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Alverno College, 2011 Good Practice Recipient

Clearinghouse is pleased to announce that the Valuing in Decision-Making Department at Alverno College has won the Jon C. Dalton Institute on College Student Values Best Practices Award. This award recognizes a program or practice that has contributed significantly to the field of college student character and values development.

Congratulations, Alverno, from all of us at the Character Clearinghouse!

Contact Mackenzie Streit at mstreit@admin.fsu.edu for more information on the 2011 Jon C. Dalton Institute on College Student Values Best Practices Award.  Also go to studentvalues.fsu.edu for future updates on the 2012 award application process. Article written by Jodi R.B. Eastberg, Chair, Valuing in Decision-Making Department

Mission and Goals

Alverno encourages cross-disciplinary collaboration
among faculty and students

The Valuing in Decision-Making Department oversees curricular and co-curricular development of one of eight faculty-identified liberal education outcomes at Alverno College (Valuing in Decision-Making, Analysis, Communication, Problem Solving, Social Interaction, Developing a Global Perspective, Effective Citizenship, and Aesthetic Response). Students must demonstrate proficiency in all eight abilities before graduation. Valuing in Decision-Making is defined at Alverno College as a process whereby a student examines her values, interprets the source of her values, considers the relationship between her values and her actions, practices taking multiple perspectives, and ultimately contributes to the development of values in the broader community. The department facilitates the on-going research, discussion, innovation, and faculty development necessary to teach, learn, and support the assessment of the ability as an outcome of student learning. While also holding positions in traditional disciplinary-based departments, Alverno College faculty members serve as members of ability departments that require active inter- and cross-disciplinary scholarly dialogue and research focused on the pedagogy of moral and ethical development. This ensures that Valuing in Decision-Making can be assessed and integrated across the college as an outcome of student learning in every academic program.

Relation to Character Development of College Students

At Alverno College, faculty are committed to engaging students in exploring the relationship between their own values, practices, and awareness as related to their future aspirations as well as their present surroundings. This is accomplished through the Valuing in Decision-Making Ability. At each level of their education, students encounter different dimensions of their own valuing process and how this process relates to their personal lives, their work lives, and to societal structures and systems related to their life and work. This process can be taught throughout the curriculum in a way that culminates in a student being able to take her own value stance amid a complex professional world.

Valuing Department Member and
Assistant Professor of Chemistry,
Dina Borysenko

Valuing Department Member and Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Dina Borysenko

The Valuing in Decision-Making ability must be demonstrated multiple times in multiple contexts before a student graduates. Faculty across the college are responsible for integrating these abilities into their course outcomes and creating assessments that allow students the opportunity to demonstrate these abilities. Therefore, students who graduate from Alverno have practiced this ability countless times in numerous contexts. The process of understanding and practicing this ability is nurtured by the faculty throughout the students’ program. An Alverno student, Robin Gower, summarized,

Today, Alverno’s valuing in decision-making framework continues to help me sift and sort through all that is important to me, become more aware of who I am and what I believe, and also causes me to remain open-minded and respectful toward others. This ability connects my learning to life, both personally and professionally. . . .  To me, procuring an understanding of Alverno College’s valuing in decision-making ability framework is a learning experience that affects all aspects of my life—a learning experience that will last a lifetime.

Overview of Program

Since 1973, Alverno College has required that all of its students, regardless of major, repeatedly demonstrate proficiency in the college’s eight abilities as a requirement of graduation. The faculty created and continues to develop frameworks for teaching and assessing valuing across the institution. The valuing curriculum at Alverno calls for students to practice their ability to identify and employ a framework for decision-making that integrates emotions and cognition and action while integrating ethical sensitivity and moral reasoning skills. As part of the valuing framework, students are regularly assessed on their ability to meet the following developmental outcomes that are divided into beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels:

  • Beginning Level:  The student identifies and infers values of self and others in multiple contexts (Foundation Building)
  • Level 1: Students identify own and others’ values and the emotions they evoke.
  • Level 2: Students connect affective, cognitive, spiritual, and behavioral dimensions of valuing.
  • Intermediate Level: Students explore their own and others’ valuing and decision-making within the social contexts that shape them and within the contexts of discipline frameworks (Point of Initial Integration). They grow to critically evaluate their values with an informed awareness of the process of value transformation and change.
  • Level 3: Students can articulate the reciprocal relationship of their own values and their social contexts.
  • Level 4: Students use the perspectives and concepts of particular disciplines to inform their moral judgments and decisions.
  • Advanced Level: This is the opportunity for students to integrate valuing with the content of their academic work in an advanced and meaningful way. They will further develop their ability to critically examine their own values and explain how they inform their value stance. They will be able to express ways that their increasing knowledge of other perspectives informs their own changes in personal and professional decisions. They will recognize the integration of emotion, thought, and belief in this process, as well as give expression to their own stable center of care and strength, which is at the “heart” of their decision-making. Ultimately, such integration will develop the students’ moral imagination.

Learning and assessment of the ability require collaboration among a diverse group of the college’s academic and staff departments, such as instructional services and campus ministry. Moreover, students find this ability integrated into co-curricular activities, such as our annual Community Day when hundreds of students, faculty, and staff volunteer across the Milwaukee area as a form of civic engagement.

Obstacles and Opportunities for Growth

One of the greatest obstacles and opportunities for growth for this program is the necessity for continual faculty development. Institutional support has been necessary to train new faculty in the teaching and assessing for valuing. In particular, our department has worked in collaboration with the Natural Sciences Department to consider the unique problems faced by new faculty in understanding and developing a repertoire of teaching strategies for introducing the ability into our standard introductory science courses. Moreover, in response to faculty and student requests for an understanding of what constitute values and examples of assessments and feedback for this and the other Alverno College abilities, we have developed an on-line resource for Alverno faculty called “The Launchpad.”  It is here we post examples of assessments, scholarly essays, and updates on departmental activities. We also regularly hold workshops and all-faculty meetings to continue to develop our ability to teach and assess for this ability.

Future Goals for Ongoing Improvement

As our program approaches its fortieth year, we are considering ways to respond to the changes we see in our classrooms. This includes our digital valuing initiative as well as our on-going work with professional ethics. Another area we continue to focus on is how to best assist students who transfer to Alverno College from other institutions, as they engage our developmental curriculum. And, as we see the challenges in our society that elicit complex valuing decisions, we continue to set goals that address how our students can best be prepared for these challenges in a changing world.


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