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October 05, 2015

New study focuses on knowledge and skills students gain in college

How well are students learning at the college level? That question is the subject of a new study being conducted by educators on college campuses in Missouri and eight other states.

The participating states recently completed a pilot project that measured student learning based on course work rather than standardized test scores. More than 1,000 faculty members used rubrics to evaluate faculty instruction and student performance on class assignments such as projects, papers and research.

Higher education officials say the assessments measured quantitative reasoning, critical thinking and written communications – three of the most important areas students must master to be successful in society and the workplace.

“The primary goal of this study is to develop ways to improve teaching and learning in the college classroom,” said Rusty Monhollon, assistant commissioner for academic affairs at the Missouri Department of Higher Education. “The project provided valuable information – based on authentic student work – about the quality of the knowledge and skills gained in postsecondary education.”

Faculty representing nearly 70 colleges and universities of all types independently scored more than 7,000 samples of student work during the year-long pilot project. The faculty members’ participation gave them an opportunity to refine their assessment skills, consider ways to improve instruction and share their knowledge with colleagues.

The project demonstrated that common assessment practices can be used across subjects, college campuses and states to produce valid results.

Missouri colleges and universities participating in the project were:

  • University of Central Missouri
  • Southeast Missouri State University
  • Truman State University
  • Ozarks Technical Community College
  • Crowder College
  • Central Methodist University

Missouri was selected to participate in the pilot project by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association and the Association of American Colleges and Universities, sponsors of the study.

Other states participating in the project include: Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island and Utah.

Now that the pilot is complete, three additional states, Hawaii, Maine and Texas, will join the original nine states to continue the project for an additional year. Faculty from 100 institutions will assess the level of learning demonstrated in the work of thousands of students.

For more information about the Multi-State Collaborative to Advance Learning Outcomes Assessment, visit www.sheeo.org/projects/msc.