About Learning

The Collegiate Learning Assessment, a standardized testing initiative in American colleges designed to measure a college’s contribution to student learning (in effect, what students gained intellectually as a result of studying at certain institutions), is very useful for helping schools improve their teaching, according to Council of Independent Colleges, which has been studying CLA for several years. A new study apparently makes this clear. Good luck getting more information.

According to an article by Dan Berrett in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

The Collegiate Learning Assessment, a standardized test of critical thinking, can be an effective tool for changing teaching and learning in the classroom, says a report released Monday. The larger goal of the study, as recounted in the report, “Catalyst for Change,” was to create a “culture of assessment” on these campuses, including finding more sophisticated ways to measure student learning, and sharing effective teaching strategies.

That goal succeeded, said the council and the foundation, which used the report to “declare victory,” as the study has come to an end. Most of the colleges will continue using the CLA on their own, according to the council.

We’ve long been interested in the CLA here at the Monthly, because it has some potential to measure how “good” colleges actually are. Do students learn? How much could they be learning?

The report emphasizes that in response to CLA scores “several campuses started workshops on the pedagogy of writing and critical thinking,” according to Berrett.

Well that’s probably useful, but it looks like interested parties are going to have to take the Council of Independent Colleges at its word, however.

The report declined to say which colleges were most and least effective at producing learning gains, what practices and polices resulted in the most learning, and whether or not those “workshops on the pedagogy of writing and critical thinking” resulted in improved knowledge.

It’s actually an interesting report in that it somehow managed to be 48 pages long without conveying any information one might one to know about actual learning. The report essentially reveals that the Council of Independent Colleges did a study that resulted in some interesting information, which will remain secret.

Read the report here.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer