Measurement and Segmentation of College Students' Noncognitive Attributes: A Targeted Review

Publisher: Oakland, CA: Mathematica Policy Research
Sep 05, 2014
Ann E. Person, Scott E. Baumgartner, Kristin Hallgren, and Betsy Santos

Key findings from the review of published and unpublished materials, as well as input from expert researchers and practitioners, include the following:

  • Many instruments are available to postsecondary institutions, but most research reporting findings from noncognitive assessment and segmentation approaches has been theoretical in nature, not applied to college practice.
  • There is some convergence in the literature and among expert opinions regarding a limited number of key noncognitive attributes that matter for students’ success, and multiple instruments are available to measure these attributes.
  • Finally, we found no example of published research that describes how colleges used segmentation to improve students’ success; however, authors do hypothesize about the potential applications of their research, and experts interviewed for the study agree that such approaches have promise for segmenting students to improve postsecondary success. 

This report presents findings from a targeted document review and expert interviews conducted as part of the Student Segmentation Initiative, which was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Postsecondary Success strategy. The review addresses three questions relevant to the initiative: (1) What instruments and measures are available to assess postsecondary students’ noncognitive attributes? (2) To what extent are these instruments used to classify or segment student populations? (3) How have institutions used these instruments and classification systems to improve student success?