Credentialing for Transformative Success: The Student Transformative Learning Record (STLR)
The University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) is a four-year public metropolitan university located in Edmond, Oklahoma. In 2006, UCO adopted transformative learning into its mission statement and began to envision new possibilities for student learning, but did not yet have a way to award badge level achievements to students. Based on the work of Jack Mezirow (1978; 2000) and others such as Stephen Brookfield (2005), UCO defined transformative learning as a holistic process that places students at the center of their own active and reflective learning experiences. By emphasizing the development of beyond-disciplinary skills and expanding students’ perspectives of self, community, and environment, the institution began planning ways to integrate transformative learning experiences into courses and co-curricular activities across the campus. Initial efforts to implement the initiative on campus were supported by all levels of university administration (including the President and Provost) and a collaborative project team including members from academic affairs, student affairs, and information technology, was formed.
Soon a campus-wide plan, known as the Student Transformative Learning Record (STLR), was launched with the help of a $7.8 million-dollar Title III grant from the United States Department of Education in an effort to support, assess, and track student progress across six core tenet areas based upon the American Association of College and Universities’ High-Impact Practices: 1) Discipline Knowledge, 2) Global & Cultural Competencies, 3) Health & Wellness, 4) Leadership, 5) Research, Creative, and Scholarly Activities, and 6) Service Learning & Civic Engagement. Rubrics were developed for each of these core tenet areas by modifying existing AAC&U-VALUE Rubrics. These rubrics were highly vetted and adapted among our faculty – who were actively involved in the collaborative process of their development.
Currently, the institution has (through a grass-roots movement):
1) Implemented STLR in over 225 courses across diverse disciplines.
2) Funded 380 unique student/faculty-proposed paid projects and internships situated around at least one core tenet-area rooted in High-Impact Practices (including the Black Male Initiative, the Hispanic Success Initiative, a Native American Success Initiative, an Oklahoma History Project where students uncovered history on the Tulsa Race Riots, a mobile clinic for nursing students to treat the homeless, a project where students are researching squash proteins to help treat cancer, and a Living-Learning Garden where students grow food on campus for the Central Pantry – to name a few.)
3) UCO has also supported 25 co-curricular student groups and has hosted some 165 campus events aimed at increasing student engagement outside of the classroom.
4) Trained over 40% of our faculty and staff who have voluntarily integrated our program into their courses and activities across the campus.
So, what? Although we are still in the process of gathering data, our results suggest that the Student Transformative Learning Record has been highly successful. For instance, retention rates for our priority (low-income, first generation, and non-majority students) cohort of first-time freshmen students from Fall 2015 to Fall 2016 has increased significantly from 54% (Non-STLR involved students) to as much as 73% (STLR involved students). For students who are part of our non-priority population, retention rates have increased from 49% (Non-STLR involved students) to 75% (STLR involved students).
By attending this session, participants will have the opportunity to learn more about the structure of our unique program, the ways we have operationalized transformative learning theory for student success, and how we track and assess student learning through our three unique achievement badge levels: exposure, integration, and transformation. In addition, participants will also have the opportunity to hear about how our students are using ePortfolios to showcase their skills to prospective employers and how we plan to turn our highest badge level, Transformation, into a portable micro-credential that can be used outside of just the university setting.
Brookfield, S. (2005). The power of critical theory: Liberating adult learning and teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Mezirow, J. (1978). Perspective Transformation. Adult Education Quarterly, 28(2), 100-110.
Mezirow, J. & Associates. (2000). Learning as transformation: Critical perspectives on a theory in progress. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.