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The Nicholls State University General Education Assessment Program is guided by the American Association of Higher Education Definition of Assessment:

“Assessment is an ongoing process aimed at understanding and improving student learning. It involves making our expectations explicit and public; setting appropriate criteria and high standards for learning quality; systematically gathering, analyzing, and interpreting evidence to determine how well performance matches those expectations and standards; and using the resulting information to document, explain, and improve performance. When it is embedded effectively within larger institutional systems, assessment can help us focus our collective attention, examine our assumptions, and create a shared academic culture dedicated to assuring and improving the quality of higher education” (Thomas A. Angelo, AAHE Bulletin, November 1995).

General education assessment

  • Aims at understanding and improving student learning
  • Involves making our expectations explicit and public
  • Sets appropriate criteria and high standards for learning quality
  • Systematically gathers, analyzes, and interprets evidence to determine how well student performance matches those expectations and standards
  • Uses the resulting information to document, explain and improve performance.
  • Helps us create a shared academic culture dedicated to assuring and improving the quality of higher education.— (AAHE Bulletin, November 1995)

General education assessment at NSU Does NOT:

  • Control what is taught or how it is taught
  • Evaluate and criticize individual faculty performance
  • Determine student grades
  • Prevent students from graduation

Outcomes Assessment:

The General Education Assessment Committee (the GEAC), in collaboration with the University Assessment Committee and Institutional Research, evaluates the effectiveness of the core curriculum in developing the following outcomes:


Core Proficiencies

  • Reading Comprehension: To understand, analyze, and evaluate information from a variety of texts and apply that learning to academic, personal, and professional contexts.
  • Effective Communication: To effectively use the English language, writing and speaking with clarity, coherence, and persuasiveness.
  • Higher-Order Thinking and Independent Learning: To think critically, independently, and creatively so that students can make informed and logical judgments of the arguments of others, arrive at reasoned and meaningful arguments and positions, and formulate and apply ideas to new contexts.
  • Quantitative Reasoning and Mathematics: To comprehend and to use quantitative concepts and methods to interpret and to critically evaluate data and to effectively problem-solve in a variety of contexts demanding quantitative literacy.
  • Information Literacy: To locate access, analyze, and utilize information that facilitates learning and critical inquiry and to adhere to the standards of academic honesty in the use of that information.
  • Computer Literacy: To demonstrate competence in computer literacy, including fundamental concepts of computing and fluency in the use of contemporary computing and information technology.

Breadth of Knowledge Areas

  • Fine Arts: To gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of the creative process, the pleasures and challenges of artistic expression, and the role and value of the fine arts in society and culture.
  • Humanities: To have a richer understanding of the human condition through investigation, appreciation, and evaluation of the historical, aesthetic, philosophical and literary dimensions of human experience.
  • Natural Sciences: To comprehend and to apply the basic principles of science and methods of scientific inquiry.
  • Social Sciences: To develop a deeper understanding of the relation of self to world through investigation of the influence of social, cultural, economic, and political institutions in shaping human thought, value, and behavior.

Core Dispositions

  • International and Diversity Understanding: To develop a deeper understanding of the relation of self to world through investigation of the influence of social, cultural, economic, and political institutions in shaping human thought, value, and behavior.
  • Personal Values, Ethics, and Social Responsibility: To develop a deeper, more informed awareness and appreciation of the necessity for strong values, ethical conduct, and social responsibility, especially the importance of personal, academic, and professional integrity.

Assessment Strategies

NSU has primarily assessed general education through a broad programmatic view using nationally normed instruments and locally developed surveys to produce data about the core curriculum as a whole. In the fall of 2005, a five-year cycle of course-embedded assessment will be implemented that will provide data at the departmental and course level. The use of both vantage points, as well as a variety of assessment strategies, will allow the General Education Assessment Committee and general education faculty a more integrated and multi-dimensional assessment for more effective use of results.

Academic Profile:

Since 2002, the University has assessed student achievement in general education areas through the nationally normed ETS instrument Academic Profile (AP). Every semester, a sample of 600-800 juniors and seniors takes the forty-minute version of the test. Academic Profile tests college level reading and critical thinking in the context of the natural sciences, the humanities, and the social sciences. Mathematics and writing skills are tested independently of the subject areas. Because proficiency levels measured by Academic Profile closely correlate to general education goals and objectives (See Alignment Table), Academic Profile continues to be an invaluable tool for general education assessment at Nicholls. Academic Profile results have been annually disseminated to departments for use of results to improve student learning. Now that the University has a new committee, the GEAC, charged with general education assessment, the GEAC will implement new procedures for documenting use of AP results at the course level (See below).

Comparison of Nicholls Student Scores to National Average



University-Wide Surveys

General Education assessment also includes periodic and systematic evaluation from employers, alumni, and graduating seniors, using surveys that include items asking for evaluation of gains in general education outcomes. Employers of Nicholls graduates are asked to rate the overall general academic preparation and the communication skills of Nicholls students. Particular emphasis is placed on the rating of the Core Disposition of personal values, ethics, and social responsibility. Alumni and graduating seniors are asked to rate the gains they have made in all general education areas:

Nicholls General Education Competency

2003 Alumni Survey

Fall 2004 Graduating Senior Survey

In the fall of 2004, the GEAC determined that a nationally normed student engagement assessment should be regularly administered to provide a more complete view into student attainment of the general education competencies. The College Student Experiences Questionnaire, developed by the Indiana University Center for the Study of Postsecondary Research, is a well-reviewed and widely used instrument that assesses the quality of effort students put forward in their learning, their use of opportunities that afford progress in learning, and student’s perceptions of the gains they have made in broad learning outcomes. Because many of the student behaviors captured by the survey items are highly correlated with NSU’s general education, the CSEQ can be used as an effective tool in assessing the efficacy of our general education program. Student perception of gains made in meeting our general education outcomes offers an important qualitative dimension that deepens our understanding of other assessment results.

In April 2005, the CSEQ was administered to a demographically representative sample of students—188 freshmen, 154 sophomores, 126 juniors, and 166 seniors. The results demonstrate students’ high confidence in their attainment of individual general education competencies—students reporting a 65% gain in broad general education outcomes (See CSEQ Gains Charts).

In the next year, GEAC plans to administer the NSSE test as part of a plan to alternate CSEQ and the NSSE testing with Academic Profile.

Student Performance on State Licensure Examinations and General Education

Student performance on licensure exams for entry into professions provides a rich source of evidence of student attainment of general education competencies, as many licensure exams measure proficiency in general education skills and knowledge.

NSU’s College of Education’s Teacher Education program, for example, accredited by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), provides evidence that its majors have attained general education competencies by requiring a passing score on the Praxis I before they can enter the Teacher Education program. Praxis I measures reading and critical thinking, as well as writing and mathematical skills. To be able to student teach, all students must also pass the Praxis II, which evaluates general and subject-specific pedagogical skills and knowledge, most of which capture the Nicholls breadth-of-knowledge general education goals in fine arts, humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences.

  • In 2002-2003, 98% of Education majors: 178 out of 181 passed the exam.
  • In 2003-2004, 100% of Education majors: 162 out of 162 passed the exam.
  • In 2004-05, 99% of Education majors: 141 out of 143 passed the exam.

The GEAC monitors student performance on State Licensure Examinations that, like the Praxis, include a substantial general education component and, beginning in Fall of 2005, will interpret and disseminate findings to appropriate departments for more effective use of results.

MAAP 2007-2009 Results

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