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.
- Inferential risk
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