Lebanon Valley College Chemistry Department Earns National Award
The Lebanon Valley College Chemistry Department received the 2016 Award for Outstanding Institutional Practice in Student Learning Outcomes from the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), as announced by the CHEA Tuesday, Jan. 12. LVC was the only institution in the U.S. to earn this distinction.
The 2016 CHEA award recognizes the College’s chemistry major, which features an extensive set of external benchmarking exams and survey results to assess and track student learning outcomes throughout the four-year chemistry curriculum. Key data collected from these exams and surveys, along with other course-embedded measures, enable the Chemistry Department to undertake short- and long-term planning and implement changes to improve student learning outcomes.
“I am honored that the LVC Chemistry Department was selected as the sole recipient of such a prestigious award, particularly considering previous winners include such excellent institutions as The Citadel and James Madison University, among others,” said Dr. Marc Harris, chair and associate professor of chemistry. “Our department, with support from the College, has worked hard to establish a rich culture of using student assessment data to plan, improve, elevate, and promote our programs, and ensure that our students are fully prepared and empowered to meet the challenges presented in our globalized world.”
As part of its outcome assessment, the Chemistry Department created a detailed curriculum map, which relates courses to learning objectives. For example, its capstone senior research course requires students to present two department seminars and write a research thesis, spanning numerous learning objectives.
Because research is central to the department’s mission, more than half of the chemistry majors participate in independent research projects with a faculty member during the summer or during the academic year for independent study credit. Most recently, 29 of 44 students participated in the Summer 2015 research program. These students are required to submit a final research report to again demonstrate what they have learned through the process.
When it comes to national examinations, data shows graduates from LVC’s program score in the top quarter nationally in five of six categories tested in the Educational Testing Service—Major Field Exam in Chemistry.
“We applaud Lebanon Valley College’s Chemistry major for its use of student learning outcomes information,” said Judith Eaton, CHEA president. “A key purpose of the CHEA award is to share information about outstanding practices and provide concrete and workable examples that can help institutions and programs seeking to make gains in this important area.”
Dr. Harris will represent the Chemistry Department and accept the Council of Higher Education Accreditation Award for Outstanding Institutional Practice in Student Learning Outcomes at the CHEA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., Jan. 26. Moreover, “I will accept this award with tremendous pride,” noted Dr. Harris. “It is extremely satisfying for me and the chemistry faculty to be recognized for our outstanding institutional practices and commitment to our students and their life-long success.”
The CHEA Award was established in 2005 to recognize institutions that have been exceptional in developing and applying evidence of student learning outcomes to improve higher education quality and accountability. A committee selected from higher education institutions, accrediting organizations and the public judged the entries on the basis of four award criteria: 1) articulation and evidence of outcomes, 2) success with regard to outcomes, 3) information to the public about outcomes and 4) use of outcomes for educational improvement.
A national advocate and institutional voice for academic quality through accreditation, CHEA is an association of approximately 3,000 degree-granting colleges and universities and recognizes 62 institutional and programmatic accrediting organizations.