Goals, Scope, and Tenets

The Learning Improvement Community (LIC) is a group of assessment practitioners, educational developers, educators, and scholars in higher education who are committed to advancing methodologies for inquiring into student learning and helping faculty design interventions to improve students' ability to achieve higher-order competencies.

The Learning Improvement Community’s Goals and Scope

  • The Learning Improvement Community’s (LIC) chief aim is to promote the improvement of student learning in higher education. Though valuable, student outcomes like retention, graduation rates, and job placement lie outside our purview.

  • The LIC focuses on students’ achievement of higher-order competencies, such as, but not limited to, clear writing, effective speaking, sound analytic reasoning, and quality creative production. 

  • The LIC is interested in learning improvement that results from interventions into the learning environment that are intentionally designed to enhance students’ ability to perform higher-order competencies.

  • The LIC is focused on program-level learning improvement, in coordinated interventions across courses. Examples include an engineering program’s mandatory three-course sequence, a BA degree program in History, or an institution’s general education curriculum.

  • The LIC is committed to advancing culturally-responsive practice and mitigating achievement gaps among students from groups with different levels of historical access to higher education.

​The Learning Improvement Community’s Tenets

The Learning Improvement Community (LIC) espouses a shared set of values and beliefs, which we call our tenets. These are as follows.

  1. Learning improvement is demonstrable improvement in student performance that is associated with an intentional intervention into the learning environment. The process of learning improvement entails faculty members’ implementation of a curricular or pedagogical change to address a targeted student learning outcome based on assessment findings and a subsequent reassessment that shows improved student performance. The prevailing metaphor for a learning improvement project design is “weigh pig, feed pig, weigh pig” (K. H. Fulcher, M. R. Good, C. M. Coleman & K. L. Smith, 2014). 

  2. The LIC grounds our understanding of learning improvement in an evidence-based framework. The claim that student learning improvement has been achieved and is attributable to a specific educational intervention needs to be derived from a sufficiently robust method of inquiry to rule out reasonable alternative hypotheses (e.g., sampling bias, credibility of assessment judgements, trustworthiness of the data collection instrument) and withstand judicious critique. 

  3. Higher education best serves students and society when it enables students to achieve higher-order competencies. Complex skills rarely can be attained through a single course. Rather, in order for students to achieve them, faculty need to provide opportunities for practice, repetition, and the scaffolding of teaching activities. This is most effectively achieved through the coordination of learning experiences across curricular and co-curricular efforts to make an impact on a broader scope of the curriculum.

  4. Faculty are integral to learning improvement efforts. Their roles in the process include the identification of a learning outcome in need of improvement; designing and implementing educational interventions to enhance student performance on that outcome; assessing student learning prior to and after the implementation of the intervention; making sense of the assessment results; and using the results to inform future educational activities.  

  5. Collaboration among faculty is necessary for creating intentional program-level learning improvement. Because program-level learning involves at least two courses, it requires faculty who teach different classes to work together to make coordinated curricular decisions. Faculty members’ willingness to design their instructional activities as part of a joint endeavor that results in an integrated learning experience is key to effective learning improvement efforts.

  6. The LIC values the inclusion of student voices in the learning improvement process. Students’ roles in the process include identifying factors in the learning environment that aid their ability to learn, helping design educational interventions, and helping make sense of learning outcomes assessment results. 

  7. The LIC supports assessment systems and learning environments that affirm all students and eliminate learning gaps. Inquiring into the learning experiences of students across salient dimensions of identity (e.g., race, gender, socio-economic background) is essential to understanding how the learning environment can support the education and meaningful assessment of different student populations.

  8. Curriculum developers, instructional designers, and assessment professionals make important contributions to the learning improvement process. They may help faculty identify the learning that will be the focus of the improvement effort, create high-quality student learning experiences, develop assessment activities aligned with desired learning outcomes, craft educational interventions to improve the targeted learning, and formulate an evaluation design that will enable faculty to draw credible inferences about the effectiveness of the learning improvement intervention.

  9. Administrators play an important role in supporting learning improvement by rewarding faculty for investing time and attention to learning improvement efforts. For example, they can provide course buy-outs, offer mini-grants, and, perhaps most importantly, value participation in learning improvement activities in tenure and promotion decisions. 

  10. Documenting student learning improvement through narratives that can be widely shared is important for enhancing understanding of what learning improvement looks like, the challenges that inhibit it, and the context and conditions that support it. Furthermore, learning improvement stories help communicate the value of student learning assessment.

Date approved: December 9, 2021

The LIC revisits and updates these tenets on a cyclical basis. The previous version, the 2020 Tenets, is also available.