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Project History and Overview

This project explored the ways in which institutions are committed to improvement as part of their undergraduate educational mission. Building on other NCPI assessment research, the project encompassed multi-institutional analyses of longitudinal and cross-sectional data on current practices linked with student and faculty survey data as well as individual campus case studies and focus groups.

Researchers focused primarily on faculty and student experiences as they relate to teaching and learning activity within academic programs on college campuses. During the first two years of research, two projects were carried out simultaneously. First, a review of existing data resources for understanding faculty and students in relation to teaching and learning activity was conducted. This resulted in a handbook on national data sets and a review of their utility in facilitating what we know. Additionally, following an analysis of the national data in 1998 three studies were initiated focusing on faculty teaching, student satisfaction, and long-term outcomes

Second, a review of innovations developed since the mid 1980s served to document the extent to which higher education has responded to criticisms of undergraduate education. Because much of the literature on these innovations is still absent from publications, national conversations about teaching, learning, and assessment change were monitored through conference programs, newsletters, and disciplinary and professional association publications. Researchers developed a web-based template of the innovations in higher education activity in this area.

Pilot Project

In 1997-98, three sites were selected to serve as a pilot for the projects that were carried out in the subsequent years. Institutions within a single accreditation region were selected within three varying state policy environments. The institutions were selected primarily because they were designated as campuses that were involved in significant innovation activity as it related to teaching, learning, and assessment based on conferences and national opinion leaders familiar with these innovations. These campuses include Land-grant Flagship University, Urban University, and National University. A goal of the pilot project was to understand changing practices on college campuses and the role of assessment in this process. We spoke with campus administrators who had an overview of these changes, faculty involved in innovative activity, and students who were experiencing these changes. Information gleaned from the pilot was used to document how higher education has responded to calls for improvement in undergraduate education, motivations and rewards for individuals engaged in this activity, and perhaps new approaches to assessing the impact on students. The pilot project helped to shape student and faculty data collection in 1998-99 and resulted in a report about teaching and learning activity on campuses concerned about undergraduate education.

Case Studies

Although innovations in teaching and learning were occurring across the country within postsecondary education, we selected a few institutions whose strategies hold promise for broad adoption across the diversity of institutions in higher education. This study of current undergraduate improvement efforts provided information on how the many aspects of teaching, learning, and assessment work in tandem to produce results.

During academic year 1998-99, seven campuses were selected in various policy environments with a goal of creating a range of institutional types from various accrediting regions, in order to understand institutional and individual activity in relation to the improvement of teaching, learning, and assessment. Our intent was to develop case studies (including in-depth interviews and focus groups) of these key institutions that exemplify current reform movements and report details of these promising practices including recommended indicators of monitoring student progress. These indicators reflect institutional efforts to gauge the impact of changing educational practices in higher education.

Numerous reports and research papers resulted from this multi-level study and activities with campuses that were geared toward improving teaching and learning during the fourth and fifth years of the project.

5.3 Survey Research

Two survey instruments, one each for students and faculty, were developed in conjunction with Project 5.2: Institutional Studies, based on results obtained from the analysis of both existing data and the pilot and case-study collections. The faculty survey delved into several key areas to gain knowledge of the level of faculty participation in teaching and learning practices, individual participation in innovative practices or in teaching improvement, the environment for support of teaching, learning and assessment activity at the institution, and the role of motivators in determining faculty behavior.

The student survey does likewise.

Numerous reports and research papers resulted from analysis of the survey data.

These qualitative and quantitative data on students and faculty are linked with information from Project 5.1 and Project 5.2 to present a coherent portrait of our knowledge base and changing practices in teaching, learning, and assessment that affects students, faculty and academic programs.



Project 5 - Overview

As one of six projects conducted within the federally-sponsored National Center for Postsecondary Improvement, a research center of the National Postsecondary Institute, U.S. Department of Education, Project 5 is a multi-level project conducted by research teams from the University of Michigan.

Project 5.1 led by Michael Nettles focuses on state and regional accreditation policies in relation to the assessment of student learning and progress - Project 5.1 Toolkit

Project 5.2 led by Marvin Peterson focuses on institutional support for student assessment - Project 5.2 Toolkit

Project 5.3 led by Eric Dey and Sylvia Hurtado focuses on activity at the academic program level as it relates to the improvement of teaching and learning and the role of student assessment - Project 5.3 Toolkit

Studying approaches to the improvement of teaching, learning, and assessment at these various levels allows researchers to apply their expertise in public policy, organizational behavior, and individual behavior, with the common goal of improving undergraduate education.



Project 5.3 Description

Project Area 5.3 of the National Center for Postsecondary Improvement (NCPI) was established to examine student and faculty experiences, perceptions of the collegiate environment, and practices that are related to undergraduate teaching, learning, and assessment activities. Since 1996, our work has sought to link these findings through various approaches, including the review and analysis of existing national data sets, the development of a research designs to analyze data, to evaluate selected reform and innovation practices related to teaching, learning, and assessment.

This "toolkit" is intended to extend our previous work by providing tools, techniques, and insights based on our work to a diverse array of higher education stakeholders, including institutional leaders, faculty, policymakers, employers, students and parents, and other researchers. We extend special thanks to the many individuals who helped make this project a success [See acknowledgements].

Below is a diagrammatic representation of the breakdown of NCPI Project 5





Project Area 5.3 of the National Center for Postsecondary Improvement gratefully acknowledges the support of all those who participated in data collection, data analyses, report writing, and research dissemination activities over the course of this project. The assistance of numerous individuals made this research a possibility. Special recognition is due to the following individuals:

Principal Investigators

Dr. Eric Dey Dr. Sylvia Hurtado

Research Associates

Jack Bernard Ellen Waterson Meader
Cherry Danielson Christine Navia
Fenghua Guan Luis Ponjuan
Karen Kurotsuchi Inkelas Byung-Shik Rhee
James Johnson Zhengxu Wang
Adrianna Kezar Leslie Adams Wimsatt
Malinda Matney Mary Ziskin





Resources on this Page

Background History
Pilot Project
Case Studies
Survey Research

Student Assessment Toolkit

Related Resources

State Government and Regional Accreditation Association Policies for Assessment of Student Learning: Tools for Policymakers and Administrators

Toolkit for Organizational and Administrative Support for Student Assessment

Publications' List