Learning Matters Assignment Library (LMAL)
LaGuardia’s Learning Matters Assignment Library (LMAL) is a faculty-generated online resource modeled after the National Institute for Learning Outcomes (NILOA) Assignment Library. It is housed within CUNY Academic Works, the university’s institutional repository, which collects, preserves and provides access to the research, scholarship, and creative output of CUNY.
Launched in 2017, and supported with generous funding from the Teagle Foundation, the LMAL was developed as part of the Learning Matters initiative. The goals of the Teagle Foundation grant are to align General Education requirements with our majors and degree programs, and promote curricular coherence to develop highly structured guided learning pathways for students.
The Learning Matters initiative is one of the central ways LaGuardia faculty collaborate to deepen student learning and advance graduation. The initiative centers on our Core Competencies and Communication Abilities. Identified and designed by faculty, and approved by college governance, the Core Competencies and Communication Abilities focus college-wide attention on shared objectives that address central dimensions of learning often associated with liberal arts education, such as critical thinking, problem-solving, global learning, self-reflection, and effective communication. Adapted to disciplinary settings, a college-wide focus on these objectives helps our students develop the higher order thinking and adaptive learning capacities needed for success in advanced education and 21st century careers. The three Core Competencies that structure LaGuardia’s general education framework are:
- Inquiry and Problem Solving, which asks students to seek and use disciplinary and cross-disciplinary content knowledge to address challenging issues; they weigh evidence and draw conclusions through a process of synthesis and evaluation.
- Global Learning, which asks students to approach the world’s challenges and opportunities from multiple perspectives and engage with issues of diversity, identity, democracy, power, privilege, sustainability and ethical action.
- Integrative Learning, which asks students to make connections between ideas and apply them to new contexts, within and beyond campus and over time.
Students demonstrate Core Competencies using one of three Communication Abilities: Written, Oral or Digital. Writing with power and clarity – the ability to combine vocabulary with grammatical proficiency, fluency, and cogent organization – has long been a hallmark of liberal education. LaGuardia faculty decided that oral communication – encompassing language, delivery and logical organization – was equally crucial for student learning. And LaGuardia faculty also recognized the importance of helping students develop the ability to harness the affordances of digital media to communicate their knowledge and ideas in a fast changing world.
The Learning Matters framework informs teaching and learning in General Education (Pathways) courses and in discipline-based majors or programs. To support this focus on shared objectives and help faculty examine the effectiveness of courses and programs, the Core Competencies and Communication Abilities also structure LaGuardia’s outcomes assessment system. Outcomes assessment is a set of processes that accredited institutions of higher education are required to undertake to:
- Identify college-wide learning priorities, for both General Education and programmatic learning outcomes;
- Collect data that documents student learning; and
- Use that data to make changes in curriculum and pedagogy that measurably improve student learning.
LaGuardia’s work to use assessment to strengthen teaching and learning has drawn recognition from the National Institute of Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) as an Example of Best Practice – Weaving Assessment into the Institutional Fabric, and Using Assessment Results.
LaGuardia recognizes that assignment design and development are the heart of powerful pedagogy, curriculum and outcomes assessment. According to Pat Hutchings and Natasha Jankowski, “Good assignments bring student learning outcomes to life…As educators work together to design assignments that are carefully aligned with desired, collectively constructed outcomes, those outcomes become more visible and are understood more deeply (and perhaps differently) by both faculty and students.” Collaborative assignment design focused on the Learning Matters structure helps faculty design and implement more cohesive curriculum pathways for students, speeding student progress towards their degrees.
The Learning Matters Assignment Library is designed to respond directly to faculty requests for examples of faculty-generated assignments that model ways of addressing clearly and concretely LaGuardia’s Core Competencies and Communication Abilities. The LMAL is framed by the idea that student artifacts that emerge from assignments intentionally aligned with the college-wide learning priorities will provide more meaningful information for improvement than other, more distant, forms of assessment. So as to yield these benefits, the assignments selected to the LMAL are those that have been carefully thought through and designed with the Core Competencies and Communication Abilities rubric dimensions in mind.
The current contributions to the LMAL have all emerged from Center for Teaching and Learning seminars and assignment design charrettes Learning Matters Mini-Grants, and departmental assignment development workshops. Faculty submit their assignments, which include a reflective narrative that speaks directly to how the assignment aligns with the designated Core Competency and Communication Ability. The assignment is reviewed by the LMAL curator and peer, and then approved by the Department Chair/Program Director. Published assignments count as a college contribution.
As part of the submission process, faculty choose a Creative Commons license, specifying what users can do with the assignment. Faculty can get statistics on how often and from where their content is downloaded.
The Learning Matters Assignment Library is designed to be a resource for LaGuardia educators, and for educators everywhere. It is part of a growing network of assignment libraries linked to NILOA. Making our work visible is vital to strengthening higher education across all sectors. We look forward to growing the LMAL as part of our commitment to LaGuardia as a vibrant learning college.