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Over the past two years a group of distinguished biology faculty worked on defining and measuring a set of learning outcomes for undergraduates in their field. The Measuring College Learning (MCL) project—organized by the Education Research Program at the Social Science Research Council—served to facilitate faculty consensus around a limited set of empirically measurable “essential concepts and competencies” that biology students should gain over time. Rather than striving to produce a set of exhaustive of comprehensive list of learning outcomes, the MCL frameworks that emerged serve as a jumping off point for departments and disciplinary associations.

The MCL biology panel was made up of eleven scholars with expertise on teaching, learning, and assessment in the discipline:

Cynthia Bauerle, Assistant Director for Precollege and Undergraduate Science Education, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Sara Brownell, Assistant Professor in the School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University

Clarissa Dirks, Associate Professor of Biology, Evergreen State College

Chris Kaiser, Professor of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Jennifer Knight, Associate Professor in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder

Susan Singer, Director of Undergraduate Education, National Science Foundation

Michelle Smith, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, University of Maine

Nancy Songer, Dean of the School of Education, Drexel University

Gordon Uno, Chair and Professor of Plant Biology, University of Oklahoma

William Wood, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder

Robin Wright, Associate Dean, College of Biological Sciences, University of Minnesota

At the center of each of the MCL white papers is an innovative learning outcomes framework that articulates a set of “essential concepts and competencies” for undergraduate-level learning in the discipline. Essential concepts and competencies are deep understandings and complex skills that faculty believe are fundamental to the discipline, valuable to students, and worth emphasizing given limited time and resources. The MCL learning outcomes frameworks emerge from and are part of the MCL white papers, but they can be used as stand-alone resources.

The Measuring College Learning Project is committed to the idea that the articulated frameworks are part of an iterative process that will evolve and change over time. As part of plans for phase two of the project, we envision building out and piloting assessments based on the learning outcomes frameworks presented in the whitepaper. We look forward to the work to come, as part of a collaborative process with faculty, disciplinary associations, employer groups, and other stakeholders concerned with improving student learning in higher education.

Discipline specific project materials are available under the "Biology Tools + Resources" sidebar.

General project materials are available under the "General Tools + Resources" sidebar.

Materials are also available in Improving Quality in American Higher Education: Learning Outcomes and Assessments for the 21st Century (Jossey Bass, 2016).