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Press Release

Contact: Debra Humphreys

AAC&U Releases Three New Resources on Assessing Student Learning Outcomes

Washington, DC—September 7, 2007— Debates about the importance of accurately assessing what students are actually learning in college continue to rage.  To advance a more informed debate and help campuses develop more effective practices, AAC&U announces the release of three new resources on assessing learning outcomes. 

These publications build on AAC&U’s previous and ongoing work on assessment within initiatives such as Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) and Greater Expectations, and related projects on general education, undergraduate majors reform, engaged learning, and diversity.   These new publications also seek to advance the development of assessment and accountability frameworks that raise students’ demonstrated ability to apply their learning to complex, unscripted problems in the context of their most advanced studies.

“Over the last ten years, undergraduate programs have increasingly integrated assessments into the teaching and learning process,” said Ross Miller, AAC&U Senior Director of Assessment for Learning.  “Individual faculty and even entire institutions are inventing ways in which significant assignments, from first-year writing to senior capstone research, can be used to develop, assess, and improve student learning.” 

The newest issue of AAC&U’s quarterly publication, Peer Review focuses on the challenge of effectively Assessing Student Learning.  With analyses by Richard Hersh and Trudy Banta and articles describing effective campus practices, this publication focuses specifically on assessing engaged learning practices, including service learning, undergraduate research, and integrative courses.  It includes a special focus on developing and assessing capstone courses.

The latest in AAC&U’s LEAP series of publications, Assessment in Cycles of Improvement by Ross Miller, features a series of reports on how selected colleges and universities foster and assess student learning in twelve liberal education outcome areas, including writing, quantitative literacy, critical thinking, ethics, intercultural knowledge, and information literacy.  Moving from goals to experiences, assessments, and improvements driven by assessment data, each institutional story illustrates how complex learning can be shaped over time and across programs to bring students to higher levels of achievement of these important outcomes. 

Both the newest issue of Peer Review and Assessment in Cycles of Improvement were supported with funding from the Teagle Foundation as part of AAC&U’s initiative, Engaging Faculty with Assessment of Liberal Education Outcomes.

A Brief History of Student Learning Assessment, by Richard J. Shavelson and with a forward by Carol Geary Schneider and Lee S. Shulman, offers a historical overview of testing in higher education and a proposal for a more productive approach to student learning assessment in the future.  It provides an important context for today’s renewed calls for greater accountability, and more importantly, the urgent need to help us better understand the “state-of-the-art” in standardized testing today, and what the academy should ask—and what it can and cannot expect—from standardized testing in the future.  It also describes a specific proposal for future assessment approaches that builds on the current Collegiate Learning Assessment.  Shavelson is the Margaret Jack Professor of Education and senior fellow in the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University and was one of the architects of the CLA.  An abridged version of this publication appeared in Change magazine in early 2007.

For excerpts and additional information about these and other AAC&U publications, visit  To order copies, visit AAC&U’s Web site or call 800-297-3775.

AAC&U is the leading national association concerned with the quality, vitality, and public standing of undergraduate liberal education. Its members are committed to extending the advantages of a liberal education to all students, regardless of academic specialization or intended career. Founded in 1915, AAC&U now comprises nearly 1,300 member institutions—including accredited public and private colleges, community colleges, research universities, and comprehensive universities of every type and size.

AAC&U functions as a catalyst and facilitator, forging links among presidents, administrators, and faculty members who are engaged in institutional and curricular planning. Its mission is to reinforce the collective commitment to liberal education and inclusive excellence at both the national and local levels, and to help individual institutions keep the quality of student learning at the core of their work as they evolve to meet new economic and social challenges.