Evidence of Learning

Evidence of Learning report cover

​Over the past several years, a great debate has simmered in higher education about institutional accountability and performance. Efforts to alter federal policy in particular have been flashpoints for often heated, sometimes acrimonious discourse about how colleges and universities might best demonstrate their effectiveness. Accountability, access, and assessment are the buzz words of the day. And while much of the talk has had a decidedly “inside the Beltway” flavor, the discussions have in one way or another affected virtually every institution of higher learning across the country.

In quiet counterpoint to the maelstrom over “policy,” a more measured approach has been at work on the campuses of a select group of colleges and universities. Over the past three years, some 33 liberal arts colleges and universities have been thoughtfully engaged in the challenging work of implementing a practicable way to measure student learning outcomes. These are the members of the Council of Independent Colleges/Collegiate Learning Assessment Consortium (hereafter, the CIC/CLA Consortium, or simply, the Consortium). These institutions have been hard at work using the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) to gauge and improve student learning.

The CIC/CLA Consortium has been an incubator of sorts, a place where hypotheses have been developed, tested, and challenged, out of which have come practices which in turn have been scrutinized and, if appropriate, adopted. Through their perseverance, the members of the Consortium have begun to demonstrate that the CLA is an effective, helpful, and meaningful tool to measure how the college experience helps students develop such higher order skills as thinking critically, reasoning analytically, solving problems, and writing effectively. In short, they demonstrate through practice that the CLA is an appropriate means to assess an institution’s “value-added” contribution to learning over the course of a student’s undergraduate education.

​Council of Independent Colleges
May 2008

Student Outcomes