For some Baker University seniors, finishing out their final semester with LA401 does more than just expand their writing skills with a big research paper; it also incorporates a standardized test that benefits the university by showing data about the general education success of the students.
The Collegiate Learning Assessment is a test that examines different aspects of the general education program at universities. Baker has been giving some type of standardized test since 2006.
“The (CLA) test looks at things (such) as writing, critical thinking and analysis skills,” Erin Joyce, interim assistant dean for liberal studies, said. “It is a test that helps us see how our seniors are doing before they graduate.”
In the past, the assessment has been a fill-in bubble sheet, but this year the university adopted the CLA test, an online test which is more engaging for the students by allowing them to get more personalized feedback.
The test takes 90 minutes and consists of two parts.
The student is automatically assigned to one of two types of sections. They will either take a section with two short essays that have the student engage in a problem solving task or they will be assigned a critical thinking section.
The CLA not only provides a different format, but it provides different feedback for Baker. The assessment is used to test seniors in the spring, but it allows the university to test freshmen in the fall too. This allots Baker more comparison data from a student’s freshman year to his or her senior year.
“Having this comparison will give us value-added data that can hopefully give us information at how good of a job we are doing with providing students with a well-rounded college education,” Joyce said.
Warren Swenson has already taken the test even though he is a junior at Baker.
“The test does what it is originally designated to do and helps benefit the campus by prompting students, especially myself, to use my skills with critical thinking and writing to show the overall success of the general education program at Baker,” Swenson said.
As for junior Beth Hopkins, while completing all the pre-requisites to take LA401 in the spring of her junior year, she felt as though she missed out on seeing her growth as a student because she was not tested her freshman year.
“I wish I could have taken it my freshman year like they did this year so I could have seen for myself how I have grown from my first semester to my last at the university,” Hopkins said.
Standardized tests have provided Baker with beneficial data in the years they have been provided and the university hopes to add on better data by using the CLA test.