Headline and Lead Combine “Data,” “Value,” and Kalamazoo College

Associate Provost Paul Sotherland

Associate Provost Paul Sotherland is an expert on K outcomes in the Collegiate Learning Assessment.

A Wall Street Journal article (“College Uses Test Data to Show Value,” by Douglas Belkin, February 20, 2014) describes K’s efforts to measure (and market) the gains its students experience in critical thinking and problem solving skills because of the K undergraduate learning experience.

The article notes that K leads a growing trend of colleges and universities becoming more transparent about sharing test data and other metrics to show the learning outcomes of a higher education. For his story Belkin interviewed Dean of Admission Eric Staab and Associate Provost Paul Sotherland as well  students and their parents for his article. The piece notes that K (Sotherland) shares data that documents the effect and value of a K education with parents and prospective students during campus visits.

Much of that data originates from the Collegiate Learning Assessment, currently the most reliable direct measure of students’ gains in critical thinking, analytical reasoning, writing, and problem solving as a result of particular undergraduate learning experiences. What distinguishes the CLA from other assessments is its focus on direct measures of learning rather than an aggregate of surrogate markers that include, for example (in some rankings), the size of an institution’s endowment or the number of alumni that provide annual gifts.