Assessment Tests Fall 2008 Update


CLA stands for “Collegiate Learning Assessment.” This exam is administered at colleges and universities nationwide and provides an innovative approach to assessing an institution’s contribution to student learning. Its’ measures are designed to simulate thought-provoking situations that every successful college graduate may one day face. Students are asked to analyze complex material and provide written responses. The CLA measures are uniquely designed to test for critical thinking and communication skills – some of the most powerful outcomes of a college education and ones employers are certainly searching for in today’s job market.

Shepherd administers this assessment in a cross-sectional fashion. We test a sample of first year students in the fall and a sample of seniors in the spring. We receive reports that look at how our freshman class compares to other CLA participants at other institutions (adjusted for SAT or ACT scores). After testing seniors in the spring, we receive a full Institutional Report that evaluates our institution’s “value-added” on a comparative basis. In other words, see how much learning has improved among our students from their freshman to senior year.  Testing every year also allows us to measure for effects of changes in curriculum and compare the results nationally. 

Shepherd is proud to report that our “value-added” for the 2008-2009 academic year places us in the 96th percentile.  This means that the learning gained by our students between their freshmen and senior year superseded that of 96% of the institutions that participated in the CLA last year.  Nearly 200 institutions participated in the CLA during the 2008-2009 academic year.  106 first-year students and 108 senior students participated from Shepherd University.

A special thanks to our students and test proctors: John Adams, Gordon DeMeritt, Shannon Holliday, Judi McIntyre, Laura Renninger, John Sheridan, Kristin Kaineg, Max Guirguis, and Lauryl Lewis. Students taking these tests are provided with coupons to area businesses and $25 gift cards to the Shepherd University Bookstore.

National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE)

Shepherd also administers the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE).  Our most recent administration occurred in 2005.  We are preparing to administer this survey again in 2010.

Shepherd University 2005 Results and Comparison to Other Institutions

The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE, pronounced “nessie”) is utilized by Shepherd University to collect information about student learning and assess the extent to which students engage in and learn from enriching, educational experiences both on and off campus.

This report provides an overview of the 2005 Shepherd respondents and findings and compares our results with a national and peer group mean. In sharing these results, we hope to identify areas in which the Shepherd University experience has been a positive, rewarding one for those students surveyed, as well as areas that need our improvement or attention.

What is NSSE?

Since 2000, the annual NSSE “College Student Report” survey has been used to collect information from undergraduates at four-year colleges and universities across the nation. Its purpose is to assess the extent to which students engage in educational practices known to correlate with success in learning.

Launched by a grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts, the project is now supported by institutional participation fees and is cosponsored by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Pew Forum on Undergraduate Learning. NSSE is administered by the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research in cooperation with the Indiana University Center for Survey Research.

What sorts of questions comprise NSSE?

There are five primary areas that are assessed by the NSSE. They are:
•            Level of academic challenge
•            Active and collaborative learning
•            Student-faculty interactions
•            Enriching educational experiences
•            Supportive campus environment

More than 245,000 first-year and senior students participated in the NSSE 2005 sample. These students were randomly selected from data files provided by 529 participating four-year colleges and universities.
The Shepherd sample included students from all schools across campus that have first-year and senior students. The total number of respondents was 477 or 29% of all Shepherd University freshmen and seniors. All of the Shepherd respondents (100%) completed the survey via the Web.
Nationwide, NSSE 2005 respondents were predominantly female (67%), Caucasian/White (72%) and enrolled full-time (90%) in various undergraduate programs. The majority of both first-year and senior Shepherd respondents were also female, Caucasian/White, and enrolled full-time.
Of Shepherd’s first-year students surveyed, 51% lived off campus and 19% were non-traditional (24 or older) age students. In contrast, 83% of seniors surveyed lived off campus and 43% of the seniors were non-traditional students. There was a significant demographic difference in these respects as compared with the overall responses from all NSSE respondents (Nationwide, only 30% of freshmen and 75% of seniors lived off-campus, and only 6% of freshmen and 31% of seniors were non-traditional students).