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Higher Learning Accountability and Performance


To elevate the caliber of thinking and learning gains achieved by Marshall University students. The Marshall Commitment offers an approach that can assist in achieving this goal. Although not finalized, the components of this commitment could include various elements listed below. The concept of a Student Success Plan (SSP) is included as one component of the Marshall Commitment.


The Marshall Commitment

  • Potential Compact Elements:

  • 4-yr degree commitment University will ensure course availability with the proviso that students satisfy course completion and progression requirement

  • First-Year Experience Programdefine component

  • Student Success Plan Components see below

  • Diverse and Distinctive Learning Experiencese.g., undergraduate research/guided inquiry/scholarship; international experiences and programs of study; expanded honors programming; internships; co-ops; nationally-competitive scholars program (e.g., Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, Udall, Fulbright)

  • Consequential Connections to Faculty e.g., academic and career advising, expert mentoring programs, leadership development

  • Campus/Community Lifee.g., Student Recreation Center, Living-Learning Residence Hall and co-curricular/extracurricular programming

  • Community Connectionse.g., service learning, work-study

  • Attention to development of the “whole person”

  • Foundations for Life and Career

  • Value-Added Experiencese.g., integrated and interdisciplinary learning; learning e-portfolio

  • Development and Validation of Longitudinal Assessment Rubrics

Student Success Plan (SSP) Concept

  • The SSP is conceptualized as an intentional and longitudinal planning and implementation process that invests both the student and the University in the student’s success. Organizationally, it would commence for new, first-time students during Fall Orientation and continue in UNI 101. Both the student (first) and the University (in collaboration) join together in formulating a set of academic, personal and professional goals and in developing approaches to authenticating the gains achieved in relation to earning a baccalaureate degree. The latter considerations are envisioned as part of a longitudinal electronic portfolio developed and managed by the student. The SSP eventually would apply to all degree-seeking students enrolled at Marshall University.

  • The SSP should reflect the distinctive mission and culture of Marshall University. The generic SSP may have some elements in common with other universities (e.g. writing across the curriculum), and would include, as appropriate, quantitative measures (e.g., thinking and learning gains, longitudinal progress, performance thresholds, etc.) denoting attainment commensurate with the conferral of a baccalaureate degree.

  • To the greatest possible extent, the SSP will build on—and complement—existing systems of assessment/accountability, especially in conjunction with regional and specialized accreditation standards and requirements. The design of the SSP will be such that it will not impose additional administrative bureaucratic burdens or expenses on the University. To the extent that thinking and learning outcome plans and measures exist, they can be readily integrated into the SSP.

  • The SSP is tantamount to the student’s educational compact with him- or herself. Each student will be responsible for developing, reviewing and documenting progress with respect to their individual SSP in consultation with their faculty advisor. The plan should include the student’s educational goals and achievement, underlying assumptions, and the strategies identified for accomplishing them. Acceptable measures of progress and timelines for accomplishing these goals should also be identified. These latter considerations will provide a context for the ongoing monitoring and advising each student over time.

Elements of a SSP (Illustrative) - Core Foundations

At the outset, the SSP may take multiple forms, depending on the nature of the thinking and learning gains targeted. The following items illustrate just one possible approach. The emphasis given to forms of thinking is intentional and underscores the intellectual work of the learner in the learning process. The items included below also draw attention to the transformative nature of cognitive development, learning that remodels the neural networks of the brain, which is the essence of higher learning and thinking.

  • Identification of Core Areas and Foundations of the SSP

  • Rhetoric, Composition and Visual Communication

  • Language and communication proficiency, expression, precision and argument in multiple forms (reading, writing, listening, speaking, visual representation) using conventional and technology-based media and demonstrable ability to decipher, interpret and express ideas using images, graphics, icons, charts, graphs and digital media (e.g., video)

  • Performance Goal(s)

  • Levels  should be tiered and progressive – e.g., performance expectations should increase from the beginning of a course to the end of the course; from the freshman year through the senior year

  • Evaluation rubrics should parallel expectations

  • Assessment Indicators

  • Institutional or standardized outcomes

  • If institutional, an effort to link to standardized instruments would be helpful

  • Continuous Improvement

  • Plans for improvement designed to raise expectations and connect to both long-term and short-term goals should be developed

  • Critical Thinking  (sub-components as above)

  • There are probably as many ways to define this as there are critical thinkers. Still, a standards-based approach would likely have considerable benefit and little potential to do harm

  • Scientific Thinking (sub-components as above)

  • The idea here would be to define what a graduate should know and be able to do with respect to scientific inquiry and thinking. The expectation is that the approaches developed would break significantly from the current situation in which students take a course or two in the life sciences in the freshman year and this concentrated, one-time dose of information is somehow expected to serve for the rest of their lives.

  • Included in this domain are the knowledge of science, scientific thinking (e.g., hypothesis formulation/testing), mathematics/abstract and logical and symbolic thinking and integrative relationships between science, math and technology

  • Abstract and Symbolic Thinking (sub-components as above)

  • As with science, we need to define some fluency level of mathematical and quantitative thinking (most certainly including statistics) that all citizens should have mastered. And, as with science, we should find a way to ensure that the skills and knowledge are reinforced and refreshed such that they are strong when students graduate and stay with them as foundations for continued learning.

  • Artistic and creative

  • Informational and Technological Fluency (sub-components as above)

  • Ability to find, retrieve, analyze and utilize information appropriately and productively to construct knowledge and deduce new meanings

  • Capacity to use computers, electronic devices, networks and applications to learn, access and analyze information, and adapt to changing technological and software platforms

  • Inter-Cultural Perspectives and Thinking (sub-components as above)

  • Recognition, appreciation, understanding and respect for the diversity of people, cultures and differences; including global awareness – comprehension and recognition of interconnectedness among and between nations, commerce and peoples across the globe

  • Ethical Thinking and Deductive Reasoning (sub-components as above)

  • Capacity to discern and form reasoned ethical and moral judgments

  • Inventive/Adaptive Thinking – Intellectual Capital Development (sub-components as above)

  • Adaptability/Ability to Manage Complexity – ability to plan, design and manage resources in new ways, understanding interdependencies within systems, systems’ thinking; knowledge transfer to discover deeper meanings and relationships

  • Curiosity, Creativity and Risk-Takingcuriosity – using the desire to know and the quest for greater understanding as the catalysts for lifelong learning; creativity – using imagination to develop new and original concepts/approaches/associations; risk-taking – willingness to place something of value in a position/situation of jeopardy in order to chance the discovery of new phenomena, creative solutions, or advance new ideas

  • Higher-Order Thinking and Judicious Reasoning  – process of creative problem solving leading to sound, informed, reflective, logical interpretations, deductions, judgments and conclusions

This template needs to be developed as a flexible model so that it can be adapted with minor modification to individual program areas. In addition, the core areas can serve as the basis for future transfer modules involving other colleges and universities. This concept is directly applicable to the current task force study that is underway to evaluate a core general education program at Marshall University.