Focused on What Matters: Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes at Minority-Serving Institutions

By Elizabeth Blume

The National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment has issued a new report on the assessment practices of Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs), using results from their 2014 survey of postsecondary institution assessment activities. The report’s major findings are as follows:

  • MSIs are more likely than Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs) to use internal assessments for student placement, strategic planning and benchmarking purposes. PWIs are more likely to use national student surveys (e.g. the National Survey of Student Engagement) to inform these practices.
    • MSIs may be less likely to use national assessments due to the fees associated with them.
  • MSIs are more likely than PWIs to undertake assessment in response to a statewide governing board mandate, external funding or national policy concerns about accountability.
  • Sub-categories of MSIs use different approaches to assess student learning.
    • Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) are more likely to use locally developed skills measures and classroom-based performance.
    • Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are more likely to use general knowledge and skills measures.
    • Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs) are more likely to use portfolios, alumni surveys and employer feedback.
    • Hispanic-serving Institutions (HSIs) and HBCUs are more likely to use student placement exams.
  • MSIs identified what they needed in order to assess more: increased staff capacity, additional involvement from student affairs, more funding, assessment management systems and better governance structures.
  • Overall, MSIs are more likely than PWIs to select locally developed assessments. While local assessments may be more sensitive to the needs and characteristics of the students they assess, they may be a barrier to furthering a national understanding of student learning.