Strategic planning as though learning matters: In search of evidence at small colleges

Eleanor A Fogarty, University of Pennsylvania


The purpose of this study was to understand how three small, private colleges used strategic planning to focus attention on the importance of student learning. Teaching and learning are the main reasons these three primarily undergraduate institutions exist. Strategic plans are the administrative vehicles for communicating priorities, directing resources, and reviewing progress toward goals. In order to achieve institutional goals, the importance of student learning opportunities and outcomes must find expression throughout the institution's planning materials. A multi-site, qualitative case study approach was used to understand current institutional practices. The research project involved document review and semi-structured interviews. The key question that guided this study was: How and to what extent does student learning emerge as a priority in the institutional strategic plan at the schools in the study? In addition, unit-level planning materials were examined in Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, and Facilities. The study analyzed the strategic planning process at each institution, including leadership, involvement, communication, and resource allocation. More importantly, the study reviewed the content of the plans themselves and how student learning opportunities were prioritized at various levels of the institution. The study revealed that the student learning opportunities identified by these institutions matched the best practices in higher education of widely-recognized active and experiential learning practices, such as first-year experiences, learning communities, undergraduate research, study abroad, internships, and capstones. The study demonstrated the importance of aligning the planning activities of units across the campus with the mission and goals of the institution.

Subject Area

School administration|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Fogarty, Eleanor A, "Strategic planning as though learning matters: In search of evidence at small colleges" (2008). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3310478.