How risky are one-shot cross-sectional assessments of undergraduate students?

Alexander W. Astin, Jenny J. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to explore the extent of possible input bias associated with the rapidly growing use by colleges and universities of one-time cross-sectional assessments of students. The results presented in this study demonstrate that cross-sectional assessments of enrolled college students are very difficult to interpret because they inevitably reflect characteristics of the same students when they first entered college. For those forms of engagement that have to do with how students allocate their time, it appears that the majority of variation among institutions is attributable to entering freshman characteristics rather than to institutional policies or practices. Thus, rather than relying solely on student outcome data, institutions should ideally also collect pretest or input information from the same students when they first matriculate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)657-672
Number of pages16
JournalResearch in Higher Education
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2003


  • Assessment
  • Cross-sectional
  • Inferential risk
  • Longitudinal
  • Outcomes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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