Tuning at Ten: Lessons We've Learned in the AHA

AHA Session 146
Saturday, January 5, 2019: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Stevens C-4 (Hilton Chicago, Lower Level)
Daniel J. McInerney, Utah State University and advisor, AHA Tuning Project
Debra Humphreys, Lumina Foundation
Anne Hyde, University of Oklahoma and chair, AHA Tuning Project
Norman L. Jones, Utah State University and Lumina Foundation/Tuning Advisory Group
Nancy Quam-Wickham, California State University, Long Beach

Session Abstract

The outcomes-based Tuning project was first “imported” from the European Union in 2008 as the Lumina Foundation sponsored the creation of “Tuning USA.” The pilot project operated in three states starting in 2009 and eventually included additional states and a regional consortium. In 2012, Lumina scaled the project even further, organizing Tuning through a 13,000-member disciplinary society, the American Historical Association. From 2012-2015, AHA Tuning brought together over 163 faculty members on 130 campuses to discuss the nature of historical study, collaborate across 2- and 4-year institutions, develop a “Discipline Core” of key goals and skills, reframe survey courses, address enrollment issues, clarify career prospects of history majors, link into the Degree Qualifications Project, and design meaningful assessments of student learning. The original cohort of “Tuners” have shared their suggestions and leadership with hundreds more historians, contributing to an intellectual and cultural shift in the discipline that promotes high-quality teaching, an expanded sense of “accountability,” and a clearer alignment of students’ learning, careers, and civic life (www.historians.org/teaching-and-learning/tuning-the-history-discipline). The faculty-led, discipline-specific process of Tuning has served as a launching pad for work on a wide range of academic reforms. Faculty who reflect on their own discipline, dig deeply into its core outcomes, and develop clear language to convey the essence of their field, are well-prepared to work on a series of integrated initiatives such as building intentional curricula, experimenting with active learning, designing robust assignments, and carrying assessment from “compliance to improvement.”

The roundtable’s question-and-answer format will provide a conversation with presenters who have worked on the project to discuss the impact and prospects of Tuning:

Daniel McInerney will review the results of a survey distributed to 1500 historians to understand what practical difference Tuning has made in history programs.

Norm Jones will focus on the changes Tuning brought to classrooms at Utah State University. Having established degree outcomes and reverse-engineered the curriculum, faculty have experimented with various high impact pedagogies, and students are emerging with a very different sense of themselves and the degree they are getting.

Nancy Quam-Wickham will address the ways in which Tuning’s emphasis on “intentionality” has reengaged historians in meaningful assessment and reinvigorated teaching.

Anne Hyde will discuss how Tuning has launched and maintained conversations among faculty about revising curricula, courses, and programs. Shifting faculty attention from “my course” to “our curriculum” requires patience and trust, not easy in academic settings that test both. Course revision, curriculum design, and assessment of learning all involve a process that never ends. Tuning helps sustain continuous change because the work is based on evidence and research, and the project is supported by a network of experienced colleagues.

Debra Humphreys will reflect on the Tuning project in a larger national context. Pressures have mounted on higher education institutions to demonstrate their worth and deliver on quality for today's students. Tuning has provided a pathway for faculty to address these concerns in a meaningful, substantive, and persuasive way.

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