Wednesday, January 16, 2013


OECD report about feasibility of implementing learning outcomes in similar fashion internationally.

In 2008, the OECD launched the AHELO feasibility study, an initiative with the objective to assess whether it is possible to develop international measures of learning outcomes in higher education.

Learning outcomes are indeed key to a meaningful education, and focusing on learning outcomes is essential to inform diagnosis and improve teaching processes and student learning. While there is a long tradition of learning outcomes’ assessment within institutions’ courses and programmes, emphasis on learning outcomes has become more important in recent years. Interest in developing comparative measures of learning outcomes has increased in response to a range of higher education trends, challenges and paradigm shifts.

AHELO aims to complement institution-based assessments by providing a direct evaluation of student learning outcomes at the global level and to enable institutions to benchmark the performance of their students against their peers as part of their improvement efforts. Given AHELO’s global scope, it is essential that measures of learning outcomes are valid across diverse cultures and languages as well as different types of higher education institutions (HEIs).

The purpose of the feasibility study is to see whether it is practically and scientifically feasible to assess what students in higher education know and can do upon graduation within and across these diverse contexts. The feasibility study should demonstrate what is feasible and what could be feasible, what has worked well and what has not, as well as provide lessons and stimulate reflection on how learning outcomes might be most effectively measured in the future.

And now, for the rest of the story ...

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Worth it?

Our focus is always on expected outcomes and the extent to which they're being achieved. This story is about one of the primary (primal?) expected outcomes of going to college.

The report, unlike many other attempts to address the value of a college degree, does not look at the cost of attending a four-year institution, but instead considers only whether or not a degree still helps people find better jobs and earn more money.

The simple answer is yes.

And now, for the rest of the story ...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Peter Flawn in Inside Higher Ed ...

Under the Widget Theory of Higher Education, the more cheaply a college or university can produce marketable baccalaureate, master's and doctoral degrees, the more efficient and cost-effective the institution. It is a basic premise under the theory that if two colleges or universities produce the same degree, the one that produces it more cheaply is the better institution.

Some visionaries have advanced the extraordinary idea that an academic degree may have some intrinsic value over and above its value in the job market -- a reserve value, one might say. However, that is an impractical idea because there is no accounting system accepted by the Financial Accounting Standards Board that permits recognition of this "reserve value" in a prospectus, annual report, or Form 10-K. We are all hoping, however, that the Securities and Exchange Commission, after they have perfected the new method of accounting for oil and gas producers known as RRA (Reserve Recognition Accounting) will apply their innovative genius to the problem of reserve values in college and university degrees.

Universal Widgets, Inc. through its new management system, has focused on quality control. The company is committed to the proposition that if it can produce a superior line of widgets without raising the price, it will control a larger segment of the market.

It is this same quality issue, however, that has caused the greatest uncertainty about the Widget Theory of Higher Education.

And now, for the rest of the story ...

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Les Misérables college style

Billing this item as a parody suggests that it's a humorous bit. But it hits a little harder than that.

Effects of student motivation on assessment of learning

Like me, many of you may have encountered this challenge in your institutions. Findings such as this lend weight to the argument in favor of embedded, as contrasted with add-on, assessment.

... their findings suggest a serious problem in using such test scores to evaluate colleges' teaching and learning quality. "An important message to policymakers is that institutions that employ different motivational strategies in testing the students should be compared with great caution, especially when the comparison is for accountability purposes," they write. "Accountability initiatives involving outcomes assessment should also take into account the effect of motivation when making decisions about an institution's instructional effectiveness."

And now, for the rest of the story ...

Friday, December 21, 2012

Success leaves clues

This is a series of articles from Academic Impressions about predictive analytics.

Given increasing competition, shifts in student enrollment, and reduced resource levels, it’s critical that colleges and universities recruit and retain the students who are most likely to succeed at their institutions.

By reviewing data on current and past students and alumni, and engaging in predictive modeling, you can identify not only the factors that impede desired outcomes such as yield, student retention, and alumni engagement and giving rates, but also the positive factors that contribute to those outcomes.

In this edition, we have turned to institutional researchers, enrollment managers, and advancement professionals to highlight examples of predictive indicators and data-informed tactics for enrolling and supporting the right students and helping them transition into engaged, committed alumni. We hope their advice will be helpful.

And now, for the rest of the story ...

Improving customer service in high ed

This is a series of articles about improving customer service in higher ed, based on responses to Academic Impressions' survey of 79 postsecondary institutions.

... surveying professionals at 79 post-secondary institutions, we found that over half would grade their school with a “C” or lower letter grade for customer service. Customer service expectations from both students and parents continue to increase, and it is increasingly critical to meet that demand with a strong commitment to developing a culture of service.

Meeting the demand for improved service does not have to entail sacrificing the rigor of your institution’s policies and procedures because the core standards of effective service have little to do with promoting “customer satisfaction.” Instead, what matters most is responsiveness, efficiency, clear communication, and conflict management.

And now, for the rest of the story ...

SREB's policy brief on outcomes-based funding

From the Southern Regional Education Board ...

Outcomes-based funding policy is not new to postsecondary education, but it has seldom been a sustainable budget approach primarily because it accounted for a small percentage of institutional budgets and because campuses resisted attempts to move away from funding tied to enrollment.

Performance- and outcomes-based funding approaches have reemerged in public policy as a significant strategy to increase college completion numbers and rates. States and institutions are shifting toward rewarding institutions and programs for increasing the numbers of completions and away from enrollments. At the same time, many states are raising the percentage of the budget that supports outcomes-based funding. In past efforts, performance-based funding operated like a bonus on top of state funding and was based on indicators such as numbers or percentages of graduates, job placement, retention and transfer. Recent versions also emphasize some of these indictors; more important, the funding is not a bonus but part of the state base funding formula for higher education.

And now, for the rest of the story ...

Graduate student learning outcomes

Thanks to Loraine Phillips, Texas A&M, for sharing this document on the ACCSHE listserv (which I highly recommend, especially for those in the SACS region).

The purpose of this report was to identify the current practices of assessing graduate student learning outcomes across different institutions in the United States.

The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS, 2011b) has recognized major concerns within higher education in the United States. One concern raised was that graduate students are not being sufficiently prepared by universities with a broad range of career skills normally found in faculty members. Additionally, a quality university education must include well-planned curriculum and goals to meet specific “student learning outcomes” (CGS, 2011b).

Additionally, the CGS has identified two levels of student learning outcomes at the graduate level. The first level may include: “oral and written communication, critical evaluation, research methodology, research ethics, and professional ethics” (p. 15, CGS, 2011b). These areas target individual foundational concepts and skills that are taught throughout various graduate curriculums across areas of study. It is important to recognize this idea, because generally graduate education does not contain common or core courses across areas of study. The second level of graduate learning outcomes occurs in the individual areas of study and includes goals related to the particular field of the graduate degree. These student outcomes are a reflection of the students’ learning experiences in their graduate program (Hoey, 2011).

And now, for the rest of the story ...

Historians tune it up

Congratulations to our historian colleagues! And good luck in your efforts to gain acceptance across the country and in setting a good example for other disciplinary groups. Tuning efforts such as this one are one of the best places to commit ourselves as we work toward continuous improvement.

In a recent New York Times op-ed, Kevin Carey of the New America Foundation asked "Who Will Hold Colleges Accountable?" ... Carey’s piece, pointing out the outdated notion of credit hours that grant students "credit" and eventually degrees for the act of sitting in chairs or staring at screens, thoughtfully calls for scholarly societies to "define and update what it means to be proficient in a field."

The AHA is developing just such a set of definitions. As a group of professional teachers and scholars of history, we do have standards and expectations for what it means to learn to think historically. We should be able to explain what college students who take history courses and major in history have gained from their effort. This might be risky because scholarly organizations generally avoid telling people what they should know, teach, or research in a given discipline. But with the help of a grant from the Lumina Foundation and 70 history departments and programs, the AHA Tuning Project is moving toward a "discipline core."

The 14,000 members of the AHA don’t and won’t ever agree about what facts students should know, but we can agree about the importance of evidence in generating interpretation and the imperative of developing a rich context around those facts.

History students need to be able to find and sift information, read with a critical eye, assess evidence from the past, write with precision, and be able to tell stories that analyze and narrate the past effectively. We can also agree about a variety of ways students can demonstrate such skills.

The collaborative process that is central to "tuning" means that this set of professional standards will not be prescriptive, but rather will provide reference points to guide history departments and history teachers. Each college and university will read and use a core of professional standards to design courses and degrees that reflect the varied missions and contexts of educational institutions.

Scholarly societies and disciplinary organizations can and should develop professional standards that insist on effective practices at colleges and universities. The AHA is betting that professional historians want to be held accountable for what their students should know and be able to do.

And now, for the rest of the story ...