As colleges and universities are increasingly required to “prove” efficacy of teaching and learning, many conversations—especially at the federal level—are circling around developing standardized assessments for higher education. Naturally, postsecondary stakeholders and faculty worry that these assessments could have a negative impact, and shudder at the prospect of metrics mirroring those of K-12’s. But is it all doom-and-gloom in the standardized assessment realm, or can a postsecondary-specific design work to higher education’s advantage? In this month’s Symposium, a Purdue scholar emphasizes that the only way to accurately and fairly assess postsecondary learning outcomes is to account for institutions’ differentiation—in admissions practices and student body. In his essay, the President of the Council for Aid to Education (CAE) discusses how a standardized assessments initiative could provide a great tool for decision-makers, as long as researchers and practitioners work together.
–Meris Stansbury, Editor
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Though differentiation is the enemy of sound social science, national efforts at assessing learning in college must make certain affordances for the variability inherent to the higher education system.
Assessment has become an unavoidable topic in higher education circles. The past two American presidential administrations, one Republican and the other Democratic, have both made endorsement of assessment of college learning outcomes a cornerstone of their higher administration policy. More and more state governments are putting pressure on public institutions to gather data about student
Creating an integrated, multidisciplinary assessment initiative that brings researchers and practitioners together can lead to new tools for better decision-making.
Federal law mandates that all public schools and students participate in NCLB testing activities – a requirement that has proven to be problematic for the K-12 system. Our higher education sector is a complex, bottom up, highly diverse system of colleges and universities. A mandatory testing requirement there would be a disaster. Despite the vision