SHEEO Leads Nine-state Collaborative to Measure College Student Learning

Friday, November 15, 2013

Higher education leaders and faculty from nine states and nearly 50 colleges and universities will work together to evaluate authentic student work in a way that allows faculty, institutions, and states to consistently assess not only student achievement of essential student learning outcomes, but their own effectiveness in promoting student success. 

The project will be supported, in part, with funding from a grant to the Association of American Colleges and Universities from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  With a subgrant to SHEEO, faculty at institutions in the Multistate Collaborative will gather student work products and use them to develop rigorous standards, frameworks, and assessment practices drawing on resources from AAC&U’s Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) initiative.

This collaboration is being launched because existing assessment methods (e.g., grades, standardized tests, student surveys, etc.) are inadequate to accurately gauge and consistently share information about important college-level learning outcomes, including what students know, understand and how they apply their knowledge. 

The collaboration seeks to produce data that will allow faculty to pinpoint how to improve instruction, make curricular changes, rethink course design, and implement more effective classroom teaching and learning methods.  The evidence generated by the project, aggregated across similar institutions, is expected to be useful to states and systems of higher education for cross-institutional and/or cross-state benchmarking and for public reports that will more accurately inform governors, boards, state legislators and other interested parties about the quality of student learning. The Multistate Collaborative, led by the association of State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO), includes Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Oregon, Rhode Island and Utah. SHEEO agencies and faculty members and academic leaders from multiple higher education systems and campuses within each of the nine states will participate.

The nine participating states will select up to six campuses to join a pilot study to assess student work products using faculty-developed rubrics that delineate levels of achievement in written communication and quantitative literacy.  States and campuses also may choose to assess critical thinking as part of the project. States with smaller systems may have fewer campuses in the pilot. Initial pilot study results will not be made public, but institutions will receive results for their own use. The confidentiality of information about individual students will be protected at all times. Initial funding will support the gathering of student work products, initial faculty development and training, and the launch of a common database to house student work products and assessment results. The pilot study is scheduled to be completed during the 2014-15 academic year.

The initial impetus for the Multistate Collaborative came from work in Massachusetts as part of its Vision Project initiated by Commissioner of Higher Education Richard Freeland in 2010. The Student Learning area of the Vision Project focuses on improving teaching and learning through better assessment and better ways to document student learning for the public. The Massachusetts work led to efforts with SHEEO to interest other states in forming a collaborative to develop and test a model for state system learning outcomes assessment that could provide sound evidence of the quality of student learning, serve campuses and state systems, and allow for comparisons across states. 

The project will formally launch in mid-December at a meeting in Boulder, Colorado