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Mayville State University Learning Outcomes

Improving student learning is the primary purpose of institutional academic assessment. The assessment process also ensures that learning outcomes are consistent with the university's mission and goals. The process allows comparisons of desired learning outcomes to actual learning. This information is the basis for programmatic changes and ultimately to improvements in teaching and learning. Reflection and consideration of student performance leads to programmatic change by way of formal feedback loops, which are described below.

The assessment process at Mayville State University improves student learning by:

• Formulating institutional mission and goals.

• Identifying desired student learning outcomes.

• Measuring students' achievements of those outcomes.

• Analyzing the results of the learning measurements.

• Using those results as the basis for enhancing the curriculum and the teaching-learning process.

Student Learning Outcomes

The faculty has defined student learning outcomes (SLOs) for each major as well as general education. Majors' outcomes are identified in the appropriate sections of the university catalog. General Education outcomes apply to students in all courses offered for general education and are consistent with those identified through the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) Liberal Education - America's Promise (LEAP) initiative. They are identified here:

  • SLO #1 - Students will demonstrate knowledge of human cultures and the physical and natural world through study in the sciences and mathematics, social sciences, humanities, histories, languages and the arts. This is focused by engagement with big questions, both contemporary and enduring.

  • SLO #2 - Students will demonstrate intellectual and practical skills, practiced extensively across the curriculum, in the context of progressively more challenging problems, projects and standards for performance.

  • SLO #3 - Students will demonstrate personal and social responsibility, anchored through active involvement with diverse communities and real-world challenges.

  • SLO #4 - Students will demonstrate Integrative and Applied Learning, including synthesis and advanced accomplishment across general and specialized studies. This is demonstrated through the application of knowledge, skills and responsibilities to new settings and complex problems.

Direct evidence for majors and general education assessment is collected through course activities such as journals, papers, presentations, projects and tests, as well as institutional and professional independent examinations. Examples of indirect evidence used for improving learning include institutional and divisional student and alumni surveys, professional advisory board recommendations and important takeaways from conferences.

Mayville State University administered the CLA in 2010 - 2012.

Mayville State University conducted a Value-added administration of the CLA in 2010 - 2012. The results are displayed below in the SLO Results tab.

For additional information on MSU’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?

As a result of discussions with the Curriculum Committee and Institutional Improvement and Assessment Committee, a decision was made in fall, 2009 to participate in a national project to assess student learning of general education skills as measured by the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA). 

The CLA was chosen because the purpose of the instrument is not necessarily to measure individual students, but to determine what value is added by the educational experience from the freshmen to senior level.   The value added or growth scores can then tabulated and compared to expected levels based on comparisons with other participating institutions and taking into consideration the Entering Academic Ability of students.

Which Mayville State University students are assessed? When?

A sample of 100 freshmen were administered the CLA in the Fall and 2009 and a similar sample of graduating seniors were selected to complete the same assessment in the spring of 2010.  One hundred freshmen completed the CLA in fall, 2009, with the sample drawn from a total freshmen population of 147 (68% of freshmen participated).  Freshmen students completed the assessment as part of regular class time and/or were invited to special evening sessions that were open to all freshmen.  A population of 139 seniors who were scheduled to graduate in spring, 2010 or fall, 2010 was identified and all were invited to participate in the project during the March Assessment Day activities, or during specially scheduled classroom sessions.   Only 64 seniors participated in the CLA assessment (46%), although CLA staff assured the institution that this was an adequate sample size.

How are assessment data collected?

The CLA consists of three types of prompts within two different types of tasks; the Performance Task and the Analytic Writing Task.  Most students take one task or another.  The Analytic Writing Task includes a pair of prompts called Make An Argument and Critique an Argument.  The CLA uses direct measures of skills in which students perform cognitively demanding tasks.  All measures are administered online and contain open-ended prompts that require student constructed responses.  There are no multiple choice questions.  These CLA tasks require that students integrate critical thinking, analytic reasoning, problem solving and written communication skills. 


How are data reported within Mayville State University?

Comparisons of student scores are then analyzed using a value added model, in which student differences in ability and achievement are controlled statistically using their initial ACT or SAT scores (if available) or a specially developed measure called the Scholastic Level Exam (SLE) that students complete as part of the CLA experience. This level of Entering Academic Ability (EAA) in evaluated in terms of student performance and comparative results are reported for individual students and the entire sample of students as being “Below”, “Near” or “Above” expected levels of performance.

The purpose of the CLA is not necessarily to measure individual students, but to determine what value is added by the educational experience from the freshmen to senior level.   These results are calculated using raw scores of both freshmen and seniors, along with their mediating level of academic ability and preparation.  Value added or growth scores are then tabulated and compared to expected levels based on comparisons with other participating institutions and taking into consideration the Entering Academic Ability of students. 

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

Results of the CLA provide some useful information that can be used by the institution to help guide discussions about instruction, student needs and how student performance may eventually affect other outcomes, such as employability and success.   It is somewhat evident from the results of this assessment that our students perform much better on those educational tasks that require hands on or practical applications vs. more abstract reasoning and thinking.  It is also apparent that our students do exhibit needs with their writing skills, especially as it relates to their ability to analyze abstract ideas. 

Since the administration of the CLA, the institution has taken on an effort to more effectively assess student peformance of skills related to the general education curriculum, specifically the LEAP initiative.  As those assessment processes are developed and implemented, we anticipate being able to more accurately determine the full extent of students' writing and critical thinking skills and to make needed improvements in curriculum.  

Of 147 freshmen students eligible to be tested, 94 (64%) were included in the tested sample at Mayville State University.

Of 139 senior students eligible to be tested, 64 (46%) were included in the tested sample at Mayville 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 38% 44% 65% 59%
Male 62% 56% 35% 41%
Other or Unknown <1% <1% <1% <1%
US Underrepresented Minority 25% 24% 14% 11%
White / Caucasian 75% 73% 804 86%
International <1% <1% <1% <1%
Unknown 1% 2% 1% 3%
Low-income (Eligible to receive a Federal Pell Grant) 45% 64% 25% 55%
Area of Study Business 13% 19% 35% 39%
Education 31% 38% 45% 36%
undecided 46% 26% 0% 0%

Males were over represented in the freshmen sample (56%), while seniors were representative of the general student populationm.  Traditionally, male freshmen demonstrate more characteristics of underprepared students and this may have affected the overall level of performance of the freshmen population.

Members of minority ethnic groups were slightly over represented in the freshman sample (27%), and somewhat underrepresented in the senior sample (14%) as compared to the general student population (18%). 

Nearly half (30 of 64) of the seniors surveyed had transferred to Mayville State from another institution.  Thirteen(38%) of these senior transfers previously attended another two year school within North Dakota, while 8(24%) transferred from a two year school outside of either ND or Minnesota.  A similar number had completed all general education requirements prior to transferring to Mayville State.  This high percentage of seniors who would not have completed their general education coursework at our institution may have influenced their overall level of academic skills and their performance on the CLA.


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 analytic writing task is below what would be expected at an institution testing students of similar academic abilities.