December 20, 2011

Missouri Universities Lead Participation in Global Assessment

Jefferson City - Five Missouri colleges and universities are taking part in an international study to measure what students know and can do after completing requirements for a bachelor's degree. Study findings will be used by educators to develop an assessment tool that can be used in academic institutions around the world.

The Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes (AHELO) recruited 16 nations and 150 higher education institutions to participate in the study. Missouri institutions make up half of the 10 U.S. institutions participating in the global initiative. Missouri was tapped to participate in the study because of its strong leadership in the area of learning assessments.

Commissioner of Higher Education David Russell said that developing a way to measure student learning makes sense given the internationalization of higher education.

"Right now we have no way of comparing academic programs or college-level learning throughout the world," Russell said. "Developing a common assessment of college graduates' performance across a range of tasks will create consistency so we can begin to compare apples with apples. It will be beneficial for students, institutions and employers."

The Missouri institutions that are participating in AHELO are Central Methodist University, Missouri State University, Truman State University, the University of Central Missouri and Webster University. Their role is to administer the assessment tool that measures generic skills common to all students, such as critical thinking, analytical reasoning, problem-solving and written communication. Universities in other participating countries will administer the same assessment.

Rusty Monhollon, assistant commissioner for academic affairs at the Missouri Department of Higher Education, coordinates state participation. He said the current focus is on the feasibility of comparing student success across national borders. Test results will be anonymous during the feasibility study.

"The end result isn't about ranking schools, states or nations," Monhollon said. "It is about trying to develop an assessment tool that gets beyond cultural biases and achieves a common yardstick for measuring student learning worldwide. It's gratifying that our participating institutions represent both the public and independent sectors. I'm very excited that Missouri is taking a leading role in this important work."

A prototype test will be administered next semester to students randomly selected from participating Missouri institutions. The results will be analyzed and presented in a forum for further discussion and analysis at the end of 2012. Based on the results of the feasibility study, a full-scale AHELO could be launched by 2016.

AHELO was initiated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Institutional contacts:

Nancy Asher, Coordinator of Testing and Reporting and Associate Budget Director, Truman State University [email protected]

Rachelle Darabi, Associate Provost for Student Development and Public Affairs and Professor of English, Missouri State University [email protected]

Amy Dykens, Dean of Assessment and Institutional Research, Central Methodist University [email protected]

 Mike Grelle, Vice Provost for Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment, University of Central Missouri [email protected]

 Julie Weissman, Director of Institutional Effectiveness, Webster University [email protected]