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Association of American Colleges and Universities
Private Higher Education
Date Approved

A key early finding from AAC&U’s VALUE Project is that what faculty ask students to do in class assignments strongly affects how well they do it. Funded by The Sherman Fairchild Foundation, AAC&U is working with 7 private institutions to pilot faculty development programs intended to improve the quality of assignments. The proposed project will augment and extend this work in three ways: 1) support faculty effectiveness by developing, testing and validating a rubric for assessing the quality of assignments intended by faculty to improve students’ critical thinking skills; 2) undertake the first-ever research using rubrics and actual student work to follow a cohort of students to see if their higher-order skills improve in college, controlling for student background and characteristics of their assignments known to affect the quality of that work; and 3) enable us to understand the conditions under which faculty high expectations of students are distributed equitably across student groups. AAC&U expects to learn what makes assignments effective in fostering better critical thinking and what kinds of faculty development programs attract faculty to participate and enable them to improve assignments in ways shown to enhance student learning.