Augustana students beat national average in learning outcomes

Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2011, 11:53 am
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Press release submitted by Augustana College

Rock Island, Ill.–Augustana College students experienced significantly greater learning over a four-year span than the average among those who participated in a recent Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) study. More than 3,000 students at 29 four-year institutions participated in the study.

The CLA was created by the Council for Aid to Education, a national nonprofit organization, to help higher education institutions provide better teaching and learning. Through the CLA, colleges can measure student-learning outcomes by evaluating student aptitude in critical learning and writing. Augustana students participated in the CLA study as first years in 2005 and then again as seniors in 2009. Over the span of the four years, students not only scored in a higher percentile at the start of the study, but also experienced nearly double the growth during their four years at Augustana than the national average.

In a recently released book, Academically Adrift, researchers Dr. Richard Arum of New York University and Dr. Josipa Roksa of the University of Virginia examined some of the CLA assessment data that involved approximately 2,322 students from 24 public and private colleges and universities in the United States.

Arum and Roksa report that on the national level, students placed in the 51st percentile in their freshman year and in the 67th percentile as college seniors. Augustana students who participated in the CLA scored in the 63rd percentile during their first year on campus and in the 91st during their fourth year. This means Augustana's students scored better than 63 percent of all others who took the CLA during their first year and better than 91 percent of all others in their senior year.

Dr. Ellen Hay, interim academic dean at Augustana, said the college uses data such as the CLA findings to assist in modifying curriculum and enhancing the quality of teaching and learning. "While there is work that remains to be done, our focus on learning outcomes provides a roadmap for ongoing improvements, and we are dedicated to monitoring our outcomes," said Hay.

In a column featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Richard Kahlenberg—a senior fellow at The Century Foundation, a public policy research institution—wrote that the higher performance of students at selective liberal arts colleges in the CLA study is due to three factors:

• a student body of high-achieving peers

• rigorous coursework and high expectations

• frequency and quality of faculty interaction

Hay believes Kahlenberg's observations accurately describe the Augustana College student experience. She stated, "Our results on the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) tell us that we have made significant strides in increasing faculty-student interaction, active and collaborative learning experiences, and academic challenge—all factors that we know contribute to student learning."

Further resources:

Interview with Arum on NPR's Morning Edition

Who is Really Adrift? Opinion article Inside Higher Ed

Arum and Roksa's column on Academically Adrift in The Chronicle of Higher Education

For additional information, contact Kamy Beattie, director of public relations at or (309) 794-7721.

About Augustana: Founded in 1860 and situated on a 115-acre campus near the Mississippi River, Augustana College is a private, liberal arts institution affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The college enrolls 2,500 students from diverse geographic, social, ethnic and religious backgrounds and offers more than 70 majors and related areas of study. Augustana employs 287 faculty members and has a student-faculty ratio of 11:1. Augustana continues to do what it has always done: challenge and prepare students for lives of leadership and service in our complex, ever-changing world.


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