Press Releases

Friday, November 07, 2008

SSRC to Release Initial Findings of College Learning Assessment Study

The Social Science Research Council will announce the initial findings of a major longitudinal study of college student learning, the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) Longitudinal Project, on Saturday, November 8.

? Download the full CLA report (PDF, 968kb, 34 pages)

“In the midst of increasing pressures on colleges to demonstrate how well students are learning, we must pay particular attention to differences in the learning outcomes for different groups of students,” said SSRC program director Richard Arum, who is one of the project's principal investigators. “Our study is tracking over 2,300 students at 24 higher educational institutions from freshman to senior year, measuring the extent to which their critical thinking, analytical reasoning and written communication—as measured by the Collegiate Learning Assessment—have improved. We are also looking for patterns of inequality associated with disadvantaged groups of students.”

Thus far, two tests have taken place: at the beginning of the students’ freshman years (Fall 2005) and at the end of their sophomore years (Spring 2007). Initial key findings from this and other supplemental data include:

  • Institutional differences in student learning are great; 29 percent of variation in longitudinal growth in CLA performance occurs across schools.
  • Student perceptions of high faculty expectations are strongly associated with improvement in CLA performance.
  • Non-white students, including Asian students, start college with lower CLA scores and, with the exception of Hispanic students, progress less on this measure during the first two years of college than white students.
  • Institutional differences account for approximately one-third of the gaps in longitudinal CLA performance between African-American and white students.
  • Students concentrating in math, science, social sciences and humanities have higher levels of growth in reasoning and communication (as measured by CLA) than students in education, human services or business.

The study is the result of a collaboration among the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), the Pathways to College Network (PCN) and the Council for Aid to Education (CAE). The findings will be announced at a conference convened at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel in Chicago.

? Download conference agenda (PDF, 52kb)

Available for Interviews

Three educational specialists, who have been closely involved in the project since its inception, are available for interviews to discuss study findings:

Richard Arum

Richard Arum

(212) 377-2770 ext 421

Richard Arum is a professor of sociology and education at New York University and the program director for educational research at the Social Science Research Council. He is a principal investigator for the CLA Project. His other recent accomplishments include managing the three-year incubation phase for the newly launched Research Alliance for NYC Schools. He is author of Judging School Discipline: The Crisis of Moral Authority (Harvard University Press, 2003). His international comparative work includes co-directing with Adam Gamoran and Yossi Shavit a project on expansion, differentiation and access to higher education in 15 countries, published in 2007 as Stratification in Higher Education: A Comparative Study (Stanford University Press).

Roger Benjamin

Roger Benjamin

(212) 217-0808

Roger Benjamin is the president of Council for Aid to Education (CAE) and a senior research analyst at RAND. He is also the principal investigator and project co-director of the CAE’s CLA Project. Benjamin has worked as a professor and vice president/vice chancellor of academic affairs at both universities of Minnesota and Pittsburgh. He has authored and co-authored 15 books and monographs and numerous articles on institutional design related questions in political change and public policy.

Alma Clayton-Pedersen

Alma Clayton-Pedersen

(202) 387-3760 ext 800

Alma R. Clayton-Pedersen has served as the vice president for Education and Institutional Renewal at the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) since 2001. She is the director of AAC&U’s Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) Campus Action Network, a network of campuses and organizations committed to providing all students with a quality liberal education. She is a national leader on connecting equity, diversity, and inclusion with academic excellence and often consults with campuses, foundations, and for- and not-for-profit organizations on collaboration, diversity, success of underserved students, policy, organizational learning, and program development and evaluation.

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