Engaging Evidence: How Independent Colleges and Universities Use Data to Improve Student Learning

Engaging Evidence report cover

​Postsecondary institutions are under increasing scrutiny to provide evidence of student learning. Policy makers and accreditors continue to call for greater transparency and accountability in higher education, and as recently as summer 2013, President Obama called for reform of the nation’s student financial aid system in a way that links federal support to college and university performance.

The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) has long been a national leader in voluntary efforts to improve the quality of student learning and a strong advocate for institutional autonomy in accountability efforts. CIC has sponsored multiple initiatives to help its member colleges respond to the calls for transparency and accountability, and CIC has supported academic leaders who seek to be transparent and to document the quality of academic experiences and the resulting improvements in student learning. A study by the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) found that more than 90 percent of colleges and universities conduct at least one valid assessment of student learning to gauge institutional performance, and two-thirds use three or more approaches or instruments (Kuh and Ikenberry 2009).

Despite efforts to increase the number and frequency of assessments of student learning, many colleges and universities need help to make good use of assessment results for the improvement of teaching and learning. To address this need, in February 2012, CIC announced the selection of 40 independent colleges and universities to participate in a new project it named the Engaging Evidence Consortium. The primary goal of this initiative, generously funded by the Teagle Foundation, was to develop a network of colleges and universities that has learned how to use the results of student outcomes assessment to improve student learning. Selected institutions participated in a series of consortial activities designed to support leadership teams from each institution to undertake projects that used data to improve student learning. This report tells the story of the Engaging Evidence Consortium by documenting the work of the participating institutions.

​Council of Independent Colleges
By Mary Ann Coughlin
January 2014