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Assessing Student Outcomes - Why, Who, What, How?: New Directions for Institutional Research, Assessment Supplement 2009

ISBN: 978-1-118-27917-5
112 pages
November 2011, Jossey-Bass
Assessing Student Outcomes - Why, Who, What, How?: New Directions for Institutional Research, Assessment Supplement 2009 (1118279174) cover image
This volume offers administrators and practitioners a summary guide to assessment in higher education, from the reasons for undertaking assessment to the delivery of findings. It opens with the questions that precede an effective study and drive research design:
  1. To what extent is the study aimed at educational improvement, and to what extent is it aimed at external accountability?
  2. Are the results expected to demonstrate goal attainment, improvement, comparison to others, meeting standards, cost-effective investment?
  3. What is the population from whom assessment data are being collected: Are we measuring the knowledge and skills of individuals and making decisions about their remediation, certification, or development?
  4. Or are we sampling from particular groups of students and comparing them to each other, or perhaps to themselves over time?

The core of the volume is devoted to the objects of assessment: basic skills, general education knowledge, attainment in the major, personal growth, attitudes and satisfaction, and alumni outcomes, keeping in mind both cognitive and noncognitive measures. One chapter describes common obstacles to effective assessment; others describe conceptual models, research methods, and data collection strategies and instruments. The concluding chapter underscores the importance of communicating research results effectively.

This is a special volume of the Jossey-Bass higher education quarterly report series New Directions for Institutional Research. Always timely and comprehensive, New Directions for Institutional Research provides planners and administrators in all types of academic institutions with guidelines in such areas as resource coordination, information analysis, program evaluation, and institutional management.

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J. Fredericks Volkwein

1. The Assessment Context: Accreditation, Accountability, and Performance 3
J. Fredericks Volkwein
This chapter discusses the drivers for assessment: accountability, accreditation, educational improvement, and performance evaluation. These quality assurance activities play out on three major levels: institutional, programmatic, and individual.

2. A Model for Assessing Institutional Effectiveness 13
J. Fredericks Volkwein
This chapter proposes a model for assessing institutional effectiveness and provides a foundation for the rest of the volume. Institutional effectiveness may be demonstrated in a variety of ways, but student outcomes assessment supplies some of the most important evidence for institutions with educational missions.

3. Assessment with Open Eyes: Pitfalls in Studying Student Outcomes 29
Patrick T. Terenzini
The author identifies key problems and describes how to avoid or minimize them in developing and operating a successful student assessment program. Potential problems and solutions in three major areas are examined: the purposes and definitions of assessment, program implementation, and assessment designs and methods.

4. Overcoming Obstacles to Campus Assessment 47
J. Fredericks Volkwein
Based on an accreditation self-study at a research university, the author offers four practical suggestions for implementing campus assessment programs: avoid the paralysis of the grand plan, start with an outcomes model or conceptual framework, conduct an inventory of existing information, and use the results for constructive organizational change.

5. Basic Skills Assessment 65
Alexander C. Yin, J. Fredericks Volkwein
The authors examine basic skills assessment by articulating its purposes and reviewing the various instruments associated with assessing basic skills, including a summary of advantages and disadvantages of each.

6. Assessing General Education Outcomes 79
Alexander C. Yin, J. Fredericks Volkwein
The authors first examine and compare the definitions of general education published by the Association of American Colleges and Universities and the six regional accrediting agencies. They then describe issues and challenges surrounding general education assessment and conclude by identifying and evaluating general education assessment methods, measures, and instruments.

7. Assessing Student Learning in the Major Field of Study 101
J. Fredericks Volkwein
This chapter outlines the foundations for assessing student learning in the major, summarizes the instruments and strategies used for assessing these particular outcomes, and discusses some important considerations in the process.

8. Assessing Personal Growth 111
Ying ( Jessie) Liu, Alexander C. Yin
The authors summarize the dominant student development theories, note important noncognitive outcomes, and review several assessment instruments that measure student personal growth.

9. Assessing Alumni Outcomes 125
J. Fredericks Volkwein
Alumni studies can provide valuable evidence of institutional effectiveness and lend themselves to both locally designed and commercial survey instruments for data collection.

10. Measurement Issues in Assessment 141
J. Fredericks Volkwein, Alexander C. Yin
The authors summarize the top ten problems that arise in most assessment research projects: the inadequacy of course grades as indicators of student learning, Institutional Review Boards, research design as a compromise, standardized testing, self-reported measures, missing data, weighting data, conditional effects, HLM versus OLS regression, and correlation and causation.

11. Reporting Research Results Effectively 155
J. Fredericks Volkwein
Many assessment researchers spend all their efforts on planning and executing the research project, with little attention to closing the loop at the end. If assessment findings are not communicated effectively, the process becomes merely an expensive exercise in research design and data collection. This chapter concludes the volume with helpful tips and best practices for preparing written reports, verbal presentations, and supporting visuals.


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J. Fredericks Volkwein is emeritus professor of higher education at The Pennsylvania State University and a former director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education.
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