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After more than a year of pilot project work with tuning activities taken straight from the Bologna Process playbook, the Lumina Foundation for Education in the United States has indicated that it will expand its activities in this area. Much has yet to be officially decided about next steps, but the preliminary findings of the first round of 'Tuning USA' indicate that there is a great deal of interest in and enthusiasm for the process of working with different stakeholder groups to identify and articulate discipline-specific learning outcomes.
Beginning in April 2009, the Lumina Foundation provided funding for a pilot project involving the higher education institutions across 3 US states—Indiana, Minnesota, and Utah—and six disciplines (biology, chemistry, education, history, physics and graphic design). The pilot was originally scheduled to end in December 2009, but all of the participating states asked for more time in order to more effectively engage employers in their survey activities and translate competencies they had identified into measurable learning outcomes. In addition, the groups involved in the pilot program were eager to use unspent grant funds to organise statewide meetings with academics not already engaged in the tuning activities, as well as attend relevant conferences to discuss the project. Lumina readily agreed to extend the grant to effectively see the pilot through to completion.
Lumina anticipates that the preliminary pilot program will wrap up in late summer 2010, and by the end of the calendar year expects to issue a new round of grant monies to an expanded number of states. Already, Lumina has provided support to tuning exercises in several areas of engineering education in Texas. More disciplines will likely be included in the second round of Tuning USA activities, but there is an interest in seeing one discipline—history—looked at more broadly across a larger number of states.
The Lumina Foundation’s interest in this works stems principally from its ‘big goal’ initiative (formally articulated in 2009) to increase the share of Americans with high-quality postsecondary degrees and credentials from 39 percent to 60 percent by 2025. Lumina hopes that the encouragement of a ‘bottom up’ process of enhancing the transparency and relevance of learning outcomes in US higher education will contribute to the quality of US degrees and the real-world outcomes for US students.