Research Handbook on Quality, Performance and Accountability in Higher Education
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Research Handbook on Quality, Performance and Accountability in Higher Education

Edited by Ellen Hazelkorn, Hamish Coates and Alexander C. McCormick

As higher education becomes a key determinant for economic competitiveness, institutions face increasing pressure to demonstrate their fitness to meet the needs of society and individuals. Blending innovative research with richly contextualised examples this unique Research Handbook provides authoritative insights from around the globe on how best to understand, assess and improve quality, performance and accountability in higher education.
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Chapter 19: Performance indicators of learning in higher education institutions: an overview of the field

Richard J. Shavelson, Olga Zlatkin-Troitschanskaia and Julián P. Mariño

Abstract

A learning indicator may qualitatively describe a learning process, or, more often, quantitatively summarize an important aspect of learning with a single or composite statistic. A qualitative indicator might take the form of a flow chart generated from a ‘think aloud’ from a student explaining why there is a change of season, or a categorization of students’ explanations for why things sink and float. A quantitative indicator might be a measure of the change in a student’s performance over time or an estimate of a college’s value added to student learning. We sketch the broad field of learning performance indicators used internationally and quickly narrow our focus to indicators based on direct measures of learning as opposed to number of units completed, graduation rates, number of degrees earned, and students’ self-report. We include both direct behavioural indicators of performance from which learning is inferred (‘performance assessments’) as well as indicators of competencies predictive of real-world performance (‘competency assessments’). We argue that performance indicators of learning are delicate instruments, influenced by how learning is measured and modelled to produce the indicator and that a profile of multiple student learning indicators is needed to capture the complexity of measuring performance and learning.

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