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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Recognizing and then Using Disciplinary Patterns of the Undergraduate Experience: Getting Past Institutional Standards


The assertion that there are a limited set of generalizable good educational practices (Chickering & Gamson, 1987) with a common model of preferred active student engagement in learning (Kuh, 2001) is appealing to those responsible for simply stated institutional outcomes and to the faculty who teach in fields that espouse the same practices and outcomes (Braxton, 1998). After all, if they are wrong and educational experience and good educational practices differ in important, substantive, and replicable ways by area of academic major, then assessment, accountability, administration, and admissions become more complicated and less amenable to central “oversight” and uniform standards. This paper reports that there are indeed important differences in student experience and engagement by academic discipline, that disciplinary patterns of student experience cluster, and that academic performance by students in these clusters is differentially predicted by standard admissions measures and student engagement factors. Recognizing the differences and identifying the predictors will lead to better admission practices.

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