Critical Thinking And Liberal Education And Americas Promise

Launched in 2005, Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) is a national public advocacy and campus action initiative. LEAP champions the importance of a liberal education—for individual students and for a nation dependent on economic creativity and democratic vitality.

LEAP responds to contemporary demands for more college-educated workers and more engaged and informed citizens.  Today, and in the years to come, college graduates need higher levels of learning and knowledge as well as strong intellectual and practical skills to navigate this more demanding environment successfully and responsibly.

Through LEAP, hundreds of campuses are making far-reaching educational changes to help all their students—whatever their chosen field of study—acquire the broad knowledge, higher order capacities, and real world experience they need to thrive both in the economy and in a globally engaged democracy.

LEAP promotes

  • Essential Learning Outcomes—as a guiding vision and practical approach to college learning 
  • Principles of Excellence—offering both challenging standards and flexible guidance for an era of educational reform and renewal
  • High-Impact Educational Practices—ways of engaging and challenging students—such as first year programs; intensive writing, collaborative assignments, undergraduate research, internships, and major projects that help students achieve essential learning outcomes
  • Authentic Assessments—using students’ own work and faculty-validated rubrics, probing whether individual students have developed essential capacities, and can apply their learning to complex problems and real-world challenges
  • Students’ Signature Work—challenging higher education to prepare all students to complete a substantial cross-disciplinary project in a topic significant to the student and society, as part of the expected pathway to a degree. 

LEAP leaders also work to engage the public with core questions about what really matters in college and to connect employers and educators as they build new partnerships and make the case for the importance of liberal education in a global economy and in our diverse democracy.

For more information about the LEAP initiative, please see our "Introduction to LEAP" brochure or slide deck.

LEAP is supported in part by the Leadership Fund for Liberal Education. Click here to learn more about the Leadership Fund and to make a gift to AAC&U.

The LEAP campaign is organized around a robust set of "Essential Learning Outcomes" -- all of which are best developed by a contemporary liberal education. Described in College Learning for the New Global Century, these essential learning outcomes and a set of "Principles of Excellence" provide a new framework to guide students' cumulative progress through college.

Through its VALUE Initiative, AAC&U has developed a set of rubrics to assess many of the following learning outcomes. Beginning in school, and continuing at successively higher levels across their college studies, students should prepare for twenty-first-century challenges by gaining:

Knowledge of Human Cultures and the Physical and Natural World

  • Through study in the sciences and mathematics, social sciences, humanities, histories, languages, and the arts

Focused by engagement with big questions, both contemporary and enduring

Intellectual and Practical Skills, Including

  • Inquiry and analysis
  • Critical and creative thinking
  • Written and oral communication
  • Quantitative literacy
  • Information literacy
  • Teamwork and problem solving

Practiced extensively, across the curriculum, in the context of progressively more challenging problems, projects, and standards for performance

Personal and Social Responsibility, Including

  • Civic knowledge and engagement—local and global
  • Intercultural knowledge and competence
  • Ethical reasoning and action
  • Foundations and skills for lifelong learning

Anchored through active involvement with diverse communities and real-world challenges

Integrative and Applied Learning, Including

  • Synthesis and advanced accomplishment across general and specialized studies

Demonstrated through the application of knowledge, skills, and responsibilities to new settings and complex problems

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