Measurement and Analysis of Student Learning and Performance


The Dauch College of Business & Economics recognizes that the learning outcomes of the education process are extremely important. Our approach to student learning outcomes assessment follows a continuous improvement model, with an evolving set of outcomes and assessments as we react to the needs of our stakeholders and refine our data collection and analysis procedures.

Student learning outcomes assessment has received increased emphasis at Ashland University in the past several years. Ashland University joined the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) Academy Roundtable in 2006-2007 with the primary goal of fostering a university-wide culture of and commitment to outcomes assessment. The efforts of the HLC Roundtable assessment team culminated with well-received presentations at the HLC Academy Learning Exchange and Showcase meeting in November 2010, with an invited repeat at the HLC annual meeting in April 2011.

Our outcomes assessment program began in the mid-1990’s, with the identification of key variables to be measured and tracked as part of a competency framework adopted by the College. The competencies were selected based on input and feedback collected from various stakeholders, including current and potential employers of our graduates and members of our Business Advisory Council. The seven student learning outcome content areas to be assessed at the College level include:

 1. Communication Skills: Graduates of business programs communicate correctly and purposefully, integrating technology into writing and presentation.

 2. Critical Thinking: Graduates of business programs identify problems, analyze information and form conclusions within the business context.

 3. Business Knowledge and Technical Skills: Graduates of business programs demonstrate knowledge from a variety of sub-disciplines and apply the knowledge and skills to reach solutions to business needs.

 4. Leadership/Team Skills: Graduates of business programs inspire a shared vision, foster a realization of that vision and facilitate a culture to realize goals of the vision.

 5. Ethics: Graduates of business programs understand the ethical behaviors and issues relevant to the business community.

 6. Analytical/Quantitative Skills: Graduates of business programs possess analytical/quantitative skills appropriate to the business community.

 7. International and Global Perspective: Graduates of business programs have an international and global perspective appropriate to a progressive business community that engages in international business activities.

Student learning outcomes for all seven competencies are assessed through course-embedded assessments for both undergraduate and graduate (MBA) programs, administered and evaluated by faculty members and monitored for program assessment purposes. External and authentic outcome assessments also are performed using a variety of methods. The remainder of this summary provides more details on four of these assessments. The first of these is the Educational Testing Service (ETS) Major Field Test, administered to all graduating seniors during a required Senior Assessment class. The second is an assessment of specific outcomes evaluated by supervisors (employers) of undergraduate student interns. The third is a program specific assessment: the performance of student members of the Eagle Investment Group as they actively manage over $1 Million of the University’s endowment. The fourth also is a program specific assessment: the pass rates on the CPA exam for graduates of the undergraduate Accounting program.

 ETS Major Field Test (Undergraduate)

 Many institutions use the ETS Major Field Test for students receiving a bachelor’s degree in business as an end-of-program student learning outcomes assessment instrument. The test itself is a multiple-choice test “designed to measure a student’s subject knowledge and the ability to apply facts, concepts, theories and analytical methods.” [ETS website] The Dauch College of Business & Economics has administered this test as a key summative assessment for undergraduate COBE programs. The test is given to students taking the BUS499 Senior Assessment class. In addition to an overall score, the mean percent correct for all students taking the exam is calculated for each of nine specific assessment indicators. Comparative data tables provided by the ETS enable comparisons with other institutions using the test. The following chart shows the relationship between the Dauch College of Business ^ Economics (COBE) overall mean score for all students taking the exam and the mean score for senior students at all domestic institutions for one or more years prior to the test semester.


                                  ETS Major Field Test Mean Scores, COBE vs. National AverageETS

           ETS Major Field Test Mean COBE Scores and Corresponding Percentile                                                                                                           


Mean Program Score


Fall 2007



Spring 2008



Fall 2008



Spring 2009



Fall 2009



Spring 2010



Fall 2010



Spring 2011



Fall 2011



Spring 2012



 In general, the overall mean for COBE students taking the exam was close to the mean for all institutions during the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 academic years. The COBE faculty and administrators reviewed these results and devised a plan to modify the curriculum with the goal of improving student performance on this assessment. Following the changes, student performance improved significantly in the 2008-2009 academic year, to a level that we rated as exceeding expectations. Performance of COBE students improved further in the 2009-2010 academic year. The mean program score achieved by COBE students in the spring 2010 semester was at the 85th percentile nationally for all institutions using this assessment instrument, a level that we rate as exceeding expectations. Student performance during the fall 2010 semester dropped to a level just below the national mean, but improved again in the spring 2011 semester to the 65th percentile nationally, exceeding expectations. The mean program score achieved by COBE students in the spring 2012 semester was at the 89th percentile nationally for all institutions using this assessment instrument, a level that we rate as exceeding expectations and the highest score yet achieved by our students. In general, we conclude that our students have performed at a level well above the national average for the past few years.

As shown in the following figure, overall COBE performance across all nine of the assessment indicators measured by the ETS Major Field Test has improved over the past five academic years. Variability among the nine indicators has been reduced, with the range between the best and worst indicators ranging from 50 to 65 percentile points during the first four semesters of data shown while dropping to only 20 percentile points in the spring 2010 semester. Further, all nine indicator means were at the 70th percentile or higher in the spring 2010 semester, the first time in eight semesters in which this occurred. This performance was exceeded in the spring 2012 semester, in which all indicator means were at the 71st percentile or higher. We rated this level of performance as exceeding expectations. Faculty members in each functional area review the results and discuss whether curriculum changes are warranted, “closing the loop” and completing our assessment process. Overall, we are satisfied with the performance of our students on this external assessment of their business knowledge and technical skills, and we would rate our students as meeting or exceeding expectations.

                          ETS Major Field Test Mean Scores for Nine Content Areas


Internship Assessment (Undergraduate)

Student learning outcomes assessment related to program-specific outcomes for undergraduate students also are assessed when students complete the mandatory internship or formal work experience requirement. When a student registers for an internship, he or she must select at least three or four outcomes relevant to the type of internship, and the internship supervisor confirms that the student will be able to accomplish the outcomes. Upon completion of the internship or work experience, the COBE internship coordinator evaluates the extent to which the student accomplished each of the selected outcomes. In addition, beginning in the fall 2010 semester (including internships completed during summer 2010), the internship supervisor (the student’s employer) completes and submits an evaluation of the student’s performance on several of the College outcome areas. Having an external assessment of student performance in real work situations is tremendously appealing, as it represents an authentic assessment of student learning outcomes.

Beginning with the summer 2010 semester, the employer survey was administered via either an online survey or a hard-copy questionnaire. The employer survey, completed by the student’s internship supervisor (employer), enables the supervisor to evaluate the intern’s performance in five of the seven student learning outcome content areas, including communication skills, leadership and teamwork, business knowledge and technical skills, ethics and analytical and quantitative skills. Results from the first survey (summer and fall 2010) are provided in the following graphs. In general, we are very pleased with the strong performance displayed by our students during their internships. In all areas, the great majority of students are evaluated as either accomplished or proficient, the top two categories. This reinforces the anecdotal evidence received informally from our internship employers, who have been very complimentary about our students’ preparation, ability and motivation.


      Results from Internship Supervisor Survey – Ethics



     Results from Internship Supervisor Survey – Business Knowledge

 Business Knowledge

     Results from Internship Supervisor Survey – Communication 



     Results from Internship Supervisor Survey – Leadership/Teamwork



     Results from Internship Supervisor Survey – Analytical/Quantitative



 We believe that this approach for assessing student learning outcomes in internships represents an innovative, best-in-class assessment that enables us to gain valuable feedback from one of our key stakeholders, employers. Participation in internships enables students to demonstrate their competency in a real world business setting. Because the internship process is formal and structured, and because we require this feedback of all internship employers, we feel that this assessment feedback is more accurate and complete than would be a similar assessment of employers of our graduates. As we continue to employ this approach during the coming years, we will closely monitor our students’ performance and use this data to inform future curriculum design.

 Eagle Investment Group Investment Performance (Undergraduate)

The Eagle Investment Group (EIG) manages three separate portfolios totaling approximately one million dollars of the Ashland University endowment. The objective (and primary student learning outcome) of the group is to earn a reasonable rate of return relative to the economic conditions while following ethical principles and maintaining an appropriate level of diversification in the portfolio. An excellent authentic assessment of student learning outcomes is provided by the performance of the EIG group’s portfolios relative to the major market indices. The EIG group provides information on their achievement to the public by publishing an annual report. The EIG portfolios have outperformed the Dow Jones and S&P indices for eight of the past ten years. A summary of the results is shown the following table and graph. Although the high level of performance by Eagle Investment Group students did not suggest any specific changes, the performance of the Eagle group in 2009 led to a specific change in the way the Eagle group handles the summer transition between spring and fall semesters, as well as providing a “teachable moment”. The 2009 Annual Report of The Eagle Investment Group describes the situation as follows:

"In 2009 … market volatility and uncertainty of the effects of government bailouts sent many investors running for very conservative investments including members of the Eagle Investment Group. After some well-evaluated investments posted negative returns for the group at the beginning of the year, the class of 2009 developed a very conservative bond ladder strategy. With this still in effect, and the inactivity of managing the portfolio during the summer, the group missed out on the summer run-up of about 30%. We have addressed this omission to make sure that the incoming class is vigilant about the markets and the portfolios.” (p.6)

When the next group of students took over the portfolio in August 2009, the investment strategy changed significantly, as students disbanded the bond ladder, generated cash and reinvested the cash into stocks using a new strategy. As a result of the changes, the EIG outperformed the market indices in 2010. Although the EIG underperformed relative to both market indices in 2011, the historical performance as well as the qualitative assessment of the instructor that this consistently strong financial performance was achieved while following ethical principles and providing sufficient diversification in the portfolios lead us to characterize overall performance as consistently exceeding expectations.

                        Eagle Investment Group Portfolio Performance vs. Market Indices 
























Dow Jones











S&P 500












Eagle Investment Group Portfolio Performance vs. Market Indices (Graph)

Portfolio Performance


CPA Exam Pass Rates (Undergraduate)

The Accounting program at Ashland University views performance on the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) exam as a critical external assessment of the quality of the accounting education it provides. Ashland University subscribes to the Candidate Performance reports provided by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) to determine its students’ performance and to obtain benchmarking data for performance comparison. Two benchmarks are reported here: the national pass rate and the pass rate for graduates of all schools in Ohio. The following table shows the Ashland University student pass rate as compared with the national and Ohio averages for a three year period. All statistics for Ashland University are for first-time exam takers, and include only students who have a baccalaureate degree. The Ohio and national averages include both first-time and repeat takers, and also include candidates with graduate degrees as well as baccalaureate degrees.

                                                             CPA Exam Pass Rates
                                  Ashland University vs. National and Ohio Averages 





Ashland University












In two of the three years presented (2009 and 2011), Ashland University students outperformed both Ohio and national exam-takers. In 2010, AU students had a pass rate below that of the two benchmarks. Performance in 2011 was particularly strong, with the AU pass rate over twelve percentage points higher than the national pass rate. We view this performance to be strong evidence of the high quality of our undergraduate accounting offerings.


Information presented in this summary of Student Learning Outcomes Assessment at the Dauch College of Business & Economics at Ashland University is collected by the College in order to provide feedback to students and to inform program change as part of our strategy of continuous program improvement. This page was last updated on August 29, 2013 by Dr. Raymond Jacobs, Associate Dean and COBE Assessment Coordinator.