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Teaching, Learning, and Assessment Center

Collegiate Learning Assessment

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Teaching, Learning, and Assessment Center

Collegiate Learning Assessment

What is the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA)?

  • Nationally-recognized instrument that measures the learning gained by students in the course of their undergraduate education in general skills: critical thinking, analytical reasoning, problem-solving and written communication.
  • CLA provides an aggregate, institutional score of learning gains that compares the performance of 100 first-year and 100 senior students. See below for more information on score reports.
  • Web-based, holistic assessment with two randomly assigned options: performance task and writing prompts. (See below for more on the sample contents). The assessment is scheduled for approximately two hours: 30 minutes for instructions, 90 minutes for the actual assessment.
  • Participation is voluntary, but selected students are urged to take the CLA.
  • The CLA will be administered in computer labs by trained proctors who will walk you through the steps of logging into the Web portal and navigating and submitting the CLA online.

Incentives and Compensation

The University is pleased to provide some small ways to recognize and appreciate your time and efforts in this important institutional initiative. Students who complete the CLA will receive the following incentives:

  • Voucher for a free transcipt
  • Gift card for the SSI Bookstore
  • Graduation cord
  • High-scoring participants will receive a certificate signed by WCU President Greg Weisenstein.

Special thanks to the Office of the Associate Provost, the Registrar, the Alumni Association, Office of the President, and SSI Bookstore for their generous support.

What's on the CLA?

The CLA is a measure of general skills: critical thinking, analytical reasoning, problem-solving, and written communication. These are skills gained from all across the curriculum through an entire college education. The CLA does not require any specific content-knowledge.

Participating students will be assigned to take either the performance task or the writing prompts.

  • If they get the performance task, students will be presented with a range of texts to read and asked to answer a series of questions by evaluating, analyzing, and synthesizing those texts.
  • If they get the writing prompts, students will be given two questions: one that asks them to make an argument in response to a topic; one that asks them to critique an argument reflected in a brief text.

See examples of both the performance task and writing prompts.

More information about the CLA

Accountability Initiative

WCU's participation in the CLA is part of a national accountability initiative. For more about these larger goals and impetus, see Voluntary System of Accountability.

Contact Information

  • Dr. Scott Heinerichs
  • WCU CLA Administrator
  • Associate Professor of Sports Medicine
  • Faculty Associate for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment
  • 119B Anderson Hall (College of Arts and Sciences Dean's Suite)
  • 610-435-3518
  • Email Dr. Heinerichs


Why/How was I selected to participate?

The CLA requires a representative cohort of 100 first year students to assess in the Fall and 100 seniors in the spring, for institutional and cross-institutional comparison. Cohorts were analyzed and selected to be representative of all majors and student demographics. Each cohort represents their class in the skills that are assessed.

How can I prepare for the CLA?

  • Keep in mind that the CLA is a measure of general skills that you have already gained from your entire education, so there is no specific content-knowledge to worry about.
  • Look at the sample prompts and performance task.
  • As you approach the questions, follow these tips from Elizabeth J. Cliner's "Engaging Assessment":
    1. BE SKEPTICAL: Don't assume all data is equally useful! Remember some is essential, some is unimportant and some is downright misleading.
    2. BE SPECIFIC: When building an argument, build it from the evidence available! Consider what exactly lead you to the conclusions you came to.
    3. BE STRATEGIC: When marshalling evidence, don't be satisfied with just one piece of evidence (even if that's what nailed it for you). Look for all the support available for the conclusions you arrived at. It never hurts to consider what further evidence might he helpful.
    4. Be SAVVY: Check that you've done what you've been asked to do. And even when you are following directions don't assume your audience knows what you're talking about.
    5. BE SERIOUS: Try to do your best!

Will my participation affect my grades?

Your performance will not affect your grades. Participation in the asessment is voluntary.

Will my score be made public?

All participants will receive individual score reports to their e-mail accounts once assessment and analysis are complete. Your individual score is confidential and will not be made public in any way. Only the aggregate institutional score will be made public via the College Portrait Web site in the section on Student Learning Assessment.

Who will review the CLA scores?

Institutional scores will be made available to the WCU CLA administrator and to the Assessment Advisory Committee who will review the results and make recommendations for how to make improvements. No individuals will be publically identified in the process. The administrator will review individual scores confidentially in order to identify those seniors who qualify for the President's Certificate of Achievement. Certificates will be sent directly to the student in late summer/early fall.

When will I receive my score?

Score results for the fall administration are usually available in late October. Results for spring administration are usually available in late July.

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