Middle States Blog: What’s the Syracuse University 4+4? Integrative institutional learning outcomes needing your input

Syracuse University is known for many things, such as Orange, snow, amazing academic programs and athletics, and—of course—the legend of #44. Often this conversation results in specifying particular sports, schools, majors, research, or groups.

Since Syracuse is more than any one group and is One University, what common knowledge and abilities should all Syracuse University students have?

The University shares a mission and vision, which is achieved through the total student experience—both academic affairs and student affairs. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education requires, in Standards III and IV of its reaccreditation criteria, that all of its member institutions have either a common set of institutional integrative learning outcomes or a general education program taken by all students.

In 2015, the Academic Strategic Plan (developed through faculty, staff, student, and administrative input and approved by the Board of Trustees) called for the University to develop institutional learning outcomes that all students must achieve before graduation.

During the 2015-16 academic year, Working Group 1: The Student Experience drafted eight institutional learning outcomes that shape and describe what a Syracuse University graduate represents in the marketplace. Achievement of these competencies as well as academic program specific competencies will enable graduates to be ready for a career of their choosing and prepare for a life of learning. Working Group 1 labeled these the Syracuse University 4+4. After input from the University Senate, several University Senate committees, and other groups, such as the University Libraries, the Academic Strategic Plan Implementation Oversight Committee supported the Working Group’s 4+4 recommendation and included them among the implementation priorities submitted to University leadership for consideration.

The 4+4 represents a core set of knowledge and skills common to all graduates. They are in addition to the program-specific knowledge and skills that students develop as part of their chosen field of study. Integrity and ethics are central components of 4+4, filtering through all of the eight competencies. The eight competencies are divided equally between “reasonings” and “abilities.”

  • Creative Reasoning
  • Critical Reasoning
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Scientific Reasoning
  • Applied and Collaborative Learning Ability
  • Civic and Global Abilities
  • Communicative Ability
  • Information and Technology Ability

The competencies are focused on the outcome of the total student experience, both classes and activities, and are meant to be viewed collectively. Students will achieve varying degrees of proficiency in each competency depending on their discipline and degree.

However, the Syracuse 4+4 is not finalized; we need more University feedback on them so we can better assure that they reflect student, faculty, and staff ideas of what competencies all Syracuse University graduates should possess. Therefore, the Provost’s Office has launched an engagement tour to introduce the Syracuse 4+4 and gather feedback. Members of Working Group 1: The Student Experience are meeting with faculty, staff, and student groups from both the Division of Academic Affairs and Division of Enrollment Management and the Student Experience this semester.

Thus far, Division of Enrollment and Student Experience directors, Whitman, the iSchool, Visual and Performing Arts and the College of Arts and Sciences have participated in the Listening Tour. Dates for others are being scheduled. Email assessment@syr.edu to request a meeting.

Members of Working Group 1 also have reconvened to help the University community refine the Syracuse University 4+4 based on the feedback, to draft rubrics and data collection techniques to gather baseline measures of these outcomes, to begin developing an assessment plan, and to share what is learned in this process.

The results of this listening tour and Working Group 1’s efforts will be incorporated into the Middle States report.

The University needs our engagement with these learning outcomes. I urge you to attend one of the engagement sessions and offer your ideas and feedback.

Together we will help the University fulfill its mission and vision, implement the Academic Strategic Plan recommendation, and meet a Middle States requirement through these institutional learning outcomes called the Syracuse University 4+4.

By Rochelle Ford, rlford@syr.edu