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California State University, Long Beach
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CSULB students pose on campus

Pictured are (clockwise from left) CSULB students Sheila Williamson, Pippa Bowen and Jorge Soriano.

Measuring and Using Student Learning Outcomes

In the last five years, the measurement and use of student learning outcomes in higher education has become an integral part of strategic planning and program development. As institutions have become increasingly focused on improving college readiness and graduation rates, understanding what contributes to student learning and development has become imperative. At CSULB, the Divisions of Academic Affairs and Student Services have been actively engaged in identifying and collecting data concerning learning outcomes at the college, department and program levels, and using these findings to adjust practices and procedures. Both divisions have published student learning outcomes on their respective websites (web addresses included below).

The potential for learning and development from a college experience is vast. Alexander Astin identified two broad domains of student learning outcomes that provide a framework for any program of learning outcomes assessment: the cognitive domain and the affective domain (1993). The cognitive domain pertains to acquisition of knowledge, with a focus on critical reasoning skills, whereas the affective domain concerns student attitudes and values. However, a clear distinction between the domains is not readily made, and the measurement of learning outcomes in and out of the classroom concerns both. As evidence of this, one can examine the Frameworks for Assessing Learning and Development Outcomes, a publication of the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS, 2006).

The Student Services Division uses the frameworks put forth by CAS to measure the student learning outcomes of its varied programs. The frameworks consist of 16 “desirable student learning and development outcomes” of student affairs programs and services, including intellectual growth, effective communication, enhanced self-esteem, realistic self-appraisal, clarified values, career choices, leadership development, healthy behavior, meaningful interpersonal relationships, independence, collaboration, social responsibility, satisfying and productive lifestyles, appreciating diversity, spiritual awareness and personal/educational goals. Each student learning outcome statement in the Division of Student Services is connected to one or more of these CAS frameworks.

A systematic program of measuring and using student learning outcomes benefits all stakeholders of the institution. Moreover, the collaboration of Academic Affairs and Student Services in these endeavors at CSULB makes for an especially powerful program of understanding and improving our students’ experiences and eventual success.

For more information about student learning outcomes, go to one or both of the following websites:
Academic Affairs: http://www.csulb.edu/divisions/aa/assessment/
Student Services: http://www.csulb.edu/divisions/students/assessment/

 

References:
Astin, A. W. (1993). Assessment for excellence: The philosophy and practice of assessment and evaluation in higher education. Phoenix, AZ: The Oryx Press.
Strayhorn, T. L. et. al. (2006). Frameworks for assessing learning and development outcomes. Council for the Advancement of
Standards in Higher Education (CAS).