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Massachusetts Working to Develop Learning Outcomes and Assessments

The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s Vision Project provides the state’s public agenda for higher education and includes seven outcomes: college participation, college completion, student learning, workforce alignment, prepared citizens, elimination of disparities, and research. The student learning component includes achieving higher levels of student learning through better assessment and more extensive use of assessment results. The work is focused on strengthening campus-level assessment and finding ways to compare student learning among states. Massachusetts is participating in several initiatives as part of their efforts, including Advancing a Massachusetts Culture of Assessment (AMCOA), the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) initiative, and the AAC&U and State Higher Executive Officers-led Multi-State Collaborative to Advance Learning Outcomes Assessment.

AMCOA is a three-part initiative developed by 28 public institutions to help strengthen campus-level assessment, develop a system for statewide learning outcomes assessment, and form partnerships with other states to work together on a statewide assessment of student learning. The AMCOA team consists of faculty members and assessments professionals from each participating institution and has been meeting since 2011. Representatives from 22 public institutions worked together to develop an assessment model using the LEAP VALUE Rubrics for written communication, quantitative literacy, and critical thinking.

As a result of these various efforts within the state, Massachusetts led the effort to establish the Multi-State Collaborative, an effort among nine states, now led by SHEEO, to develop assessments of student learning that don’t involve state-mandated standardized tests. The participating institutions—including 14 in Massachusetts—are using AAC&U’s LEAP Essential Learning Outcomes and VALUE rubrics to develop rubrics-based assessments that will allow for the collection of student performance data that can be compared across states and that help faculty assess and improve student learning. Fifty-nine institutions in the nine states completed a pilot study in 2015. Institutions in 12 states, including Massachusetts, have committed to continuing the initiative through a Demonstration Year from September 2015 through August 2016.

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