NCPI's Research Agenda

NCPI's research agenda is designed and conducted by a team of renowned researchers and policy analysts committed to examining and improving teaching, learning and reorganization efforts within and across postsecondary institutions. The research is organized into six broad project areas, each pursuing a substantive set of issues and employing a wide range of quantitative and qualitative methods, such as surveys, case studies, and focus groups.

Project Area One
Postsecondary Organizational Improvement: Restructuring and Beyond

Project Area One examines the nature of campus and state restructuring initiatives through historical case studies and analyses of national databases. The project focuses on how a variety of institutions are adapting to changing environmental demands that increasingly raise profound questions about the structure and functions of postsecondary education. This project analyzes how campuses and state systems have responded to demands for access, accountability and cost containment, as well as how campuses and state systems have handled tensions in academic program change and governance in a way that is consonant with their missions. Throughout the research activities, theories of adaptation will be examined alongside a number of organizational improvement efforts.

Project Area One provides a conceptual framework for a number of the Center's research activities, and at its conclusion, will present alternatives for the redesign of core academic and administrative processes in light of external demands that call upon institutions at all levels to examine the outcomes they produce and to justify the resources required to produce them.

Project Area One is led by Patricia Gumport, executive director of NCPI, and associate professor of education at Stanford University.

Project Area Two
Transition in Education and Work

Given changing economic and workforce demands, this project area asks how students transitions between school and work can be improved as well as how more effective linkages between educational institutions and employing organizations can be realized. By examining the flow of young people through various institutional settings, the problems they face when moving from school to work, and the ways in which they respond to signals from the labor market, this project area will inform initiatives that can ensure effective system-building among postsecondary institutions and the world of work.

The project area is led by Professor Peter Cappelli, chairman of the Department of Management at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and co-director of the Center for Human Resources, and will draw on the expertise of several noted policy analysts.

Under Cappelli's leadership, the research activities in this project area draw on broad-scale survey data of employers and employees, in addition to data that map student's non-linear paths through educational and labor market settings.

Project Area Three
Postsecondary Achievement and Employment Outcomes

Project Area Three's primary goal is to quantify the academic- and employment -related outcomes of an individual students postsecondary education. Through data collected at the individual and institutional levels, the project tracks the paths of students as they progress through a college or university. It will then relate their experiences-the nature of the institution attended, curriculum taken, co-curricular activities, enrollment patterns, financing issues, and work experiences-to their overall academic achievement and later employment. This action will result in the development of a "tool kit" that will provide institutions with a set of benchmarks against which to measure their own students performance. Adjunct activities will investigate the effects of "college quality" on a student's future, focusing in particular on community colleges, which have been significantly understudied.

The research team is led by Robert Zemsky, professor of education and director of the Institute for Research on Higher Education at the University of Pennsylvania.

Project Area Four
Professional Development to Enhance Teaching and Learning

As a means of improving teaching and learning, this project area investigates the effectiveness of a number of professional development initiatives within different postsecondary institutional settings.

Under the leadership of Lee Shulman, Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford, and in conjunction with Henry Levin, David Jacks Professor of Higher Education and the Economy at Stanford, the projects research activities draw on several innovative teacher development strategies that have been successful in the K-12 school arena, including Shulman's work in promoting improved content-specific pedagogy through professional development initiatives that create a more explicit culture of teaching, and Levin's highly acclaimed Accelerated Schools Program, a national model for improving learning performance of at-risk students.

Project Area Five
Student Learning and Assessment

Project Area Five examines the effectiveness of assessment mechanisms for improving student learning from three distinct vantage point-from outside the institution through state policy and accreditation practices, from within the institution as it seeks to respond to change, and from the perspective of faculty and students, whose lives are affected by the shifting composition and preparedness of the nations student population.

Led by Michael Nettles, professor of education and public policy at the University of Michigan's Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education (CSHPE), the team of researchers includes Eric Dey, Sylvia Hurtado and Marvin Peterson, all faculty at the University of Michigan School of Education.

The aim of their research activities is to uncover incongruencies across state, campus and individual levels and to develop recommendations for improving student learning and instructional quality.

Project Area Six
Improving Quality, Productivity and Efficiency

The focus of Project Area Six is the internal dynamics of postsecondary institutions and how to best transform their processes to improve quality, productivity and efficiency. The project applies quality process concepts to postsecondary education, examines the potential of information technology as an enabler of change, and explores other approaches to achieving quality assurance and accountability within the context of cost containment.

The project area is led by William Massy, professor emeritus at Stanford University and president of the Jackson Hole Higher Education Group. The research team is collaborating with professional organizations including the American Productivity and Quality Center to benchmark best practices for improving quality while containing costs in the academic and support areas of college and university operations.

National Surveys

In collaboration with the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE), Robert Zemsky and Peter Cappelli will oversee the administration of three national surveys conducted with the Bureau of the Census:

  1. The National Employer Survey, which will ask employers detailed questions about their workforces education and training;

  2. The National Employee Survey, which will assemble a sample of workers drawn from establishments participating in the Employer Survey;

  3. The National Survey of Heads of Households Aged 35-55, which will include the experiences of students' parents.

These surveys aim to capture the employment outcomes associated with postsecondary education as well as the value and utility that employers, employees, students, and parents attach to schools, colleges, universities, and other training and education providers. The survey results will be used in advancing research in several project areas, including Transition in Education and Work and Postsecondary Achievement and Employment Outcomes.

Dissemination & Outreach

NCPI disseminates its research to a broad array of stakeholders including students, parents, faculty, administrators, employers, funders and policy-makers. In collaboration with OERI and other organizations, NCPI conducts seminars, focus groups and conferences in which interested academics, policy audiences and constituencies assist the Center in exploring salient issues. NCPI utilizes a variety of mechanisms to enable access to its research, including print publications and an Internet website which allows users to download information and communicate with NCPI researchers and staff.

NCPI Executive Committee

Peter Cappelli

University of Pennsylvania

Patricia Gumport

Stanford University

William Massy

Stanford University

Michael Nettles

University of Michigan

Richard Shavelson

Stanford University

Lee Shulman

Stanford University

Robert Zemsky

University of Pennsylvania

NCPI Board of Senior Scholars

David Breneman

University of Virginia

Ellen Earle Chaffee

Mayville State University, Valley City State University

Burton Clark

University of California-Los Angeles

James Duderstadt

University of Michigan

Bernadine Chuck Fong

Foothill College

David Gardner

Hewlett Foundation

Bruce Johnstone

State University of New York-Buffalo

Richard Lyman

Stanford University

James March

Stanford University

Michael McPherson

Macalester College

Yolanda Moses

The City College of New York

Condoleezza Rice

Stanford University

Neil Smelser

Center for Advanced Study of the Behavioral Sciences,
Stanford University

Blenda Wilson

Cal. State University-Northridge

For More Information

Patricia Gumport
Christopher Roe



Executive Director and Principal Investigator
Associate Director

National Center for Postsecondary Improvement
School of Education
520 Galvez Mall
Stanford University
Stanford, CA 94305-3084


The work reported herein is supported under the Educational Research and Development Center program, agreement number R309A60001, CFDA 84.309A, as administered by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI), U.S. Department of Education. The findings and opinions expressed in this web site do not reflect the position or policies of OERI or the U.S. Department of Education.