Recent Assessments of Practices and
Environments that Influence Student Learning
|VALUE: Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education
AAC&U is conducting a research and campus-based initiative designed to make the essential learning outcomes identified by faculty and employers and recommended by the Liberal Education and America's Promise (LEAP) National Leadership Council central to undergraduate education. Through the VALUE project, AAC&U is working with key researchers, educational leaders, campus administrators, and faculty members to define, strengthen, document, and assess student achievement of these essential learning outcomes.
The project will generate leadership, recommendations, examples of best practices, and an assessment framework, all designed to build campus capacity to:
- articulate the aims and importance of the essential learning outcomes;
- intentionally foster their achievement across the curriculum; and
- use cumulative assessments, especially e-portfolios, to both measure student progress and improve practices for achieving outcomes.
An ambitious review and analysis of collections of assessment rubrics for all of the essential learning outcomes will result in the identification of shared criteria for judging the quality of evidence of student learning collected in e-portfolios. Further work with teams of faculty and administrators from all sectors of higher education will result in a collection of rubrics that represent widely shared thinking about assessing the outcomes.
VALUE is supported by a grant from the State Farm Companies Foundation. AAC&U's work on e-portfolios is also supported through a grant from FIPSE called VALUE-Plus: Rising to the Challenge. VALUE-Plus is a three-pronged cooperative effort among AAC&U, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) and the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC) to develop e-portfolios and two other approaches to assessing essential learning outcomes.
For more information about VALUE and VALUE-Plus, visit www.aacu.org/value and www.aacu.org/Rising_Challenge. For more about LEAP, visit www.aacu.org/leap/.
The effect of specific practices and experiences on
student learning continues to be an underresearched
area. However, a few recent studies have provided evidence
of the positive effects of practices and environments
that engage students with campus and community diversity.
High-Impact Educational Practices
In a recent report for AAC&U, George D. Kuh examines the effect of high-impact educational practices--including diversity/global learning and community-based learning, among others--on student learning and success. Kuh's research indicates a positive correlation between participation in high-impact activities and self-reported gains for students of all races and ethnicities. In addition, the findings suggest that historically underserved students gain more from these practices than their majority peers, both in terms of first-year GPA and in the probability of enrolling in a second year of college. The findings underscore the need for colleges and universities to engage students in several high-impact practices during the college experience. The report, which details findings by race and ethnicity and suggests specific effective educational practices, is available for purchase at www.aacu.org.
Participation in Formal and Informal Campus Diversity Experiences: Effect on Students' Racial Democratic Beliefs
In an article published in the Journal of Diversity
in Higher Education, researchers Lisa B. Spanierman,
Helen A. Neville, Hsin-Ya Liao, Joseph H. Hammer, and
Ying-Fen Wang reveal the results of their yearlong study
of the effects of both formal diversity activities and
interracial friendships on the "democratic dispositions"
of students at a midwestern university. Through voluntary
surveys of students collected at the beginning and end
of the freshman year, the researchers determined that
courses and organized activities improved white students'
"openness to and appreciation of diversity" (the result
was not confirmed for black, Latino, or Asian American
students). Results also indicated that interracial friendships
improved "openness to diversity" for white and Asian
American students (again, this result was not supported
for black and Latino students). The article, including
detailed statistical analysis, is included in the June
2008 issue of the Journal (Volume 1, Number
2), available for purchase at psycnet.apa.org/journals/dhe.
Still Serving: Measuring the Eight-Year Impact of Americorps on Alumni
Educational Practices: What They Are, Who Has
Access to Them, and Why They Matter
by George D. Kuh
The latest report from AAC&U's LEAP initiative
defines a set of educational practices that research
has demonstrated have a significant impact on
student success. Author George Kuh presents data
from the National Survey of Student Engagement
about these practices and explains why they benefit
all students, but also seem to benefit underserved
students even more than their more-advantaged
More Reasons for Hope: Diversity
Matters in Higher Education
Honoring the late Edgar Beckham
and his profound influence on higher education,
More Reasons for Hope examines the trends
in diversity education since the publication of
Reasons for Hope in 1998. It features
an address by Edgar Beckham that identifies intellectual,
structural, and political challenges that need
to be addressed in the next generation of diversity
work. It charts progress and setbacks and includes
more than thirty current exemplary campus diversity
programs, policies, and practices.
A Measure of
Equity: Women's Progress in Higher Education
by Judy Touchton with Caryn McTighe Musil and
Kathryn Peltier Campbell
Women have made considerable advances
in higher education over the past several decades,
yet the journey toward full equity is not yet
complete. A Measure of Equity: Women's Progress
in Higher Education presents a comprehensive
overview of data, marks areas of progress, and
identifies action items that would advance gender
equity in colleges and universities. The research
examines women's access to college, areas of study
in undergraduate and postgraduate work, status
as faculty, and leadership as administrators and
To order, visit www.aacu.org.
In a report issued in May 2008, the Corporation for
National and Community Service summarized the findings
of a longitudinal study on former Americorps participants'
life experiences. As compared with a control group whose
members expressed interest in Americorps but did not
enroll, Americorps participants indicated greater connections
to their communities (including higher volunteer participation
rates), a greater sense of empowerment through community
engagement, and greater satisfaction with all aspects
of their lives. Americorps participants, particularly
those from racial or ethnic minority groups, were also
more likely to work in the public service sector. Although
not directly applicable to higher education, the results
hold promise for sustained service learning initiatives
at colleges and universities. The full report and executive
summary are available at www.nationalservice.gov/about/role_impact/
Diversity-Related Outcomes in U.S. Medical Schools
A recent study published in the Journal of the
American Medical Association explores the impact
of medical schools' racial and ethnic composition on
student attitudes related to diversity. The study found
that white students who attended more diverse schools
expressed greater confidence in their abilities to work
with diverse patient groups, and greater support for
equal access to care. This correlation was particularly
high at schools where students perceived a more positive
climate for diversity and among students who reported
interaction with diverse perspectives. Higher proportions
of underrepresented minority students also correlated
with positive outcomes for nonwhite students. The authors
thus emphasize that schools should "actively foster
positive interaction...to derive the benefits of diversity."
To access the full study, visit jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/