The Components of Tuning

Tuning as a process consists of five recombinable components. These components are the means by which Tuning work groups identify what students earning a given degree in a given discipline know and are able to do. The process grows from the assumption that faculty, those who know a discipline best, should be the party responsible for determining the discipline’s core. Because other stakeholders have an interest in the discipline, the work groups solicit feedback from them. The work groups document their thinking and revise it based on the feedback.

The five components are to:
  • define the discipline core;
  • map career pathways;
  • consult stakeholders;
  • hone core competencies and learning outcomes;
  • draft degree specifications.
The process begins most naturally with defining the discipline core, but the components should not be seen as a rigid process of steps.

Define the Discipline Core: Tuning work groups identify the core competencies for the different degree levels (A.A./A.S., B.A./B.S., M.A./M.S./M.B.A, etc.) and the learning outcomes that derive from those competencies. These competency and learning outcome statements make explicit what students will learn and should know and be able to do upon satisfactory completion of a given degree.

Map Career Pathways: Tuning work groups determine what career and employment tracks their graduates follow upon completion of the degree. Mapping career pathways allows faculty to 1) identify other stakeholders and 2) provide students with career pathways information.

Consult Stakeholders: Tuning work groups solicit feedback and input on their competency and learning outcome statements. This step enables Tuning work groups to evaluate the relevancy of their current discipline configuration and to adapt to changes in practices, making the degree programs more responsive while maintaining a faculty-directed determination of the discipline’s core.

Hone Core Competencies and Learning Outcomes Statements: Tuning work groups refine their competency and learning outcome statements in light of stakeholder feedback and subsequent work group discussions. The completed statements need to distinguish the different degree levels (A.A./A.S., B.A./B.S., M.A./M.S./M.B.A, etc.) from one another. The resulting revised set of statements is the foundation on which the degree specifications will be built.

Draft Degree Specifications: This component differs from the other four because it sends Tuning group participants back to their departments to write degree specifications for each degree offered. These specifications constitute the point of contact between the Tuning process and departments, and they emerge from a department's consideration of how the results of Tuning relate to its degree programs.

As a process, Tuning encourages work groups to develop explicit statements of a discipline’s core areas of learning by engaging in a recursive sequence of definition and revision based on increased awareness of the needs of other stakeholders. It should be noted that the Tuning process endeavors to define the core of a discipline. That word, core, is important, because it does not suggest that Tuning aims at defining the totality of what will be taught in a given discipline. The process tries to define what various faculty and curricula have in common as they undertake to educate students in their own distinctive ways.

The initial results of this process should be a body of explicit statements that make clear to students beginning or in the midst of their studies exactly what they are expected to learn and that articulate for graduates what their degrees have given them in terms of knowledge and skills, as well as career pathways opened to them by the degree. Fundamentally this process is about students gaining greater understanding of what it is they are learning, and the importance of that learning in terms of their discipline of interest.

The collective process described above ends with the degree specification as a step towards individual departments responding to the Tuning results by considering how their curriculum might best help students achieve the core outcomes, as well as any additional competencies and/or outcomes they may deem important. The process is a cyclical one. It (1) begins with consideration of the competencies and outcomes that comprise the learning in a discipline, (2) continues with the identification of those that comprise the core of that discipline and their application in the workplace, and then (3) proceeds to use those results to strengthen individual iterations of the discipline within autonomous departments.

Because the process ends in a specification of particular degrees in specific departments, faculty participants will want to keep colleagues in their home departments apprised of the work of the Tuning group. Colleagues will then know and understand the nature of the initiative and can be of assistance as the degree specification is drafted. Moreover, colleagues will thereby be equipped to participate in a process of examining the departments’ curriculum in response to the results of the Tuning process.