Study Raises Questions About Popular Assessment Tool

June 2, 2010

A study presented at this week's meeting of the Association for Institutional Research raises questions about what the Collegiate Learning Assessment is really measuring -- at least at one campus. The CLA has been adopted by many colleges to measure gains in students' critical thinking and other skills over the course of their undergraduate education -- with the test given to freshmen and seniors, to examine gains in various cohorts. Braden J. Hosch, director of institutional research at Central Connecticut State University, examined his institution's scores and found a correlation between the time students take on the test and their scores. He found that in a cohort in which students performed better, the average time spent on the test was 63 minutes, compared to 45 minutes in a year in which scores were lower. The finding could reinforce one criticism of the CLA: that because it is given to a small sample of students, who take it voluntarily, results may be skewed by how motivated students are to give their best effort.

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