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Executive Summary: Defining Liberal Arts Education - page 14 / 14

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Operational Definition - 14

professional skills or disciplinary acumen, then they are serving a different end than that postulated by our first factor.

Final points

A quick glance at the factors tells us that institutions may adopt them to varying degrees. That implies that we will be thinking of and talking about liberal arts education as something that varies on a continuum rather than categorically. As we develop studies, we will have to create measurements, or operational definitions, for each of the three factors. An operational definition of the intellectual arts, curricular and environmental coherence, and student-student and student-faculty interactions must have two qualities in order to help our research. First, it must be based on observable items such as existing databases, course catalogs, or interviews with campus representatives, site visits, cognitive tests, etc. Second, the operational definition of our three factors for any particular study must, in our minds, be sufficiently representative of our definition of liberal arts education that negative results would lead us to weaken our belief in the efficacy of liberal arts education.

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