National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment |

National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment

Related Programs and Activities

Several related programs and activities to learning outcomes assessment are occurring throughout the country. Listed here are some. Check back as we add to the Web page.

Achieving the Dream
American Association for Higher Education (AAHE)
American Democracy Project

American Diploma Project

Association of American Universities Data Exchange (AAUDE)
Australian Government's MyUniversity

Center of Inquiry: Assessment Support
Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) 
New Leadership Alliance for Student Learning and Accountability
Rising to the Challenge: Meaningful Assessment of Student Learning

Transparency by Design
Tuning

University and Colleges Accountability Network (U-CAN)
Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education (VALUE)
Voluntary Framework of Accountability (VFA)

Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA)


Achieving the Dream

Description

Achieving the Dream is a national initiative for community college student success. Its primary focus is to help student groups who have traditionally faced significant barriers, particularly low-income students and students of color, to reach their individual goals of obtaining higher education degrees and better jobs. Emphasizing a data-driven approach, this initiative seeks to motivate institutional change, policy change, public engagement, and knowledge development.

Related Articles and Resources

Achieving the Dream (2007, October). Success is what counts. Washington, DC.

This report summarizes the Achieving the Dream initiative, particularly detailing how the initiative is designed to meet the needs of community college characteristics and challenges.

Bashford, J., & Slater, D. (2008, January). Assessing and improving student outcomes: What we are learning at Miami Dade College. New York: CCRC, Teachers College, Columbia University.

This paper presents Miami Dade College’s institutional effectiveness office use of data to make decisions about college operations in an attempt to improve student outcomes. Strategies are presented and examples of institutionalizing those strategies are examined.

Miller, M. (Ed.) (2009, January-February). Courageous conversations: Achieving the dream and the importance of student success. Change Magazine.

This issue of Change Magazine offers a special spotlight on Achieving the Dream with three articles that offer different perspectives examining the successes, challenges, and future of the initiative.


American Association for Higher Education (AAHE)

Principles of Good Practice for Assessing Student Learning

Developed under the auspices of the AAHE Assessment Forum
American colleges have a long history of grading and certifying student work. The more recent practice of assessment build on that history by looking at student achievement not only within courses but across them, asking about cumulative learning outcomes. As a systematic process of gathering, interpreting and using information about student learning, assessment is a powerful tool for educational improvement.

Today, hundreds of colleges and universities are doing assessment, at the classroom, program, and institutional levels. The practice has become a universal expectation for accreditation and a frequent object of state mandate; nine out of ten institutions now report that they have some type of assessment activity under way. Along the way, a "wisdom of practice" has emerged; the nine principles that follow constitute an attempt to capture some of that practical wisdom.

A Vision of Education 
What, more specifically, is the intent of this document? We hope, first, that campuses will find these principles helpful for examining current practice and for developing and discussing their own principles. Further, we hope that the principles here will support campus assessment leaders in their work with the administrators, policy makers, and legislators who often set the conditions that determine whether assessment will lead to real improvement. This second purpose seems especially important given the current national debate about educational standards, testing, and accountability; the links between assessment and improved student learning must not be lost in this debate.

The core value behind this document is the importance of improving student learning. Implicit in the principles that follow is a vision of education that entails high expectations for all students, active forms of learning, coherent curricula, and effective out-of-class opportunities; to these ends, we need assessment--systematic, usable information about student learning--that helps us fulfill our responsibilities to the students who come to us for an education and to the publics whose trust supports our work.

The authors of this statement are twelve practitioner-students of assessment as it has developed on campuses and to some extent at the K-12 level. We know that no one best exists for the doing of assessment, but effective practices have things in common. We hope you'll find this statement helpful.

December 1992

PRINCIPLES OF GOOD PRACTICE FOR ASSESSING STUDENT LEARNING

1. The assessment of student learning begins with educational values. Assessment is not an end in itself but a vehicle for educational improvement. Its effective practice, then, begins with and enacts a vision of the kinds of learning we most value for students and strive to help them achieve. Educational values should drive not only what we choose to assess but also how we do so. Where questions about educational mission and values are skipped over, assessment threatens to be an exercise in measuring what's easy, rather than a process of improving what we really care about.

2. Assessment is most effective when it reflects an understanding of learning as multidimensional, integrated, and revealed in performance over time. Learning is a complex process. It entails not only what students know but what they can do with what they know; it involves not only knowledge and abilities but values, attitudes, and habits of mind that affect both academic success and performance beyond the classroom. Assessment should reflect these understandings by employing a diverse array of methods including those that call for actual performance, using them over time so as to reveal change, growth, and increasing degrees of integration. Such an approach aims for a more complete and accurate picture of learning, and therefore firmer bases for improving our students' educational experience.

3. Assessment works best when the programs it seeks to improve have clear, explicitly stated purposes. Assessment is a goal-oriented process. It entails comparing educational performance with educational purposes and expectations-these derived from the institution's mission, from faculty intentions in program and course design, and from knowledge of students' own goals. Where program purposes lack specificity or agreement, assessment as a process pushes a campus toward clarity about where to aim and what standards to apply; assessment also prompts attention to where and how program goals will be taught and learned. Clear, shared, implementable goals are the cornerstone for assessment that is focused and useful.

4. Assessment requires attention to outcomes but also and equally to the experiences that lead to those outcomes. Information about outcomes is of high importance; where students "end up" matters greatly. But to improve outcomes, we need to know about student experience along the way-about the curricula, teaching, and kind of student effort that lead to particular outcomes. Assessment can help understand which students learn best under what conditions; with such knowledge comes the capacity to improve the whole of their learning.

5. Assessment works best when it is ongoing, not episodic. Assessment is a process whose power is cumulative. Though isolated, "one-shot" assessment can be better than none, improvement is best fostered when assessment entails a linked series of activities undertaken over time. This may mean tracking the progress of individual students, or of cohorts of students; it may mean collecting the same examples of student performance or using the same instrument semester after semester. The point is to monitor progress toward intended goals in a spirit of continuous improvement. Along the way, the assessment process itself should be evaluated and refined in light of emerging insights.

6. Assessment fosters wider improvement when representatives from across the educational community are involved. Student learning is a campus-wide responsibility, and assessment is a way of enacting that responsibility. Thus, while assessment efforts may start small, the aim over time is to involve people from across the educational community. Faculty play an especially important role, but assessment's questions can't be fully addressed without participation by student-affairs educators, librarians, administrators, and students. Assessment may also involve individuals from beyond the campus (alumni/ae, trustees, employers) whose experience can enrich the sense of appropriate aims and standards for learning. Thus, understood, assessment is not a task for small groups of experts but a collaborative activity; its aim is wider, better-informed attention to student learning by all parties with a stake in its improvement.

7. Assessment makes a difference when it begins with issues of use and illuminates questions that people really care about. Assessment recognizes the value of information in the process of improvement. But to be useful, information must be connected to issues or questions that people really care about. This implies assessment approaches that produce evidence that relevant parties will find credible, suggestive, and applicable to decisions that need to be made. It means thinking in advance about how the information will be used, and by whom. The point of assessment is not to gather data and return "results"; it is a process that starts with the questions of decision-makers, that involves them in the gathering and interpreting of data, and that informs and helps guide continuous improvement.

8. Assessment is most likely to lead to improvement when it is part of a larger set of conditions that promote change. Assessment alone changes little. Its greatest contribution comes on campuses where the quality of teaching and learning is visibly valued and worked at. On such campuses, the push to improve educational performance is a visible and primary goal of leadership; improving the quality of undergraduate education is central to the institution's planning, budgeting, and personnel decisions. On such campuses, information about learning outcomes is seen as an integral part of decision making, and avidly sought.

9. Through assessment, educators meet responsibilities to students and to the public. There is compelling public stake in education. As educators, we have a responsibility to the publics that support or depend on us to provide information about the ways in which our students meet goals and expectations. But that responsibility goes beyond the reporting of such information; our deeper obligation-to ourselves, our students, and society-is to improve. Those to whom educators are accountable have a corresponding obligation to support such attempts at improvement.

The Authors
Alexander W. Astin, University of California at Los Angeles; Trudy W. Banta, Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis; K. Patricia Cross, University of California, Berkeley; Elaine El-Khawas, American Council on Education; Peter T. Ewell, National Center for Higher Education Management Systems; Pat Hutchings, American Association for Higher Education; Theodore J. Marchese, American Association for Higher Education; Kay M. McClenney, Education Commission of the States; Marcia Mentkowski, Alverno College; Margaret A. Miller, State Council of Higher Education for Virginia; E. Thomas Moran, State University of New York, Plattsburgh; Barbara D. Wright, University of Connecticut.

This document was developed under the auspices of the AAHE Assessment Forum, a project of the American Association for Higher Education, with support from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education. It builds on earlier efforts, by campuses and other groups, to articulate guidelines for assessment's practice; its intent is to synthesize important work already done and to invite further statements about the responsible and effective conduct of assessment.

Development of this document was sponsored by the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE) and supported by the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE); publication and dissemination was supported by the Exxon Education Foundation. Copies may be made without restriction.


American Democracy Project

Description

The American Democracy Project is a multi-campus initiative focused on higher education’s role in preparing the next generation of informed, engaged citizens for our democracy. It was started through a partnership with AASCU and The New York Times and includes 231 participating colleges and universities. Participating institutions are committed to producing active, involved citizens as graduates. 


American Diploma Project

Description

The American Diploma Project (ADP) is an initiative driven by Achieve, Inc., a bi-partisan, non-profit organization. Within 34 participating states, the ADP brings together governors, state education officials, postsecondary leaders, and business executives to cooperatively improve postsecondary preparation. Some common goals include: (a) aligning high school standards with the necessary knowledge and skills for transition to college and work, (b) providing access to rigorous high school courses, (c) streamlining assessment systems, and (d) ensuring accountability for students’ success. For a brief overview of ADP from the Achieve, Inc website, click here.

Related Articles and Resources

American Diploma Project (2004). Ready or Not: Creating a high school diploma that counts on the Achieve, Inc website.

This report defines the English and math benchmarks that high school students must achieve to be prepared for credit-bearing college courses and high-performance, high-paying jobs, as well as demonstrates how current high-school exit expectations fall considerably short of the demands of both employers and colleges.

 

National Governors Association, Council of Chief State School Officers, & Achieve, Inc. (2008). Benchmarking for success: Ensuring U.S. students receive a world-class education. Washington, DC: National Governors Association. 

Report that presents benchmarking of education systems against those of top-performing nations and calls for action to ensure students receive an education that provides opportunities for college and career success.

Rosenbaum, J. E. (2004). It’s time to tell the kids: If you don’t do well in high school, you won’t do well in college (or on the job). American Educator.

This article outlines research findings suggesting that high school students do not understand the connection between high school class performance (considering both grades received and academic rigor) and college success. The American Diploma Project makes connections to research and suggestions are offered for addressing the problem.



Association of American Universities Data Exchange (AAUDE)

Description

AAUDE is a public service organization whose purpose is to improve the quality and usability of information about higher education. Membership is comprised of AAU institutions that participate in the exchange of data/information to support decision-making at their institution.

The data exchanged and reports prepared by AAUDE include both public and confidential topics. For an informational guide on the project, click here.


Australian Government's MyUniversity

Description
In an effort to be more transparent, MyUniversity provides potential students and their families with information about higher education institutions within Australia. Users locate and compare course information as well as statistical information and other indicators of the institution including student/faculty population and postgraduate work.

Related Articles and Research
Australian Qualifications Framework Council. (2011, April). Australian Qualifications Framework 2011. Retrieved from: http://www.aqf.edu.au/

Created in 1995, the Australian Qualifications Framewor, or AQF, "is the national policy for regulated qualifications in Australian education and training by "incorporating the qualifications from each education and training sector into a single comprehensive national qualifications framework." 


Center of Inquiry: Assessment Support

Description

The Center for Inquiry works with faculty and staff at liberal arts institutions to develop stronger assessment programs that match the institutions unique mission and culture. To learn about the Center of Inquiry Blog, click here.


Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO)

Description
The HEQCO website outlines the research agenda as encompassing "three major research projects focused on defining and measuring learning outcomes, working with Ontario’s colleges, universities in partnership with international organizations. The projects build on the provincial government’s work in quality assessment and learning outcomes."

Related Articles and Research
Clark, I. D., Trick, D., & Van Loon, R. (2009). Academic Reform: Policy Options for Improving the Quality and Cost-effectiveness of Undergraduate Education in Ontario. Retrieved from: http://www.publicpolicy.utoronto.ca/FacultyandContacts/IanClarkWebPageatUofT/
academicreform/Pages/default.aspx
 

This book "provides realistic policy options for improving the quality and the cost-effectiveness of undergraduate education in Ontario."

Other publications about this project can be found by clicking here.


New Leadership Alliance for Student Learning and Accountability

Description
The New Leadership Alliance for Student Learning and Accountability (the Alliance) was established to improve student learning at the undergraduate level and to find educationally valid ways of demonstrating that such improvement is taking place. The Alliance aims to improve student learning through voluntary and cooperative professional efforts to significantly improve assessment of, and accountability for, student learning outcomes. It also aims to convey to the higher education community and the larger public the importance of a quality college education in preparation for work, life, and responsible citizenship.

Related Articles and Research
Jaschik, S. (2009, October 26). Turning surveys into reforms. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/10/26/nsse

This past weekend was the ten year anniversary for NSSE, this article found in Inside Higher Ed captures the significant of this celebration and raises questions for the future of assessments.

Paris, D.C. (2009, November 6). The clock is ticking. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2009/11/06/paris

Implications from this viewpoint piece from Insider Higher Education are important for higher education assessment. Arguing that there will be greater accountability from the Obama administration, then higher education institutions must be ready for assessments. Article written by the executive director of the New Leadership Alliance.


Rising to the Challenge: Meaningful Assessment of Student Learning

Description

Rising to the Challenges is a consortium between AAC&U, ASSDCU, and NASULGC to build leadership and capacity to implement meaningful student learning assessment approaches. This project is in response to the need to examine multiple purposes of learning assessment and to test the validity and comparability of assessment approaches. There are three main strands of work from this project which include: a) examination of the measurement tools recommended as part of the VSA as to if the tools measure similar or dissimilar outcomes or levels of achievement; b) development of an e-portfolio framework and rubrics based on authentic examples of student work over time; and c) development of a survey instrument to measure changes in student growth related to workplace and civic engagement skills. 


Transparency by Design

Description

Transparency by Design is an initiative, developed by the Presidents’ Forum, to lead universities and colleges toward greater accountability and transparency. The initiative’s members comprise a consortium of regionally accredited, adult-serving, distance educational institutions. The initiative focuses on providing information, including learning program-specific outcomes data that allow students to make informed decisions about educational options. Starting in 2009, an annual Learning Outcomes Report will be issued that include student demographics, completion rates, costs, student engagement, and knowledge and skills learned. Learning Outcomes Reports will include outcomes at the program specialization level, allowing prospective students to assess how well a program will prepare them for their professional pursuits. For an example and template to guide interested and participating institutions click here.

Lederman, D. (2009, August 4). The Challenge of comparability. Inside Higher Ed.

A brief description of the project and potential use, written around the date of the launching of the project's website.


Tuning

Description

TUNING started in 2000 as a project in Europe linked to the Bologna Process and Lisbon Strategy. It has developed into a process that can be applied to educational programs to develop, implement, and evaluate quality of degree programs. The process employs faculty meeting within disciplines to discuss learning outcomes. It was developed by and for higher education institutions.

Related Articles and Resources

Brochure for the Tuning program
Latest Tuning publications can be found here
A informative and entertaining overview video on Tuning from Lumina Foundation.

Jaschik, S. (2009, April 8). 'Tuning' College Degrees. Inside Higher Ed.


University and College Accountability Network (U-CAN)

Description

U-CAN is a Web-based resource designed to give students and parents concise, consumer-friendly information on nonprofit, private colleges and universities in a common format. U-CAN was developed and is managed by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU). Through focus groups, students and parents shared the information they most need to make an informed college choice which was then included in the institutional profiles. The in-depth information included in the institutional profiles includes admissions, enrollment, academics, student demographics, graduation rates, most common fields of study, transfer of credit policy, accreditation, faculty information, class size, tuition and fee trends, price of attendance, financial aid, campus housing, student life, and campus safety.


Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education (VALUE)

Description

VALUE is part of the Association of American Colleges and Universities liberal education and America’s promise initiative. It seeks to contribute to the national dialogue on student learning assessment by using multiple expert judgments of the quality of student work over a reliance on standardized tests. VALUE assumes that assessment data are needed to guide planning, teaching, and improvement and that good assessment requires multiple assessments over time. It is part of AAC&U’s larger project, Rising to the Challenge, which establishes a consortium between AAC&U, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, and the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges to build leadership and capacity for student learning assessment.  

Related Articles and Resources

AAC&U. (2009). Assessing learning outcomes: Lessons from AAC&U’s VALUE project. Peer Review, 11(1). http://www.aacu.org/peerreview/pr-wi09/pr-wi09_index.cfm

The entire Winter 2009 edition of Peer Review addresses the VALUE project. Information presented includes an overview of the project, information on e-portfolios, application of rubrics, assessment process, and the use of assessment results for improvements.  


Voluntary Framework of Accountability (VFA)

Description

The Voluntary Framework of Accountability is the first national system of accountability specifically FOR community colleges and BY community colleges. Leadership in the sector is defining the most appropriate metrics for gauging how well our institutions perform in serving a variety of students and purposes. This initiative was launched in January 2011.

Related Articles and Resources

Download the press release of this project here.



Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA)

Description

The Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA) is a voluntary initiative for 4-year public colleges and universities developed by the American Association of State College and Universities and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. The VSA communicates information on the undergraduate student experience through a common web reporting template, the College Portrait by demonstrating accountability and stewardship to the public; measuring educational outcomes to identify effective practices; and assembling information that is accessible, understandable, and comparable.  The information is intended for students, families, policy-makers, campus faculty and staff, the general public, and other higher education stakeholders. For an overview of the college portrait click here

Related Articles and Resources

Miller, M. A. (2008, July/August). The voluntary system of accountability: Origins and purposes. Change Magazine.

This article presents an interview conducted with George Mehaffy and David Shulenberger who are vice presidents of AASCU and NASULGC respectively, which lead the development of the VSA. The article presents background information, what different stakeholder groups want to know about higher education, and discussions on reporting learning outcomes. 

Schulenburger, D. & Keller, C. (2010). Interpretation of findings from the test validity study for the Voluntary System of Accountability. Association of Public and Land-grant Universities




“NILOA is helping take stock of our educational capital—the skills and knowledge college graduates are acquiring—by giving us a comprehensive picture of higher education’s efforts to assess student accomplishment.”


Margaret Miller
Professor
University of Virginia