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East Carolina University Learning Outcomes

In assuring a high quality education for our students, ECU is looking purposefully toward developing a culture of evidence.  This integrated process provides an evidence-based framework for improving, revising, and introducing comprehensive systems for the collection, dissemination, and utilization of information on meaningful student learning outcomes. Such information can be used to develop new pedagogies, curricula, and technologies to improve learning. Embracing such a culture of innovation and quality improvement has been specifically called for in the report of the National Commission on Higher Education, otherwise known as the Spellings Commission.  

An advisory council has been formed and meets monthly to discuss assessment related issues.  The group consists of Associate Deans from colleges and representatives from other types of assessment units across campus. 




East Carolina University administered the CLA+ in 2013 Fall - 2014 Spring.

East Carolina University conducted a Value-added administration of the CLA+ in 2013 Fall - 2014 Spring. The results are displayed below in the SLO Results tab.

For additional information on ECU’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?

The Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA+) is one of very few recognized measures of critical thinking skills. Given the central importance of critical thinking skills for success in school, work, and daily life, it was deemed important to assess the gains in critical thinking skills which might be expected of the typical student attending ECU from the freshman to senior year.


Which East Carolina University students are assessed? When?

The goal in CLA+ testing was to estimate how much a typical student would gain in critical thinking skills from the freshmen to senior year at ECU.  Accordingly, a cross-sectional design was used in which a group of freshmen complete CLA+ testing in the Fall semester and a group of seniors complete the CLA+ testing in the following Spring semester.  Plans are to do this type of testing every three years.


How are assessment data collected?

A cross-sectional design was employed in which full-time non-transfer freshmen were recruited from entry-level courses known to attract students with a broad array of interests and eventual majors.  Instructors of those classes encourage their students to participate in the testing.  Seniors who had earned at least 102 hours were selected from random samples of seniors.  As a result 202 freshmen and 203 seniors completed the CLA+ testing online under standardized conditions. 


How are data reported within East Carolina University?

In August, following the Spring testing of seniors, a report of the CLA+ results was forwarded to ECU from the Council for Aid to Education which administers the CLA+ testing online.  The report compares freshman and senior results to estimate how much the typical ECU student may gain in critical thinking skills from the freshman to senior year.  Comparative results of the samples in terms of demographics and types of skills are also provided.  Results can also be broken by down by gender, race, major, and other measures for more detailed analyses. Academic administrators can then assess the relevance of these results to their programs.


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

The CLA+ is just one of several sources of information used across campus to help maintain and improve academic programs.  Since the CLA+ assesses critical thinking through students’ written responses, the CLA+ results are especially relevant to ECU’s Quality Enhancement Plan, Write Where You Belong, which expands writing instruction among ECU undergraduates. 


Of 4462 freshmen students eligible to be tested, 202 (5%) were included in the tested sample at East Carolina University.


Of 5000 senior students eligible to be tested, 203 (4%) were included in the tested sample at East Carolina 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 59% 63% 59% 69%
Male 41% 37% 41% 31%
Other or Unknown <1% <1% <1% <1%
Race/
Ethnicity
US Underrepresented Minority 30% 35% 25% 37%
White / Caucasian 69% 65% 72% 61%
International <1% <1% 1% <1%
Unknown 1% <1% 2% 1%
Low-income (Eligible to receive a Federal Pell Grant) 34% 34% 36% 37%

The tested samples of students who took the CLA+ were generally representative of students who were new first-time freshmen and all seniors with at least 102 earned hours.  Results of this cross-sectional design suggest that these results can be used to estimate how much the typical student may gain in critical thinking skills from the freshman to senior year.

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

The increase in learning on the selected-response questions is at or near what would be expected what would be epxected at an institution testing students of similar academic abilities.

Seniors Detail

The charts below show the proportion of tested seniors who scored at each level of the nine subscales that make up the CLA+. The subscale scores range from 1 to 6 with 6 representing a higher or better score. Due to rounding, subscores may not total 100%.

Performance Task
Analysis & Problem Solving
Writing Effectiveness
Writing Mechanics

The table below shows students' mean scores on the three subscales that make up the Selected-Response Questions section of the CLA+. The students subscores are determined by the number of correct responses in each subsection, with those raw numbers adjusted based on the difficulty of the question set the students received. Individual student scores are rounded to the nearest whole number.

Subscale Mean Student Scores
Scientific & Quantitative Reasoning (Range: 200 to 800) 570.8
Critical Reading & Evaluation (Range: 200 to 800) 545.2
Critique an Argument (Range: 200 to 800) 546.3
Freshmen Detail

The charts below show the proportion of tested freshmen who scored at each level of the nine subscales that make up the CLA+. The subscale scores range from 1 to 6 with 6 representing a higher or better score. Due to rounding, subscores may not total 100%.

Performance Task
Analysis & Problem Solving
Writing Effectiveness
Writing Mechanics

The table below shows students' mean scores on the three subscales that make up the Selected-Response Questions section of the CLA+. The students subscores are determined by the number of correct responses in each subsection, with those raw numbers adjusted based on the difficulty of the question set the students received. Individual student scores are rounded to the nearest whole number.

Subscale Mean Student Scores
Scientific & Quantitative Reasoning (Range: 200 to 800) 504.5
Critical Reading & Evaluation (Range: 200 to 800) 513.4
Critique an Argument (Range: 200 to 800) 501.3