Chief academic officer and Edalex’s head of business development present insights on engaging students for success in higher education and career

The Council for Aid to Education, Inc. (CAE), a nonprofit developer of performance-based and custom assessments that authentically measure students’ essential college and career readiness skills, recently engaged online attendees in the workshop, “Measurement of Learning Outcome Achievement – Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA+)”, at the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE) annual conference held in June. Presenting to a worldwide audience committed to the theory and practice of quality assurance in higher education, Doris Zahner, Ph.D., chief academic officer, CAE and co-presenter Margo Griffith, head of business development, Edalex, discussed the value of students’ higher education and essential career readiness skills, current approaches to assessment and micro-credentials, and utilizing CLA+ to measure learning outcomes.

CLA+, a performance-based assessment, situates students in real-world scenarios to measure their ability to analyze, evaluate, and synthesize information and effectively communicate a solution to a problem. Specifically, CLA+ measures students’ critical thinking, problem solving and written communication skills. Institution and student reports identify strengths and areas of opportunity by leveraging CAE’s comparative international data set.

“Conferences such as INQAAHE’s allow us to share our perspective and engage with global higher education leaders,” said Zahner. “The value of assessing students’ essential skills is not limited by borders. Facilitating robust conversations with a diverse international education community advances innovative approaches to improving student outcomes worldwide.”

CAE administers CLA+ in the US and internationally, including recent work in Australia, Chile, Finland, Italy, Mexico, and the UK. Similar to findings within the US, only 47% of entering students in these countries are proficient in critical thinking, problem solving and written communication skills as measured by CLA+. The numbers rise to just over 50% for exiting students, indicating that while there is some increase in these skills in higher education, there is much room for improvement.

In addition, responses from the conference workshop participants identified that:

  • Approximately 80% of participants said that their organization or institution values measuring students’ essential skills.
  • Policy decisions, institutional value-added, and curriculum reform were cited as the primary uses of the results of the measurements.
  • Fewer than a quarter of participants were using an independent third-party assessment. Most were using internally developed assessments or surveys, limiting the value and reliability of the data.
  • Providing individualized feedback to students on their essential skills appeals to 70% of participants, suggesting that there is interest in student learning gains globally.

Zahner has been invited to co-present the workshop, “Measuring and Teaching Generic Skills to Improve Student Learning Outcomes” with Susanna Karakhanyan, Ph.D., Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge Higher Education (ADEK) Policy & Regulation director and INQAAHE president, at the 30th anniversary INQAAHE fall conference scheduled for October 2021 in Barcelona, Spain.

To learn more about CAE, visit here.

About CAE
A nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve student outcomes, CAE develops performance-based and custom assessments that authentically measure students’ essential college and career readiness skills and identify opportunities for student growth. CAE’s Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA+) for higher education, College and Career Readiness Assessment (CCRA+) for secondary education, and the new Success Skills Assessment (SSA+) for any level, evaluate the skills educational institutions and employers demand most: critical thinking, problem solving and effective written communication. Based on CAE’s research, these skills are predictive of positive college and career outcomes. CAE also partners with its clients to design innovative performance assessments that measure the constructs vital to students, educators, and institutions, including subject area and grade specific assessments. Since 2002, more than 800,000 students at over 1,300 secondary and higher education institutions globally have completed CAE’s assessments. To learn more, please visit