To help campuses understand the extent to which students develop broad academic skills as a result of attending college, CSU campuses, including CSULB, piloted the Council on Aid to Education’s Collegiate Learning Assessment to samples of freshmen and transfer students in the fall of 2007.
The CLA uses innovative internet-based instruments to measure critical thinking, analytical reasoning, problem solving and written communication skills. With campuses actively engaged in accountability practices such as the Voluntary System of Accountability, the CLA may become the CSU’s measurement tool for assessing such learning outcomes of college students.
The CLA is innovative in its design, delivery system and value-added approach. It includes two types of writing tasks randomly assigned to students via the web: an open-ended analytical writing task and a performance task in which students analyze various documents and reference these as they respond to writing prompts. Responses are scored online and students can later access their results on the web. Finally, institutions are given a report of how well their students performed on the CLA (below, at, or above what was expected) based on students’ previous performance on the SAT Reasoning Test or the ACT (two large-scale, standardized assessments of quantitative and verbal abilities).
During September-October, CSULB met the Council on Aid to Education’s 100-student per cohort requirement when a voluntary random sample of 100 freshmen and 108 transfer students participated in the CLA. Students provided positive feedback about the experience, stating that they wished more assessments were like the CLA and that they enjoyed crafting written responses on computers.
This spring, CSULB will administer the CLA to 100 randomly selected exiting seniors, after which the university will receive an institutional score of how well the campus developed students’ critical thinking/writing skills from freshman to senior year. If campus results are to be made public, it is important that varying sampling methods be described to appropriately interpret the value-added results. CSULB uses volunteers from a random sample of students in a particular population—in this case, the population of freshmen, transfer students or seniors. Some campuses administer the CLA to intact classes or use some other method sampling students. Knowing how campuses obtained their samples is important when comparing results across the CSU.
CSULB had a very successful Collegiate Learning Assessment administration in fall 2007. Institutional Research and Assessment provided significant help with the sampling method; Enrollment Services sent email invitations to prospective participants; and the College of Education provided computer laboratory space and excellent technological support. Another successful administration is anticipated as seniors are encouraged to participate and assist the university in understanding how well it helps students develop vital academic skills.