In recent years the higher education community has wrestled more intensely with the challenge of producing better, more robust, assessments of student learning. In addition to the national push to dramatically increase the number of Americans with post-secondary credentials, there is also considerable concern about being able to assure the quality of college degrees and institutional effectiveness—hence the focus on assessing student learning outcomes.
It is safe to say that the demands for better assessment data were ahead of a clear path for institutions tasked with actually doing the work. Some questioned the reliability of the tools used for assessment; reaching consensus about what constitutes learning and which aspects of it should be measured proved arduous; and determining the organizational choreography required for success was challenging given the competing demands of any institution. Many campuses, especially those serving “less-traditional” students, have struggled with the necessary task of assessing student learning.
Minority-Serving Institutions represent great laboratories for assessment innovation and practice. These institutions are committed to serving the population of students upon whom the nation’s degree attainment goals rest. There is a strong need to demonstrate student learning gains to external stakeholders beyond merely using graduation rates. There is an even greater need to use all available evidence to correlate institutional practice and student performance at various stages. And, it is often the case that more rigorous assessment must be done without additional resources or people. The context is prime for inventive thinking about how to implement rich assessments and use the results to ultimately improve student success.