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Mississippi State University Learning Outcomes


Mississippi State University (MSU) has a systematic and broad-based culture of institutional effectiveness. Annually, all units (administrative, academic/student support, research, and public service) and educational programs (including those taught by a distance and at off-campus sites) are required to identify expected outcomes, assess the extent to which they achieve these outcomes, and provide evidence of improvement based upon the analysis of the results. MSU’s foundation for a broad-based assessment process is through the annual institutional effectiveness/assessment reports, or IE Reports. The annual assessment process begins in July and the cycle closes at the end of August the following year. The University follows a conceptual model for IE reports that consists of a four-column matrix: Expected Outcomes, Assessment Criteria/Procedures, Assessment Results, and Use of Results. This narrative focuses on the educational programs.

The Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness (OIRE) conducts an annual assessment audit for the educational programs. Each educational program from all eight colleges of the University is required to complete the annual institutional effectiveness process as follows:

• Each unit must review and re-evaluate its mission and make necessary changes.

• Each fall, faculty involved in each educational program identify three or more expected student learning outcomes that state what a student should be able to think, know, or perform by the completion of the program.

• Faculty members ensure that student learning outcomes link directly to and are consistent with the strategic goals from the University's strategic plan.

• Faculty assess these outcomes and provides evidence of improvement based upon those results.

Throughout the year, each unit collects assessment data and analyzes the information to determine ways to improve the educational programs. The evaluations contain both quantitative and qualitative measures, such as comprehensive exams, portfolios, theses, dissertations, research publications and presentations, standardized or licensure exams, Undergraduate Student Exit Survey, Graduate Student Exit Survey, and National Survey of Student Engagement (conducted every other year).

Learning Assessment Examples

Mississippi State University administered the ETS Proficiency Profile in 2014 - 2015.

Mississippi State University conducted a Value-added administration of the ETS Proficiency Profile in 2014 - 2015. The results are displayed below in the SLO Results tab.

For additional information on MSU’s process for administering ETS Proficiency Profile, 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 ETS Proficiency Profile for your institutional assessment?

The General Education Committee reviewed three general education assessment instruments in the spring 2008 semester ETS Proficiency Profile along with two other general education assessment instruments. After the review, ETS Proficiency Profile was selected as the instrument that best serves in meeting the needs of assessing MSU’s general education curriculum.

Which Mississippi State University students are assessed? When?

A sample of freshmen students within the English Composition courses each Fall semester, are selected to complete the ETS Proficiency Profile assessment instrument. Each Spring semester, a sample of senior students within the senior level courses (4000 level) are selected from across all eight academic colleges throughout the university.  Beginning the Spring 2011 semester, the senior sample included native students as well as transfer students, based upon the recommendation of the General Education Committee.


How are assessment data collected?

The university's institutional research and effectiveness office reports all data in aggregate format on all reports to protect student confidentiality.

How are data reported within Mississippi State University?

The General Education Committee reviews the results of the ETS annually. They make note of any changes in the direction of trends and discuss which areas of the General Education program the results may indicate need of improvement. There are representatives from each college on the General Education Committee and information is relayed back to the appropriate faculty teaching those courses to identify for possible improvements.

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

The university found the ETS Proficiency profile useful as an assessment tool regarding general education.

Of 2974 freshmen students eligible to be tested, 428 (14%) were included in the tested sample at Mississippi State University.

Of 2769 senior students eligible to be tested, 502 (18%) were included in the tested sample at Mississippi State University.

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 51% 51% 49% 53%
Male 49% 49% 51% 47%
Other or Unknown <1% <1% <1% <1%
US Underrepresented Minority 32% 36% 25% 13%
White / Caucasian 71% 64% 72% 85%
International 1% 1% 2% <1%
Unknown <1% <1% 1% 2%
Low-income (Eligible to receive a Federal Pell Grant) 35% 40% 26% 25%
Area of Study Ag and Life Sciences 12% 10% 10% 12%
Architecture, Art and Design 3% 3% 6% 11%
Arts and Sciences 22% 13% 26% 15%
Business 11% 7% 14% 16%
Education 9% 8% 18% 16%
College of Engineering 24% 18% 23% 15%
College of Forest Resources 2% 5% 2% 16%

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 below what would be expected at an institution testing students of similar academic abilities.

The increase in learning on the analytic writing task is at or near what would be expected at an institution testing students of similar academic abilities.

Critical Thinking Detail

The chart below shows the distribution of student scores on the ETS Proficiency Profile Critical Thinking test. Students are scored as Not Proficient, Marginal, or Proficient.

Written Communication Detail

The charts below show the distribution of student scores on the three levels of the ETS Proficiency Profile Writing Test. Students are scored as Not Proficient, Marginal, or Proficient on each level. Writing 3 represents more advanced writing skill than Writing 2, which represents more advanced writing skill than Writing 1.