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University of Massachusetts Amherst College Portrait

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University of Massachusetts Amherst Learning Outcomes

The University of Massachusetts Amherst takes a multifaceted and systematic approach to student learning assessment – addressing assessment questions at the course, program and institutional levels. Understanding student learning, and the factors that influence it, is a complex task. Thus, the campus uses a comprehensive assessment approach, incorporating various forms of evidence to reflect core elements of student learning. This evidence falls into three categories: process (or delivery) indicators, which focus on how curriculum and instructional opportunities are structured and delivered; indirect indicators of student learning, which provide evidence of students’ perspectives on their learning experiences and how much they think they have learned; and direct indicators, which reflect direct evidence of student performance. This approach makes it possible to triangulate evidence of student learning and to analyze the effectiveness of the University’s efforts to facilitate student learning from multiple perspectives.

University of Massachusetts Amherst administered the CLA in 2012.

University of Massachusetts Amherst conducted a Value-added administration of the CLA in 2012. The results are displayed below in the SLO Results tab.

For additional information on UMass’s process for administering CLA, please click on the Assessment Process Tab below. For information on the students included in the administration, please click the Students Tested Tab.

Why did you choose the CLA for your institutional assessment?

Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) was selected by our Joint Task Force on Accountability after reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of the various options made available by the VSA.

Which University of Massachusetts Amherst students are assessed? When?

Freshman students were assessed in the fall and the graduating seniors were assessed in the spring.

How are assessment data collected?

Students were randomly selected and invited to participate in the test. The web-based assessment was administered multiple times a week in a proctored setting. Testing protocol followed the guidelines provided by the test manufacturer.

How are data reported within University of Massachusetts Amherst?

The Joint Task Force on Accountability reviewed the test results using the report provided by the test manufacture as well as results from a university-designed survey of test takers about their experience with the test. Results were also shared with other groups of faculty and Department Chairs and Deans.

How are assessment data at UMass used to guide program improvements?

The CLA results are only one part of the evidence used by this institution to understand and improve students’ learning and experiences. These sources of evidence include national and university-based surveys of students’ experiences, direct assessment of student work from specific curricular requirements, and focus group and other qualitative evidence about the quality of instruction, curricula, and student learning and development. Through the current Unit Planning effort, Departments and Schools & Colleges are using these results to identify strengths and areas for improvement, and developing plans to enhance the undergraduate experience.

Of 4688 freshmen students eligible to be tested, 99 (2%) were included in the tested sample at University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Of 5064 senior students eligible to be tested, 117 (2%) were included in the tested sample at University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Probability sampling, where a small randomly selected sample of a larger population can be used to estimate the learning gains in the entire population with statistical confidence, provides the foundation for campus-level student learning outcomes assessment at many institutions. It's important, however, to review the demographics of the tested sample of students to ensure that the proportion of students within a given group in the tested sample is close to the proportion of students in that group in the total population. Differences in proportions don't mean the results aren't valid, but they do mean that institutions need to use caution in interpreting the results for the groups that are under-represented in the tested sample.

Undergraduate Student Demographic Breakdown

  Freshmen Seniors
Eligible Students Tested Students Eligible Students Tested Students
Gender Female 50% 54% 48% 62%
Male 50% 46% 52% 38%
Other or Unknown <1% <1% <1% <1%
US Underrepresented Minority 18% 29% 20% 18%
White / Caucasian 68% 69% 70% 76%
International 2% <1% 1% 5%
Unknown 12% 2% 9% 1%
Low-income (Eligible to receive a Federal Pell Grant) 23% 30% 22% 21%

The VSA advises institutions to follow assessment publisher guidelines for determining the appropriate number of students to test. In the absence of publisher guidelines, the VSA provides sample size guidelines for institutions based on a 95% confidence interval and 5% margin of error. So long as the tested sample demographics represent the student body, this means we can be 95% certain that the "true" population learning outcomes are with +/- 5% of the reported results. For more information on Sampling, please refer to the Research Methods Knowledge Base

The increase in learning on the performance task is at an institution testing students of similar academic abilities.

The increase in learning on the analytic writing task is at an institution testing students of similar academic abilities.