Iowa State University

Iowa State University

Strategic Plan 2005-2010

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Leading the Learning Revolution

Iowa State University ... committed to the promotion, improvement and advancement of learning ...


Across our campus, momentum is gathering for enhancing our focus on learning. The extensive involvement of faculty and staff in the activities of the Center for Teaching Excellence, in Learning Communities, in SoTL, in Project LEA/RN, in outcomes assessment, and in ISUComm show promise of great things to come for Iowa State University. If our efforts can be effectively coordinated and focused, we can become the Research I university best known for making undergraduate and graduate student learning our top priority. This would require a focus on demonstrated outcomes rather than simply inputs. Learning as the primary priority of Iowa State University would likely be viewed favorably by Iowa citizens and the Iowa Legislature.


At Iowa State University we have a rich tradition of leading in the land-grant values of access and opportunity, combining practical with liberal education, conducting basic and applied research and reaching out to extend the university to serve the people of the state. Never before in the history of our nation has there been such a need for land-grant universities to give new life to these values.

In their lifetimes, our students will address the issues and make the decisions that will affect the direction of civilization. To live lives of meaning and participate responsibly as citizens, today's students must be able to synthesize learning from a wide array of sources, learn from experience, make productive connections between theory and practice, and transfer their learning from situation to situation over their lifetimes.

However, far too many college students graduate from institutions but remain undereducated. Because they likely have not developed deep understandings of their disciplines, refined their critical thinking abilities, or learned to transfer information and concepts from one situation to another, many graduates will encounter limits on their life options and on their abilities to make the strongest contributions to our world. Meeting the challenges of the future demands citizens who effectively interact with others and who engage in life-long learning that goes far beyond the technical content of most college courses.

Therefore, we must be very sure that we have equipped all of our graduates to use their minds well, engaging in critical thinking and knowledge-building as habits of mind. In addition, we must ensure that our graduates embrace the land-grant value of promoting the common good as a habit of heart. A land-grant institution has the opportunity to prepare diverse students with the capacities for living productively, responsibly and meaningfully in our complex and uncertain world.


The 21st Century will be the learning age. The advancement of civilization will depend upon the extent to which we tap human potential. Those who understand human learning and human interaction and who can apply that knowledge will lead the most successful endeavors and enterprises in this new century. Iowa State University is well poised to lead this learning revolution.


Iowa State University will be known as "The Learning Land-Grant University", committed to best practices in learning and to preparing graduates to fulfill the civic and ethical responsibilities of living in a democracy.

Guidelines for pursuing our vision:

  1. Effectiveness in promoting learning, and not primarily efficiency, will guide policy decisions.
  2. We will approach all we do using best practices derived from knowledge about human learning.
  3. Critical and higher order thinking (analysis, synthesis and assessment) will be emphasized across all experiences:
    1. communication
    2. problem-solving
    3. developing diverse and global perspectives
    4. citizenship
  4. We will emphasize our primary commitment to educating rather than credentialing.
  5. Every person associated with the institution will show evidence of engagement in continuous learning.
  6. We will clearly value and reward those who implement best practices in helping others learn.
  7. Support will be provided to develop the will and capacity for faculty to enhance student learning.
  8. Collaboration will be promoted, supported, and rewarded between and among:
    1. Faculty
    2. Students
    3. External constituents
    4. Staff
    5. Administration
    6. Student Affairs
  9. Resource allocation will seek to support collaboration rather than competition.
  10. Time will be expanded for thoughtful, collective decision-making on key issues involving the university and its service to the state, nation and world.


These are some initial examples of actions that are consistent with the proposed vision; many other steps would follow.

  1. Adopt university-wide general learning outcomes emphasizing our commitments to education for citizenship and lifelong learning, providing a framework for colleges, departments and degree programs to implement such learning.
  2. Focus faculty and administrative development efforts on clarifying the meaning of effective teaching (that which helps students learn), learning how to effectively assess faculty efforts, and creating shared understanding of this key concept, along with appropriate documentation and processes.
  3. Continue to develop full-circle outcomes assessment (outcomes are stated, appropriate information about student learning is collected systematically, data is effectively used to continually improve learning) for key concepts and abilities, integrated across courses, degree programs, college and university core curricula.
  4. Facilitate and support effective coordination and integration of the university's learning mission.
  5. Analyze and revise policies and procedures to better support leadership in learning.
  6. Reconfigure and expand incentives to encourage and value those who most help students learn (faculty and staff).
  7. Develop shared approaches for learning related to communication, problem-solving, diversity education, and citizenship (rubrics, assessment instruments, learning activities, etc), perhaps using a Bioethics Institute model.

The following ISU faculty support the vision presented in this document. We strongly encourage that these ideas be included in the new strategic plan for Iowa State University.


Barbara Licklider, ELPS

Janette Thompson, NREM

Suzanne Hendrich, FSHN

Terri Boylston, FSHN

Loren Zachary, Mech Eng

Steve Jungst, NREM

Kevan Flaming, Vet Med

Steve Freeman, IEdT

The campanile

Iowa State was the first chartered land-grant institution.