Hope College is part of an eight-institution consortium that has received support from the Teagle Foundation Inc. to develop a new way of measuring how well students are learning.

The three-year, $300,000 grant, which is being administered by Hampshire College of Amherst, Mass., will focus on helping liberal arts colleges better determine how their approaches to teaching are affecting students, ultimately so that the schools can do an even better job of teaching. In addition to Hope and Hampshire, the members of the consortium are Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa.; Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.; the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind.; Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y.; Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y.; and Vassar College in Arlington, N.Y.

"This is an excellent group for us to partner with," said Dr. Caroline Simon, who is a professor of philosophy and director of general education at Hope, and helped coordinate the college's involvement in the consortium. "The colleges in the consortium are outstanding, highly regarded schools, and we should be able to learn a lot by sharing our strengths and experiences and working together."

The consortium's activity will involve three general areas: assessing student writing and other foundational skills, such as critical thinking; developing a shared database that will enable the individual institutions to learn from each other's experiences; and helping the institutions to use assessment of student learning at all levels of planning.

The writing assessment, for example, might compare papers written by students before college, during their freshman year and as seniors to consider each college's impact on their writing and reasoning ability.

The multi-institutional database would provide information gleaned from survey instruments used by all of the schools and other data, such as students' gender, choice of major, results of the writing assessment, grades or SAT scores.

In strengthening assessment at each institution, the consortium will examine the best practices at the member colleges and elsewhere at different levels - departmentally, institutionally or program-wide - and how those practices might be applied at the individual schools.

The project will begin this July and continue through June of 2008.

Based in New York City, the Teagle Foundation was established in 1944 by Walter C. Teagle, who was longtime president and later chairman of the board of Standard Oil Company, now Exxon Mobil Corporation. The foundation is strongly committed to supporting the liberal arts and liberal arts education, with particular emphasis on seeing that students experience a challenging, wide-ranging and enriching college education.