Institutions look to next-gen assessments

By Laura Devaney
November 30th, 2015

Institutions use student learning outcomes assessments to drive campus learning experiences

HED-assessmentsHigher education institutions of all kinds — state, private and community — are increasingly being asked for assessments that offer more evidence of student learning.

Many are looking for ways to demonstrate their students’ general education skill levels and use information derived from student learning outcomes (SLO) assessments to enhance the learning experience on their campuses.

“Our intercampus faculty group was looking for an assessment that would help us incorporate competencies relevant to their programs,” said Michelle Soler, Director for Competency-based Education and Assessment for all 17 University of North Carolina campuses.

Earlier this year, a variety of institutions participated in a pilot program for the new HEIghten™ Outcomes Assessment Suite from Educational Testing Service (ETS). The suite consists of six modules measuring general education skills identified by educators as most important for students to have. The HEIghten suite is designed to enable colleges and universities to obtain valid data about their students’ skills, benchmark and track student performance, and identify areas for potential curriculum enhancement.

“Using national frameworks and the latest research from the higher education community, we designed HEIghten to be used alongside institution-developed assessments,” said Ou Lydia Liu, Director of Higher Education Research at ETS. “This way, institutions can tailor their mix of assessments to their unique mission and goals.”

SLO assessments created internally are aligned to the specific education goals of the institution, while third-party assessments, like the HEIghten suite, offer standardization so that colleges and universities can benchmark their performance against similar institutions throughout the nation.

“We had been doing our own in-house assessments, but it worried me that we were not able to see how well our students are doing nationally,” said Julie Lessiter, Associate Vice Chancellor of Academic Services at Louisiana State University Shreveport.

ETS worked with higher-ed institutions to develop a tool that provides actionable data without burdening their already limited resources. The goal is to help schools maintain their autonomy in an environment of ever-growing pressure for more accountability measures.

HEIghten is designed for educators. “Faculty can administer the assessment during one class period, see how their students performed, and go back to make any changes necessary to improve learning,” said Nancy Williams Parks, Associate Professor and Director of Advising, Assessment and Testing at Pierpont Community & Technical College.

Three HEIghten modules are currently available: Critical Thinking, Written Communication and Quantitative Literacy. Three additional modules will be available in 2016.

To learn more about HEIghten, visit

Material from a press release was used in this report.

About the Author:

Laura Devaney

Laura Devaney is the Director of News for eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism. When she isn't wrangling her two children, Laura enjoys running, photography, home improvement, and rooting for the Terps. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura

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