Findings from study show what undergraduates learn in class

The National Institute of Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) conducted a survey that assessed the depth of student learning at accredited colleges and universities across the United States. The 2009 report is based on information from more than 1,500 regionally accredited degree-granting institutions.

The NILOA study is the first systematic attempt in more than a decade to find out what colleges and universities are doing to assess student learning and how they are using results, according to a press release.

“The results are cause for cautious optimism, given that most colleges and universities are now using different approaches to determine how well students are performing in ways that are consistent with their missions,” said George Kuh, NILOA director and professor at Indiana University. For example, community colleges tend to use general knowledge assessments and other measures to determine if students have work-place skills and are ready for upper-level course work, according to the release. In contrast, for-profit schools use a variety of approaches to demonstrate overall institutional performance in terms of student accomplishment.

“Now, more than ever, we must understand how well our students are learning so we can better target efforts to help students succeed,” said Molly Broad, president of the American Council of Education, in the release.

“NILOA is lifting the veil on the crucial matter of learning outcomes measurement and will help us better document and improve student learning,” said David Shulenburger, vice president for academic affairs of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.