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Learning to Reason and Communicate in College: Initial Report of Findings from the CLA Longitudinal Study


This research emerged from the Social Science Research Council's collaborative partnership with the Pathways for College Network, with technical assistance in data collection provided by the Council for Aid to Education. The project has followed over 2,300 students at 24 institutions over time to examine what factors are associated with learning in higher education. Learning is assessed along the dimensions of critical thinking, analytical reasoning and written communication, as measured by the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA). We consider factors related to individual development as well as patterns of inequality associated with disadvantaged groups of students (including students from racial/ethnic minority groups, less advantaged family backgrounds, non-English speaking homes, and high schools that are comprised primarily of non-white students). Students were initially tested at the beginning of their freshman year (Fall 2005) and then followed up at the end of their sophomore year (Spring 2007). In addition to the CLA measures of learning, supplementary data was collected from student surveys, college transcripts and secondary sources of institutional data to generate a Determinants of College Learning longitudinal dataset. The scale and scope of this project offers a unique opportunity to explore factors associated with learning in higher education.