, book eight. Translated by Benjamin Jowett. Retrieved September 24, 2007 from http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/politics.8.eight.html.
- Association of American Colleges & Universities (1998, October). Statement on liberal learning. Retrieved November 5, 2003, from http://www.aacu-edu.org/About/liberal_learning.cfm.
- Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) (2002). Greater expectations: A new vision for learning as a nation goes to college. Retrieved April 29, 2006 from http://www.greaterexpectations.org/.
- Astin A. (1993). What matters in college? San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
- Astin, A. W. (2000). How the liberal arts college affects students. In S. Koblik & S. Graubard (Eds.), Distinctly American: The residential liberal arts colleges. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.Google Scholar
- Blaich, C., Bost, A., Chan, E., & Lynch, R. (2004). Defining liberal arts education. Unpublished manuscript. Retrieved September 24, 2007 from http://www.wabash.edu/cila/docs/DefLibArtEdFinal.pdf.
- Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts at Wabash College (2006). Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education. Retrieved on April 29, 2006 from http://www.liberalarts.wabash.edu/nationalstudy.
- Chickering, A. W., & Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE Bulletin, 39(7), 3–7.Google Scholar
- Chickering, A., & Reisser, L. (1993). Education and identity (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
- Cohen, J., Cohen, P., West, S. G., & Aiken, L. S. (2003). Applied multiple regression/correlation analysis for the behavioral sciences (3rd ed.). Mahwah: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Farrell, E. F., & Van Der Werf, M. (2007). Playing the rankings game. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 53(38), A11.Google Scholar
- Hammer, M. R., & Bennett, M. J. (2001). The intercultural development inventory (IDI) manual. Portland: Intercultural Communication Institute.Google Scholar
- Higher Education Research Institute (1996). Social change model of leadership development. Los Angeles: UCLA.Google Scholar
- King, P., Kendall Brown, M., Lindsay, N., & VanHecke, J. (in press). Liberal arts student learning outcomes: An integrated perspective. About Campus.Google Scholar
- Kitchener, K. S, Wood, P. K., & Jensen, L. (in preparation). Individual differences in gains in reflective judgment and their relationship to college experiences.Google Scholar
- Kuh, G. D. (1996). Guiding principles for creating seamless learning environments for undergraduates. Journal of College Student Development, 37, 135–148.Google Scholar
- Kuh, G. D. (2001). Assessing what really matters to student learning: Inside the National Study of Student Engagement. Change, 33(3), 10–17, 66.Google Scholar
- Kuh, G. D. (2003). What we’re learning about student engagement from NSSE. Change, 35(2), 24–32.Google Scholar
- Kuh, G. D., Kinzie, J., Schuh, J. H., Whitt, E. J., & Associates (2005). Student success in college: Creating conditions that matter. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
- Kuh, G. D., Schuh, J. H., Whitt, E. J., & Associates (1991). Involving colleges: Successful approaches to fostering student learning and personal development. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
- Matthews, A. (1997). Bright college years: Inside the American college campus today. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
- Nussbaum, M. C. (1997). Cultivating humanity: A classical defense of reform in liberal education. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Pascarella, E., & Terenzini, P. (1991). How college affects students. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
- Pascarella, E., & Terenzini, P. (2005). How college affects students: Vol. 2. A third decade of research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
- Pascarella, E., Wolniak, G., Seifert, T., Cruce, T., & Blaich, C. (2005). Liberal arts colleges and liberal arts education: New evidence on impacts. ASHE Higher Education Report, 31(3).Google Scholar
- Shadish, W. R., Cook, T. D., & Campbell, D. T. (2002). Experimental and quasi experimental designs for generalized causal inference. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
- Terenzini, P. T., Pascarella, E. T., & Blimling, G. S. (1996). Students’ out-of-class experiences and their influence on learning and cognitive development: A literature review. Journal of College Student Development, 37(2), 149–162.Google Scholar
- Turner F. M. (Ed.) (1996). The idea of the university, John Henry Newman. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
- Tyree, T. M. (1998). Designing an instrument to measure the socially responsible leadership using the social change model of leadership development. Dissertation Abstracts International, 59(06), 1945.Google Scholar
- U.S. Department of Education (2006). A test of leadership: Charting the future of U.S. higher education. Retrieved May 21, 2007, from http://www.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/hiedfuture/reports/final-report.pdf.
- Wood, P. K., Kitchener, K. S., & Jensen, L. (2002). Considerations in the design, evaluation of a paper-and-pencil measure of reflective thinking. In B. Hofer & P. Pintrich (Eds.), Personal epistemology: The psychology of beliefs about knowledge and knowing. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar