Engaged learning at JMU connects "students to a greater sense of belonging to the institution and to their peers."

JMU defines engaged learning as developing deep, purposeful and reflective learning, through classroom, campus, and community experiences in the pursuit, creation, application and dissemination of knowledge.

Engaged learning requires a commitment on the part of students, faculty and the university to create practices beyond the traditional - practices that are experiential, involve exploration and guided reflection, and take place in a community. At James Madison University, engaged learning's hallmarks will include, but are not limited to, high impact educational practices such as collaborative projects, internships, global education, undergraduate research and alternative learning opportunities and will be intentional and designed within and across communities and into the culture of the Madison Experience. The examples provided below demonstrate, through assessment, the impact of our engaged learning practices. 

Examples of Engaged Learning

Engaged Learning in Ethical Reasoning

JMU established a unique learning process for ethical reasoning through collaboration with content experts, assessment professionals, and dozens of faculty and staff partners. All entering first-year students (approximately 4,000 each year) use their developing ethical reasoning skills to approach and resolve a complicated ethical situation. In later educational experiences, hundreds of students apply ethical reasoning strategies to situations in their own lives. They dive deeper into particular considerations like responsibility, outcomes, and authority. Multiple universities, organizations, and companies around the United States have used or adapted JMU’s model.


Sanchez, E.R.H., Fulcher, K.H., Smith, K., Ames, A.J., & Hawk, W.J. (2017). Defining, teaching, and Assessing Ethical Reasoning in Action. Change, The Magazine of Higher Learning, 49(2), 30-36. Doi: 10.1080/00091383.2017.1286215

Smith, K. (2017). Integrating Implementation Fidelity and Learning Improvement to Enhance Students' Ethical Reasoning Abilities (Doctoral dissertation, James Madison University).

View More Information about Ethical Reasoning in Action

Engaged Learning in Interview Skills

The computer information systems (CIS) program at JMU was concerned about students’ ability to interview clients. The program worked with assessment experts and educational developers to overhaul the curriculum related to interviewing, and developed a new method for assessing students’ interview skills. The new programming broke down each specific skill required for effective interviewing. Students received several opportunities to learn about these skills and practice them in simulated interview situations. Once implemented, student scores increased dramatically. The CIS program’s work to identify a weakness, make substantial changes to the learning, and monitor the success of their changes has been a shining example of improving student learning. 


Ezell, J. D., Lending, D., Dillon, T. W., May, J., Hurney, C. A., & Fulcher, K. H. (2019). Developing measurable cross-departmental learning objectives for requirements elicitation in an Information Systems curriculum. Journal of Information Systems Education, 30(1), 27-41.

Lending, D., Fulcher, K. H., Ezell, J. D., May, J. L., & Dillon, T. W. (2018). Example of a program-level learning improvement report. Research & Practice in Assessment, 13, 34-50.

View More Information about CIS at JMU

Engaged Learning in General Education

General Education JMU’s general education program was drastically changed in the late 1980’s. Then called the liberal studies program, assessment results revealed little value added by coursework in any area. JMU formed a General Education Committee to work closely with faculty to determine appropriate student learning outcomes and ultimately shifted the liberal studies program into the award-winning, five-cluster system that exists today. This process was long and arduous, but the focus always remained on student learning outcomes. Since the program redesign, results from JMU’s annual Assessment Days have shown value added in all five clusters.


Hathcoat, J. D., Sundre, D. L., & *Johnston, M. M. (2015) Assessing college students’ quantitative and scientific reasoning: The James Madison University story. Numeracy, 8 (1), Article 2.

Halonen, J., Harris, C. M., Pastor, D. A., Abrahamson, C. E., & Huffman, C. J. (2005). Assessing general education outcomes in introductory psychology. In D. S. Dunn and S. Chew (Eds.), Best Practices in Teaching Introduction to Psychology (pp. 195-210). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

View More Information about General Education at JMU

Engaged Learning in Accounting

Fifteen years ago, JMU’s accounting program had an acceptable passing rate on the national CPA exam. However, program faculty wanted to do better and created a boot camp to help students prepare for the exam. The boot camp helped students solidify concepts they had already learned in the program, and enable students to pinpoint their own weaknesses. As a result of the boot camp, pass rates for the program have skyrocketed. Now, students graduating from JMU have pass rates that are among the top in the nation. In fact in JMU’s CPA pass rate was the top in the country in 2015.


View More Information about the Accounting Program at JMU

Engaged Learning for Information Literacy

Information literacy is a critically important field that JMU has long assessed with its renowned information literacy test. Library staff developed a series of modules to assist students in preparing for the test. This “Toolkit” is a suite of videos covering information literacy topics such as scholarship, research, and information creation. Since making the Toolkit available to students, passing rates on the test have increased. Other resources have been developed to guide student research in specific courses across campus. These guides are used extensively by students and faculty alike.


Cameron, L., Wise, S. L., & *Lottridge, S. M. (2007). The development and validation of the information literacy test. College & Research Libraries, 68(3), 229-237.

View the Toolkit Here

Engaged Learning with Orientation

JMU has long recognized the importance of giving all its students a strong start. Each year approximately 650-700 students transfer into JMU. Transfer Summer Springboard (TSS) is a one-day program occurring in the beginning of June designed to help these students successfully transition to JMU. TSS facilitators explain academic and social expectations, identify and explain resources needed prior to returning to campus in August, and facilitate community building with peers. After receiving this program, some students were not performing on tests as well as expected. The orientation staff worked closely with JMU assessment experts to tighten up the program, using a process similar to a secret shopper. The orientation office made big adjustments to its program and training of staff. This hard work paid off, with subsequent groups performing much better. Orientation’s process has won numerous national awards.


Gerstner, J. J. & Finney, S. J. (2013). Measuring the implementation fidelity of student affairs programs: A critical component of the outcomes assessment cycle. Research and Practice in Assessment, 8, 15-28.

Fisher, R., *Smith, K. L., Finney, S. J., & *Pinder, K. E. (2014). The importance of implementation fidelity data for evaluating program effectiveness. About Campus, 19, 28-32.

View More Information about JMU's 1787 Orientation (now called Weeks of Welcome) Here

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