Queen's Learning Outcomes Assessment

Learning Outcomes Project
Learning Outcomes Project

Cognitive Assessment Redesign (CAR) Project

The Cognitive Assessment Redesign (CAR) project is an institution-wide, network based research project focused on the development and assessment of cognitive skills in undergraduate classes. The CAR project aligns well with Queen’s Academic Plan, which emphasizes the development of fundamental academic skills. The project is funded by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) as part of a consortium of three universities (including University of Guelph and University of Toronto) and four colleges.

The CAR project focuses on the following three cognitive skills:  

  • critical thinking
  • problem solving
  • creative thinking

These are being assessed in first and fourth year classes to investigate the "value-add" of student learning. A triangulated approach (see Figure 1) will be used as students skills will be assessed through course assessments, standardized rubrics (VALUE rubrics - Association of American Colleges and Universities), and a standardized test (HEIghten™ - Educational Testing System).

Research Questions

  1. What instructional processes and in-class assessment practices are most effective when assessing cognitive skills? 
  2. In what ways does the CAR network (Figure 2) support the development and assessment of cognitive skills in undergraduate education?
  3. What is the correlation between course assessments, VALUE ratings and HEIghten™ test scores? 
  4. What is the "value-add" in a Queen's University undergraduate degree (the difference between the demonstration of cognitive skills in first and in fourth year)?
  5. How effective is the CAR network model at propagating change in assessment practices at Queen's University? 

Figure 1: The triangulated approach uses course assessments aligned to standardized VALUE rubrics from the AAC&U, as well as the standardized HEIghten™ test from the ETS to assess the development of students' cognitive skills from first to fourth year at Queen's University. 

Graphic displaying the triangulation approach. 1st and 4th year "authentic" assessments are developed and marked by course instructors/ teaching assistants. Course assignments are aligned with standardized VALUE rubrics. The standardized HEIghten test is used in order to correlate and validate results.



Project Goals
  • to support faculty and build departmental capacity; 
  • to support instructors to develop course-based assessments that align with cognitive skills; 
  • to investigate the reliability of course-based outcomes with selective testing;
  • to report the value-add between first and fourth year cognitive skills achievement across the institution; and
  • to develop an institutional guide for sustained and long-term institutional assessment of cognitive skills 

Figure 2: Visual representation of the CAR network.  The assessment facilitator is the center around which the exchange of information and expertise (for teaching and assessment activities) radiates.

Graphic displaying the network. The research coordinator communicates with assessment facilitators. These facilitators communicate with course instructors from 1st and 4th year courses in their subject area. The project is supported by the Centre for Teaching and Learning.