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Core Objective Assessment

Empirical and Quantitative Skills

What is it?

Empirical and quantitative skills are the skills necessary to make conclusions about observable facts and numerical data.

    • What do these numbers mean?
    • How did we get these numbers?
    • Does the method used to create this data make sense? 
    • Should I care about these numbers?
    • What are some of the patterns I see in the data?
    • How should these numbers and these facts inform my decision making?

Empirical and quantitative skills are often dismissed by students (and even some faculty and administrators) as just “math stuff.”  While there are plenty of ways to enhance empirical and quantitative skills in mathematics and logic classes, these skills are also important to physics, biology, engineering, social sciences, behavioral sciences, and creative arts. 

Why do we need it?

Employers need employees who can make sense out of data.  Whether you are in advertising, civil engineering, education, or accounting, you’ll need to be able to see numbers, ask questions about numbers, and explain the importance of numbers.  The same is true with observable facts.  While you may think that laboratories are only Erlenmeyer flasks and Bunsen burners, the truth is that life’s laboratories can be a classroom, a marketing demographic, a real estate trend, or even college basketball games.

Communities need people who understand how to look at numbers and observable facts when choosing what is best for their family, their neighborhood, and their nation. Being financially secure requires empirical skills. Making informed decisions is linked to thoughtful observation and analysis. We won’t always need to complete a triple iterated integral, but we will need to be able to understand the nature of data, consider its application to our lives, and be confident making data-informed choices.

How do we measure it?

We look at several different characteristics of what the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) call Quantitative Literacy. The rubric used to evaluate empirical and quantitative skills rates how wells students can interpret information, present information quantitatively, calculate, make judgments based on data, explain what assumptions were made and what rationale led them to their conclusion, and justify their decision with evidence.

UTA uses a tool called a Signature Assignment to imbed in traditional quantitative classes at the undergraduate level. These assignments are evaluated by a group of faculty members using the AAC&U rubric. Additionally, some of the characteristics associated with this core objective are “mapped” or associated with items on other evaluations (like the National Survey of Student Engagement and the Exit Surveys).


How do we stack up?

Below are some of our recent reports that explain how we are doing as an institution.