LLTC Uses Thunderbird To Visualize Graduates

May 15th, 2008 | By | Category: 19-4: Success by Accountability and Assessment, Tribal College News
THUNDERBIRD SYMBOL

THE LEECH LAKE TRIBAL COLLEGE GRADUATE. The thunderbird reflects Anishnaabe cultural symbolism. Illustration courtesy of LLTC.

When looking at assessment, one of the main questions that must be asked is how relevant the assessment plan is to the institution. An assessment plan cannot truly become alive on a campus unless it is meaningful to the college community and represents the characteristics unique to that institution. This is the challenge Leech Lake Tribal College (LLTC, Cass Lake, MN) undertook this year when developing an assessment plan.

The faculty wanted to know how to properly define assessment as it relates to their tribal college. We focused on identifying what our graduates (or learners) look like when they complete their studies. We realized that would help lead us to our own perception of how to define and do assessment. To direct that process, we looked toward our institutional mission, values, and learner outcomes.

It became clear that we lacked a unified vision of a graduate and thus it was difficult for many of us to tie all the different elements (mission, student learning objectives, and values) together. To link these factors, we decided to create a visual representation of a graduate to help with this process (see chart):

Tail: The tail of the bird is the foundation. It provides steering capabilities, balance, and stability. Our institutional aims, resources, and practices are the “rudder” for the learners – enabling them to properly guide themselves through life.

Body: The body of the thunderbird encases the vital organs – the seven Anishinaabe values. They keep the learner strong and healthy.

Wings: The wings allow the thunderbird to hover, soar, and glide. Each of the six student learning outcomes makes the wings more effective, allowing the learner to be more successful when he or she takes flight after graduation.

Head: The learner is represented at the head of the thunderbird. The head allows the learner to look in many directions to see the world from multiple angles, leading the rest of its body through life.

We chose the thunderbird because of the symbolism within the Anishinaabe culture. It also ties together our curriculum with our facility, which will be in the shape of a thunderbird upon completion. Since introducing the learner framework last fall, the college community better understands how all the different pieces of the institution come together to increase the learner’s ability to succeed. The framework has helped to unite our ideas, academic disciplines, and co-curriculum into a common understanding.

When our assessment plan is fully employed, our decisions and actions will be based on our learner model so that we meet our mission of providing quality education grounded in Anishinaabe culture. This will ultimately lead to fulfillment of our institutional vision: To be recognized as a center of academic excellence that advances Anishinaabe worldviews and empowers life-long learners to become fully engaged citizens, stewards, and leaders.

For more information on Leech Lake Tribal College or this article, contact Kyle Erickson (director of institutional advancement) at (218) 335-4286 or Rachael Brash (director of assessment) at (218) 335-4288.

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