Student Learning Outcomes in Higher Education

Along with increased competition for the best students and the most lucrative grants, institutions of higher education are also facing increased scrutiny to improve student learning and demonstrate program effectiveness. ETS's ongoing research offers administrators and school leaders a detailed look at how assessments have progressed over the years, and how an evidence-based assessment system for student learning can benefit today's schools.

Measuring Learning Outcomes in Higher Education >

This 2009 paper offers an explanation of the Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA), which evaluates core educational outcomes in public colleges and universities.

Ensuring Educational Quality Means Assessing Learning >

This 2009 article, from Trusteeship magazine, explains how accrediting bodies are increasingly seeking evidence of student learning and how higher education administrators will need to take assessment more seriously in the future.

A Culture of Evidence

In 2006, the nation turned its attention to accountability in higher education. As a leader in educational research and measurement, ETS joined the dialogue by examining the general topic of student learning outcomes. This examination resulted in a series of three Culture of Evidence reports in which ETS researchers identified the key issues of accountability and surveyed current practices in assessing student learning.

  • A Culture of Evidence: An Evidence-Centered Approach to Accountability for Student Learning Outcomes
    With higher education under increased pressure to prove accountability, ETS researchers developed a framework to improve, revise and introduce comprehensive systems for the collection and dissemination of information on student learning outcomes. This report presents a practical approach to help the educational community meet the call for accountability while respecting the diverse attributes of students, faculty and the institutions themselves. (Catherine M. Millett, David G. Payne, Carol A. Dwyer, Leslie M. Stickler and Jon J. Alexiou, 2008.)
  • A Culture of Evidence: Critical Features of Assessments for Postsecondary Student Learning
    National dialogue on accountability in higher education focuses on improving student learning and engagement. To provide higher education stakeholders with a greater understanding of current assessment tools, ETS researchers take a detailed look at available measurements in this "30,000 foot" overview. (Catherine M. Millett, Leslie M. Stickler, David G. Payne and Carol A. Dwyer, 2007.)
  • A Culture of Evidence: Postsecondary Assessments and Learning Outcomes
    To address the dearth of empirical data on student learning in higher education, ETS researchers take a macro look at current conditions affecting the postsecondary community. In this report, they provide an overview of the assessment landscape to outline accountability models and metrics used in higher education. (Carol A. Dwyer, Catherine M. Millett and David G. Payne, 2006.)


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