An approach to measuring cognitive outcomes across higher education institutions

Stephen P. Klein, George D. Kuh, Marc Chun, Laura Hamilton, Richard Shavelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Over the past decade, state legislatures have experienced increasing pressure to hold higher education accountable for student learning. This pressure stems from several sources, such as increasing costs and decreasing graduation rates. To explore the feasibility of one approach to measuring student learning that emphasizes program improvement, we administered several open-ended tests to 1365 students from 14 diverse colleges. The strong correspondence between hand and computer assigned scores indicates the tests can be administered and graded cost effectively on a large scale. The scores were highly reliable, especially when the college is the unit of analysis; they were sensitive to years in college; and they correlated highly with college GPAs. We also found evidence of "value added" in that scores were significantly higher at some schools than at others after controlling on the school's mean SAT score. Finally, the students said the tasks were interesting and engaging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-276
Number of pages26
JournalResearch in Higher Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2005


  • Assessment
  • Measuring student outcomes
  • Value added

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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