Benchmarks with Peers

Collegiate Learning Assessment Plus (CLA+)

CLA+ is a performance-based assessment used to test students' development of the competencies considered by employers as important in new hires. Students are tested in terms of their competence in analysis and problem solving; scientific and quantitative reasoning; critical reading and evaluation; and writing mechanics and effectiveness. Students received their own personal reports. The assessment is divided into two sections: a 60-minute Performance Task (PT) and a 30-minute series of Selected-Response Questions (SRQ's). The PT presents a hypothetical but realistic situation to each student and asks them to suggest a solution or a course of action based on the information given. The PT section measure analysis and problem solving, writing mechanics, and writing effectiveness. The SRQ's section requires students to answer 25 questions: 10 assess scientific and quantitative reasoning;10 assess critical reading and evaluation; and 5 assess the ability to critique an argument.

Beginning College Survey of Student Engagement (BCSSE) and National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE)

Annually, Southern administers the BCSSE to incoming First-year students prior to the start of the Fall semester and the NSSE to First-year and Senior students during the Spring semester. Both surveys are produced by the Center for Postsecondary Research at the Indiana University School of Education and have been administered by over 1600 colleges and universities since the initial launch in 2000.

The BCSSE collects data about entering students' prior academic and co-curricular experiences, as well as their expectations for participating in educationally purposeful activities during the coming college year. Meanwhile, the NSSE collects information across five categories: (1) participation in dozens of educationally purposeful activities, (2) institutional requirements and the challenging nature of coursework, (3) perceptions of the college environment, (4) estimates of educational and personal growth since starting college, and (5) background and demographic information. The NSSE also offers additional Topical Modules on designated topics such as academic advising, civic engagement, experiences with diversity, technology, and writing that can be added to the core NSSE survey.

In 2014, the university was one of 10 institutions that participated in a special study conducted by the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). According to Jillian Kinzie, associate director of the Center for Postsecondary Research at Indiana University, NSSE visited Southern to learn more about "actual improvements SCSU achieved in its NSSE results, particularly the first-year student retention rates and improvements in student-faculty relations that resulted when SCSU enhanced its First-Year Experience."

Multi-State Collaborative (MSC) to Advance Quality Student Learning (2014-2018)

From 2014 to 2018, Southern and higher education leaders and faculty at 71 public institutions in 12 states worked together to evaluate authentic student work in a way that allowed faculty, institutions, and states to consistently assess student achievement.  This work iwth MSC contributed toweards the development of a system-level assessment program that does not rely on standardized testing.  Instead, it built on assessment linked to faculty instruction, actual curricula, and real student work.  MSC focused on competencies that employers consider desirable in new hires, including critical thinking, written communication, and quantitative literacy.  The metrics were developed by faculty working with the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and were directly related to teaching and learning in contrast to such metrics as alumni default on student loans, retention rates, and on-time graduation.   

National Assessment of Service and Community Engagement (NASCE) Survey (2013)

To determine the extent to which Southern students are engaged in promoting community well-being, the National Assessment of Service and Community Engagement (NASCE) Survey was administered. Students who participated in the survey were asked to report their service patterns. In comparison to other public universities, SCSU scored very well. NASCE asked to come to our campus to figure out why SCSU scored so highly. They wrote the following: "SCSU is a relatively large, public school and compared to many of the other large, public schools that have taken our survey, it scored well. We are curious what structures are in place at SCSU that allow this to happen. We want to know who the people are that make up your school. We want to see what the campus looks like and how the university relates to the surrounding community. In short, we want to find out what makes SCSU successful at fostering community engagement."

OECD International Study (2011-2013)

The university regularly participates in innovative assessment initiatives that provide benchmarks and peer comparisons. For example, the university participated in an international assessment test of "core" or "workplace" skills conducted by the 34-nation Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes (AHELO) was intended to compare college students in the areas of critical thinking, analytic reasoning, problem solving and written communication. SCSU was one of only 10 U.S. universities to participate in this feasibility study.