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Seniors provide input for national learning study

April 11, 2008

Recent graduates frequently are asked about what they learned in college – and ASU’s Office of University Evaluation, on behalf of Elizabeth D. Capaldi, ASU’s executive vice president and university provost, is investigating just that question.

Throughout the month of April, ASU seniors who started at ASU as freshmen are participating in an innovative national research study that will determine how the university has contributed to their learning.

The Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA), developed by the Council for Aid to Education and the RAND Corp., is a Web-based assessment that identifies the “value added” by colleges and universities by comparing what students know and are able to do as freshmen with their level of knowledge and skills as seniors.

The CLA’s focus is on measuring improvement both in absolute terms and after adjusting for differences in average ability of entering students. The CLA assesses critical thinking, analytic reasoning, problem-solving and written communication skills by having students respond to real-world tasks, such as supporting or critiquing an argument.

Participation in the CLA has grown dramatically during its four-year history. ASU is among more than 200 institutions across the United States administering the CLA.

Forty-three schools participated in the 2004-2005 testing cycle, and nearly 30,000 students completed the CLA in 2005-2006, a marked increase from 8,000 students during its first year.

Northern Arizona University also participates in the CLA.

ASU’s participation in the study will provide data about curricula, academic programs and undergraduate experiences. Findings also will allow administrators to examine differences in learning across all of the university’s campuses, programs and institutions, as well as among diverse pedagogical approaches and between different student groups.

CLA participants will receive their individual scores compared to those of other seniors at ASU and across the nation. Students who perform better than expected, based on their ACT and SAT scores, will receive a personalized letter from Capaldi indicating that their performance exceeded expectations.

Monetary performance-based incentives will be awarded to top achieving students, with awards ranging from $100 up to $1,000.

Seniors can inquire about eligibility for the assessment by contacting the Office of University Evaluation at (480) 965-9291 or