Assessment of learning outcomes is a university priority. Our effectiveness as an educational institution depends on the instruments we use to determine whether or not our students are learning the skills we think we are teaching them. Departments should view assessment as an opportunity to determine more accurately how effective our curriculum is and to make improvements either to it or to student-related departmental culture. Effective assessment projects do not need to take on everything in an academic program at once, nor do interventions need to be onerous. Good assessment plans are focused on a limited number of elements at each stage and provide "feedback loops" that can be invaluable in determining where you can best and most efficiently effect improvement in your department.
Department Chairs play a crucial leadership role in ensuring that there is good faculty buy-in to outcomes assessment, which is first and foremost a tool for program improvement.
Outcomes assessment IS:
- A tool for program improvement.
- A tool for clarifying program goals and objectives for students.
- A means by which we may demonstrate accountability to publics external to the University
Outcomes assessment is NOT:
- An evaluation of an individual course
- An evaluation of an individual instructor
- An evaluation of individual students
How is outcomes assessment done?
- Faculty in a program set out the knowledge, skills and dispositions they expect a student completing the program to possess. In other words, how does your program define a successful student?
- A good assessment uses more than one type of measure: Direct measures, e.g. samples of student work, pass rates on licensure examinations, portfolios; Indirect measures, e.g. student-self assessment of their learning, retention or graduation rates, course or assignment grades. Faculty examine the evidence at key points in the curriculum to see if students are achieving the learning outcomes;
- Typically units design rubrics to use in evaluating student work.
Where are we now?
- Since 2009-2010, departments have been asked to create outcomes assessment protocols at the time of their AQUAD reviews. (Note: in some departments, only certain programs go through AQUAD rather than the department as a whole.)
- All undergraduate and graduate degrees that are not nationally accredited will create assessment protocols as their AQUAD occurs.
- After the protocol has been created, it will be implemented in subsequent years, and the information will be used by program faculty to improve their offerings
- For General Education, the University has received a grant through the Vision Project that will allow us to work on outcomes assessment for main features of the General Education Program.
- The Provost has appointed a University Assessment Council whose charge is to advise the Provost on the design and implementation of undergraduate learning outcomes assessment with particular attention to university-wide reviews.
- The Faculty Council has appointed an Assessment Sub-Committee of the Academic Affairs Committee. Its charge is to provide faculty feedback on proposed assessment policies and procedures.
What comes next?
- Departments that have gone through AQUAD will be implementing their assessment protocols this spring/summer.
- As new departments go through AQUAD, they will articulate their learning goals for students and assessment protocols.
- The Assessment Council will be submitting a series of recommendations to the Provost in fall 2013.