Using Evidence of Student Learning to Improve Higher Education
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More About This Title Using Evidence of Student Learning to Improve Higher Education


American higher education needs a major reframing of student learning outcomes assessment

Dynamic changes are underway in American higher education. New providers, emerging technologies, cost concerns, student debt, and nagging doubts about quality all call out the need for institutions to show evidence of student learning. From scholars at the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), Using Evidence of Student Learning to Improve Higher Education presents a reframed conception and approach to student learning outcomes assessment. The authors explain why it is counterproductive to view collecting and using evidence of student accomplishment as primarily a compliance activity.

Today's circumstances demand a fresh and more strategic approach to the processes by which evidence about student learning is obtained and used to inform efforts to improve teaching, learning, and decision-making. Whether you're in the classroom, an administrative office, or on an assessment committee, data about what students know and are able to do are critical for guiding changes that are needed in institutional policies and practices to improve student learning and success.

Use this book to:

  • Understand how and why student learning outcomes assessment can enhance student accomplishment and increase institutional effectiveness
  • Shift the view of assessment from being externally driven to internally motivated
  • Learn how assessment results can help inform decision-making
  • Use assessment data to manage change and improve student success

Gauging student learning is necessary if institutions are to prepare students to meet the 21st century needs of employers and live an economically independent, civically responsible life. For assessment professionals and educational leaders, Using Evidence of Student Learning to Improve Higher Education offers both a compelling rationale and practical advice for making student learning outcomes assessment more effective and efficient.


GEORGE D. KUH is director of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) and coprincipal investigator at the University of Illinois.

STANLEY O. IKENBERRY is coprincipal investigator at the University of Illinois.

NATASHA A. JANKOWSKI is assistant director of NILOA and research assistant professor at the University of Illinois.

TIMOTHY REESE CAIN is a NILOA senior scholar and associate professor in the Institute of Higher Education at the University of Georgia.

PETER T. EWELL is a NILOA senior scholar and vice president of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems.

PAT HUTCHINGS is a NILOA senior scholar and consulting scholar for The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

JILLIAN KINZIE is a NILOA senior scholar and associate director of the Center for Post-secondary Research at Indiana University.


Preface ix

Acknowledgments xvii

About the Authors xix

1. From Compliance to Ownership: Why and How Colleges and Universities Assess Student Learning 1
Stanley O. Ikenberry and George D. Kuh

PART ONE What Works? Finding and Using Evidence

2. Evidence of Student Learning: What Counts and What Matters for Improvement 27
Pat Hutchings, Jillian Kinzie, and George D. Kuh

3. Fostering Greater Use of Assessment Results: Principles for Effective Practice 51
Jillian Kinzie, Pat Hutchings, and Natasha A. Jankowski

4. Making Assessment Consequential: Organizing to Yield Results 73
Jillian Kinzie and Natasha A. Jankowski

PART TWO Who Cares? Engaging Key Stakeholders

5. Faculty and Students: Assessment at the Intersection of Teaching and Learning 95
Timothy Reese Cain and Pat Hutchings

6. Leadership in Making Assessment Matter 117
Peter T. Ewell and Stanley O. Ikenberry

7. Accreditation as Opportunity: Serving Two Purposes with Assessment 146
Peter T. Ewell and Natasha A. Jankowski

8. The Bigger Picture: Student Learning Outcomes Assessment and External Entities 160
Jillian Kinzie, Stanley O. Ikenberry, and Peter T. Ewell

PART THREE What Now? Focusing Assessment on Learning

9. Assessment and Initiative Fatigue: Keeping the Focus on Learning 183
George D. Kuh and Pat Hutchings

10. From Compliance Reporting to Effective Communication: Assessment and Transparency 201
Natasha A. Jankowski and Timothy Reese Cain

11. Making Assessment Matter 220
George D. Kuh, Stanley O. Ikenberry, Natasha A. Jankowski, Timothy Reese Cain, Peter T. Ewell,
Pat Hutchings, and Jillian Kinzie

References 237

Appendix A: NILOA National Advisory Panel 261

Appendix B: NILOA Staff, 2008 to 2014 263

Index 265