!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: The College Learning Assessment

Monday, November 13, 2006

The College Learning Assessment

In an earlier post, I talked about techniques for eliciting critical thinking.1 In following recent discussions of whether, and with what methodology, to measure colleges' success in contributing to student learning, I've now come upon work done by the Council for Aid to Education (CAE) that offers additional practical ideas for assessing critical thinking skills.

CAE has developed a performance-based assessment model for three central elements of learning that most people believe should be outcomes of a college education:
  • critical thinking

  • analytic reasoning

  • written communication
To apply its model, CAE has created a tool — the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) — that measures performance in the three targeted skill areas.

The CLA uses two types of test items:
  • Performance tasks — Test-takers complete a real-life activity such as preparing a policy recommendation. Assessment focuses on the degree to which a person's response demonstrates an ability to "interpret, analyze and synthesize information."

  • Writing prompts — Test-takers put together an argument concerning an issue (e.g., how much privacy a celebrity can reasonably expect), or they critique someone else's argument. Assessment focuses on the degree to which a person's response demonstrates ability to "articulate complex ideas, examine claims and evidence, support ideas with relevant reasons and examples, sustain a coherent discussion, and use standard written English."
You can see examples of these test items here, and you can read a crisp explanation the CLA's skills definitions and scoring criteria here (pdf).

1 Two other previous posts provide additional comment on how to cultivate critical thinking skills.


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