Criterion Four: Acquisition, Discovery, and Application of Knowledge

 The organization promotes a life of learning for its faculty, administration, staff, and students by fostering and supporting inquiry, creativity, practice, and social responsibility in ways consistent with its mission.


Co-Chair: Lea Ann Alexander | | 230-5305 | HUIE

Co-Chair: Vickie Faust | | 230-5475 | FO313A

Lenette Bailey-Jones | | 230-5010 | WE108K

Stephanie Barron | | 230-5519 | MB128

Mitzi Bass | | 230-5273 | MB122

Debbie Buck | | 230-5219 | WE210A

Kathy Buckman | | 230-5307 | HUEI101

Aaron Calvert | | 230-5176 | ArtAnex

Marty Campbell | | 230-5150 | RE306

Nathan Campbell | | 230-5312 | MO317B

Dee Cox | | 230-5351 | ED248

Jim Duke | | 230-5006 | RE129

Rhonda Harrington | | 230-5362 | ED245  [9/29/2009-8/17/2010]

Erin Poe | | 230-5578 | FO334

David Thigpen | | 230-5485 | WE108N  [7/8/2009-10/15/2009]

Fred Worth | | 230-5079 | EV111H

What separates an organization of higher learning from a postsecondary training institute? Interestingly enough, it is not the range and types of educational programs offered, nor the duration of those programs. When one com- pares the educational pathways of students attending an excellent technical institute with those of students in community colleges and comprehensive universities, one finds remarkable similarities in the skills the programs are meant to develop. An organization of higher learning, while sharing the same commitment to providing education that is relevant and practical, has a broader perspective on what it means to be an educated person. That is, although it sees a stu- dent as a potential skilled employee, it values even more helping that student become an independently creative person, an informed and dependable citizen, and a socially aware and responsible individual.

An organization of higher learning sets goals for learning and behavior relevant to these multiple and vitally important needs. Throughout its history, the Commission has acknowledged the unique nature of graduate education under the broader umbrella of higher education. The Commission recognizes the changing nature of graduate education and, therefore, the need for organizations offering graduate-level education to be clear about the abilities and learn- ing they expect from students who complete their programs. Graduate-level learning activities are more focused in content and purpose and more intellectually demanding than undergraduate education; faculty and students engage in scholarship involving research and practice as appropriate to the discipline or field; and learning activi- ties involve frequent interactions among faculty and graduate students. Students and the public should be able to understand an organization’s graduate offerings and also understand the differences between free-standing courses, certificate programs, and degree programs.

Knowledge is a powerful word, for it speaks to comprehension, application, and synthesis, not just mastery of information. Computers may have introduced the Information Age, but in a short time our definitional language for this new era began to include the term knowledge worker. The shift is as important as it is misunderstood. The knowledge worker will be technologically literate, to be sure, but what is valued is the knowledge worker’s capacity to sift and winnow massive amounts of information in order to discover or create new or better under- standings of ourselves and the world we live in.

Criterion Four: Core Component 4a

 The organization demonstrates, through the actions of its board, administrators, students, faculty, and staff, that it values a life of learning.

In the first Criterion, the Commission sets the expectation that an organization’s mission documents include commitments to excellence in higher learning. With this Core Component, the Commission seeks evidence to document that the organization is living up to those commitments.

Excellence in higher learning presupposes that colleges and universities are committed to helping students become educated people capable of a life of learning. Yet students are not the sole constituency of an accredited organization. Faculty and administrators not only nourish the intellectual growth of students; they also model for each other, for students, and for other constituencies of the organization the transformational power of a life of continuous learning.

At a time when colleges and universities are too often known more for their athletes than for their scholars, the organization seeking affiliation with the Commission makes clear that its educational priorities have to do with acquisition, discovery, and application of knowledge.

Examples of Evidence

● The organization’s planning and pattern of financial allocation demonstrate that it values and pro- motes a life of learning for its students, faculty, and staff.
● The board has approved and disseminated statements supporting freedom of inquiry for the organiza- tion’s students, faculty, and staff, and honors those statements in its practices.
● The organization supports professional development opportunities and makes them available to all of its administrators, faculty, and staff.
● The organization publicly acknowledges the achievements of students and faculty in acquiring, discovering, and applying knowledge.
● The faculty and students, in keeping with the organization’s mission, produce scholarship and create knowledge through basic and applied research.
● The organization and its units use scholarship and research to stimulate organizational and educa- tional improvements.

Criterion Four: Core Component 4b

The organization demonstrates that acquisition of a breadth of knowledge and skills and the exercise of intellectual inquiry are integral to its educational programs.

U.S. higher education is known for its long-standing commitment to breadth of learning within its undergraduate degree programs. A baccalaureate degree, for example, represents more than the successful accumulation of a specific number of credits; it has always testified to an understood balance within those credits between studies related to a specific field and studies meant to provide a breadth of learning appropriate to the degree designa- tion. General education and liberal studies are the terms usually applied to studies meant to provide breadth of learning. Over the years, an orthodoxy has developed about what general education should look like and who should provide it.

With this Core Component, the Commission honors these commitments even as it recasts somewhat the understanding about how organizations might implement them. The Commission has articulated its reasons for this in its Statement on General Education.

By its very title, this Criterion is about the skills and attitudes an educated person should possess, not about the specific curricular pathway assumed to contribute to that development. Moreover, it makes explicit a new premise for accreditation: the educated person understands that learning will continue throughout life. To learn throughout life, people need to master fundamental skills of intellectual inquiry, and they should master those skills through excellent undergraduate education.

Recently, some scholars have commented on the detrimental effect of increased specialization at the graduate level. Although not quite advocating general education for graduate students, their critiques illustrate the idea that college and university faculties committed to quality higher learning ought to ensure that students at all levels master the skills requisite to being creative and independent learners throughout their lives. Responsibility for quality graduate education is best exercised by faculty members who possess terminal degrees appropriate to the discipline their students are pursuing and who, through a graduate governance structure, provide effective review of the rigor, coherence, and currency of the organization’s graduate offerings.

Examples of Evidence

● The organization integrates general education into all of its undergraduate degree programs through curricular and experiential offerings intentionally created to develop the attitudes and skills requisite for a life of learning in a diverse society.
● The organization regularly reviews the relationship between its mission and values and the effective- ness of its general education.
● The organization assesses how effectively its graduate programs establish a knowledge base on which students develop depth of expertise.
● The organization demonstrates the linkages between curricular and cocurricular activities that support inquiry, practice, creativity, and social responsibility.
● Learning outcomes demonstrate that graduates have achieved breadth of knowledge and skills and the capacity to exercise intellectual inquiry.
● Learning outcomes demonstrate effective preparation for continued learning.

Criterion Four: Core Component 4c

 The organization assesses the usefulness of its curricula to students who will live and work in a global, diverse, and technological society.

Once academics argued that higher learning focused on the life of the mind and professional training focused on the life of work. The dichotomy was never that simple in many professions, and it is misleading in the twenty-first century. It is perhaps that dichotomy that makes the phrase knowledge worker jarring to the ears of many academics. However, the juxtaposition of those two words says something important to the academy and to students. Core Component 4c speaks most directly to those responsible for creating curricula—the faculty. Faculty members have long believed that excellent teaching requires being current with the scholarship in the discipline. Now the Commission proposes that faculties would be well-served to hear other voices as they create and revise courses and programs for students. It is easy to identify employers as one set of voices that needs to be heard. Alumni who are building careers might provide excellent advice about the fit between the curriculum and the work world. Lead- ers from business and industry provide important insights into the changing environments they experience and, consequently, that they think well-educated people should understand.

It is a given that the academy needs to retain control over the education it provides. Increasingly, however, it is obvious that the academy can learn from others, and that learning can influence how educational pathways are structured for the benefit of students.

Examples of Evidence

● Regular academic program reviews include attention to currency and relevance of courses and programs.
● In keeping with its mission, learning goals and outcomes include skills and professional competence
essential to a diverse workforce.
● Learning outcomes document that graduates have gained the skills and knowledge they need to function
in diverse local, national, and global societies.
● Curricular evaluation involves alumni, employers, and other external constituents who understand the
relationships among the course of study, the currency of the curriculum, and the utility of the knowledge
and skills gained.
● The organization supports creation and use of scholarship by students in keeping with its mission.
● Faculty expects students to master the knowledge and skills necessary for independent learning in
programs of applied practice.
● The organization provides curricular and cocurricular opportunities that promote social responsibility.

Criterion Four: Core Component 4d

The organization provides support to ensure that faculty, students, and staff acquire, discover, and apply knowledge responsibly.

Support in this Core Component is partly about financial support. Because it refers to the supportive nature of the environment created by the whole organization, it identifies student services and academic support services as essential to that environment. Supporting these services so that they can be as vital as possible involves commitment of funds.

Support has broader meanings worth considering as well. A supportive environment is provided by an organization when it foresees the ethical and moral implications of various approaches to acquiring, discovering, and applying knowledge. For example, it can use an effectively administered honor code to help students understand the concept of responsible use of knowledge. It can pay closer attention to the integrity of research and writing done by faculty. It can require institution-wide discussions about good practices in research on animal and human subjects. It can engage students and faculty in seminal discussions about the social responsibility of the academy itself.

The organization should model responsible use of knowledge. Two clichés come to mind: “walk the talk” and “practice what you preach.” That is, if the organization expects students, faculty, and staff to be responsible with knowledge, then the organization needs to be responsible in how it treats creation and application of knowledge. What message is sent about responsible ways to discover knowledge when research assistants receive no credit for the final outcome of a major research project? When published research fails to identify its sponsorship by organizations with a vested interest in the results, what does this teach about applying knowledge responsibly? These are two of many questions with no easy answers, but an organization’s policies and procedures indicate whether they have been asked and answered. An organization that compromises on its own integrity, whether it intends to or not, teaches all its constituencies a bad lesson.

Examples of Evidence

As it defines and interprets evidence related to this Core Component, an organization may wish to consider the following Examples of Evidence.

● The organization’s academic and student support programs contribute to the development of student skills and attitudes fundamental to responsible use of knowledge.
● The organization follows explicit policies and procedures to ensure ethical conduct in its research and instructional activities.
● The organization encourages curricular and cocurricular activities that relate responsible use of knowl- edge to practicing social responsibility.
● The organization provides effective oversight and support services to ensure the integrity of research and practice conducted by its faculty and students.
● The organization creates, disseminates, and enforces clear policies on practices involving intellectual property rights.

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Passion, responsibility, efficiency, endurance, faith, respect... These are just some of the many traits I was lucky enough to find and experience during my time at Henderson. Characteristics that I not only display but will pass on through the many skills I adapted and improved upon through my studies.

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Lindsey GordonBachelor of Arts - Mass Media, 2011
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