EDUIMHE08 › Abstracts: Assessing learning and employment outcomes
The assessment of higher education outcomes (AHELO) feasibility study
Lead speaker: Karine Tremblay, Senior Survey Manager, OECD Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes (AHELO) feasibility study
The AHELO feasibility study is now underway. Its overarching goal is to assess whether it is possible to measure what undergraduate degree students know and can do in different types of HEIs and countries, in order to provide better information to HEIs, governments and other stakeholders.
The presentation will describe the various strands of work that will be carried out as part of the AHELO feasibility study. First, different types of assessment instruments will be tested and their validity in an international context explored. These include a generic skills strand and a discipline strand – with engineering and economics as likely candidates. For these strands, the feasibility study will aim to test the science of the assessment – whether it is possible to devise an instrument which enables to make reliable statements about the performance of learning in HEIs of diverse types, cultural and linguistic contexts – and second, test the practicality of implementation. But for an AHELO to provide a diagnostic tool for improvement at institutional level, it is critical to inform HEIs about their strengths, weaknesses and “value-added”. This is a complex task, hence a value-added measurement strand will explore the issue conceptually and methodologically. Finally, a contextual strand will explore the development of contextual indicators and indirect measures of outcomes at institutional level in recognition of the need for a multidimensional approach to higher education quality.
Panellist speaker: Robert Wagenaar, Director of Undergraduate and Graduate Studies, University of Groningen, Netherlands
Panellist speaker: Peter Ewell, Vice President at the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS), USA
Gathering and assembling evidence of student learning and employment outcomes has been part of the landscape of U.S. higher education for almost a quarter of a century. But most of this activity has been undertaken as part of university planning and management processes designed to improve teaching and learning. Accordingly, most assessment approaches have been tailored to the unique context of each institution and their results are largely non-comparable. Recent events—including most prominently a national commission on the future of higher education convened by the Secretary of Education— have called for a contrasting approach focused on comparable data and public accountability. The result is two competing “paradigms” of assessment that pose a set of critical choices for institutions about how to proceed. These include choices about how proactive institutions should be in conducting such assessments, how to leverage external reporting mandates for institutional improvement, choosing appropriate assessment instruments and approaches, establishing appropriate benchmarks for performance, and communicating assessment results to higher education’s stakeholders.