National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment |

National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment

NILOA In the Field

Select NILOA news reports listed below. For additional NILOA Newsletters, please see the NILOA Newsletters.


January 2017

AAC&U Annual Meeting Report

NILOA recently participated in the Association of American Colleges & Universities Annual Meeting, themed “Building Public Trust in the Promise of Liberal Education and Inclusive Excellence”. The event took place between January 25, 2017, and January 28, 2017, in San Francisco, CA. Participation in the conference was a natural fit for NILOA, due to its continuous support of improving student learning through learning outcomes assessment.

NILOA leadership with senior scholars. From left: Dr. George Kuh, Dr. Jillian Kinzie, Dr. Pat Hutchings, Dr. Paul Lingenfelter, Dr. Natasha Jankowski, Dr. Gianina Baker, Dr. David Marshall and in front, Dr. Peter Ewell.

This year’s Annual Meeting was a reflection of a larger context surrounding higher education. According to NILOA’s Founding Director, Senior Scholar and Co-Principal Investigator, Dr. George Kuh, “there was a palpable sense of uncertainty about the perceived value of the postsecondary enterprise.” In Dr. Kuh’s view, those feelings are a result of the current political environment and growing suspicion that perhaps higher education degrees are not “worth the investment” due to raising costs associated with earning a college degree. In fact, NILOA’s Senior Scholar, Dr. Pat Hutchings, supports this opinion, adding that “policy and funding questions seemed more front and center” of the Annual Meeting. Additionally, Dr. David Marshall of NILOA also noticed the general feeling of anxiety regarding the future of higher education. In his view, this is largely associated with the political climate and “concerns regarding future funding and increased pressures to align education to more narrow definitions of workforce development.” NILOA’s Senior Scholar does not think that pessimism and anxiety was all that the conference was about, but there was the usual effort of working on improving higher education, which is the core of the Annual Meeting. The biggest question, however, remains on “what kinds of actions need to be taken to ensure the most productive means of assuring our missions”, Dr. Marshall says.


These arguments confirm the relevance of NILOA’s work, where “documenting the impact of college attendance” is of growing importance to policy makers and some institutional leaders, according to Dr. Kuh. The growing use of resources (hyperlink) that NILOA makes available to the higher education community, introducing creative ways of engaging students in learning and thus improving learning outcomes assessment, verifies that notion. There is also a shift in perceived value of assessment as a tool “for improvement as opposed to accountability”, as stated by Erick Montenegro, NILOA’s Research Analyst. The subject was being referenced more commonly even during sessions where assessment was not the central focus. Dr. Marshall has also noticed a shift in the way that campuses approach assessment. In his view, assessment is becoming more of a collaborative activity, which engages multiple parties in the process of assessing student learning. According to the scholar, this focus will help identify “practices that best support learning.” Although Dr. Marshall does not think NILOA is solely responsible for these positive changes, he confirms that NILOA’s impact has been visible and valuable.


NILOA believes that successful implementation of learning outcomes assessment is a conversation that cannot take place without the involvement of higher education administrators. The creation of the National Provost Survey, which takes place every three years, is a way for NILOA to engage, listen and learn from administrators about successful methods and struggles in assessing student learning. In line with this effort, it has become a tradition that NILOA hosts the Provosts Breakfast during the Annual Meeting’s opening day, where a discussion takes place in regards to survey content and other questions provosts would like to see answered around assessment.


Please feel free to click the link below in order to access materials and commentary related to NILOA’s 2017 National Provost Survey discussion during the Provosts Breakfast.


The NILOA Team, which includes senior scholars, staff and research analysts, frequently delivers presentations, seminars and workshops during higher education events. The AAC&U is NILOA's valued partner and the Annual Meeting is one of NILOA’s regular presentation venues.

Please feel free to explore the information below for downloadable presentation materials, commentary and pictures of the following:





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"The complex, diverse learning goals, of postsecondary education do not justify a passive approach to student achievement. It is heartening to see state policy and institutional leaders working together to collect evidence of student learning and pursue continuous improvement."

Paul Lingenfelter

Paul E. Lingenfelter
President Emeritus
State Higher Education Executive Officers