If all goes well, more than 4,000 students are headed toward graduation at UNM this spring. But if you are a senior how do you know you have the critical analytical skills employers say they are looking for? The Office of the Provost is offering a way to prove it.

The Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA+) is a test. Not the fill-in-the-correct-bubble kind of test. This test assesses how well a student puts together an argument and supports a position. Test results, which are delivered individually to students, give them a good sense of how their critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills compare to students from other institutions. The collective test results give the university a way to assess how UNM graduates compare to graduates of 300 other universities.  

“We are finding that more students are using it as part of the information they submit to future employers,” UNM Outcomes Assessment Planning Manager Tom Root said. “The feedback students get pinpoints their strengths and weaknesses.  It’s hard to convince seniors they need to take another test, but there is a concrete benefit from this one.”

This week nearly 1,200 UNM seniors will get an email from the Office of the Provost asking them to take the test and Root is hoping many will say yes.

There are incentives including:

** A one week free parking pass, good for all zones
** Three official transcripts
** A UNM T-shirt
** Lobowear discount coupon
** A UNM food service discount coupon

Additionally, all participants are entered in a raffle.  The prizes include

** Two complete graduation packages with cap and gown, announcements and framed diploma
** Two round trip air fare vouchers worth $550 each
** One Samsung Galaxy Tab-2
** Ten $50 Lobo gift cards
** Forty $20 Starbucks gift cards

Comprehensive Learning Assessment
The Higher Learning Commission, the accreditation entity that examines UNM’s academic and learning environment, pushes universities to commit to a assessment and improvement of student learning. In this case the university is willing to test incoming freshmen and outgoing seniors to determine whether they actually acquired critical thinking, analytical reasoning and writing competence during their time at UNM.  Random samples of freshmen and seniors are tested.  The tests are not part of the student’s grade point average and are voluntary.  Freshmen are tested in the fall, seniors in the spring. 

The tests allow universities to see how students handle themselves when they are asked to construct and support an argument, a skill they will need in any area of endeavor. UNM gave the test in 2009-10 and in 2010-2011. Those test results, which show UNM students did very well in comparisons, are available online. Students will be able to sign up for the test here.