Catalyst for Change

​Catalyst for Change: The CIC/CLA Consortium, is CIC’s final report on the work of the CIC Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) Consortium, which piloted a way to measure student learning outcomes that is not overly burdensome to colleges and universities. From 2008 to 2011, 47 independent colleges and universities supported by CIC collaborated to embed a “culture of assessment” on participating campuses through the voluntary use of the CLAa test of critical thinking, analytic reasoning, problem solving, and written communicationas a tool for assessing student learning in the first and senior years. This report summarizes the experiences of the participating institutions and the lessons learned from their assessment of student learning outcomes and efforts to improve pedagogy and curricula. It follows an interim report, Evidence of Learning: Applying the Collegiate Learning Assessment to Improve Teaching and Learning in the Liberal Arts College Experience, released in 2008, that was based on the activities of the Consortium from 2004 to 2008. The Consortium is supported by the Teagle Foundation.


 Key Findings


​The experience and success of the CIC/CLA Consortium offer lessons for leaders of independent colleges and universities as they seek evidence-based approaches to improve teaching and learning and as they respond to demands for more assessment of, and accountability for, student learning outcomes. Among them are:

  1. Measures and measurement matter. The CLA provides an opportunity to measure critical skills in ways that most faculty members recognize as being important and authentic. Once a measure like the CLA is used it establishes the principle that an institution can use it as well as other types of measures and evidence to improve student learning.
  2. Measuring student learning creates a catalyst for institutional change. The process of measuring student learning creates a catalyst for institutional change—and it is difficult to imagine reversing this momentum. Assessment becomes part of the conversation and an ongoing activity of the institution, which leads to changes in teaching strategies and pedagogy.
  3. Collaboration among institutions helps assessment and change. The sharing of experiences and advice among institutions creates a community of professional practice that makes it easier to improve an institution’s work. The work of the CIC/CLA Consortium provides a model of how undergraduate education can become more professionalized through shared understandings, measures, and practices.
  4. Self-directed, voluntary efforts to demonstrate an institution’s value do succeed. The pressure on higher education to demonstrate its value, especially in light of rising costs, is not likely to fade in the foreseeable future. The CIC/CLA Consortium offers an example of self-directed, voluntary professional efforts that have and will continue to provide a sound response to public demands for assessment, accountability, and improvement.

Download a PDF of the full report.


 Contact Information

​For questions about Catalyst for Change, please contact CIC Senior Vice President Harold V. Hartley III at or (202) 466-7230.