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Assessment of Student Learning

 

Assessment of Student Learning.

Introduction
As stated in the Union County College Academic Affairs Handbook, the process of assessment helps determine whether students are learning what faculty think they are teaching. The results of assessment enable faculty to make changes to curriculum/instruction in order to improve student learning.

Assessment involves identifying learning outcomes, creating and implementing the tools used for assessment, and making changes to improve teaching and learning based on assessment data. Assessment is both a professional responsibility and an obligation. As the accrediting body for Union County College, Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) requires documentation to show that outcomes are being met and evidence that a “Culture of Assessment” exists at the institution. The process of assessment allows faculty, as experts in their discipline, to take ownership of this process and fulfill these requirements.

All required forms, existing program plans and results are posted on the Learning Outcomes Assessment team site located on Owl’s Nest. Assessment of General Education and key courses identified in Program Assessment Plans should be conducted on a per-semester basis. Results, including a summary of data, proposed changes, and a reassessment of the effectiveness of earlier changes (Closing the Loop) should be discussed among appropriate faculty and posted on the team site no later than May 31.

Program assessment should include the following:
  • Regular review of program learning outcomes
  • Program Assessment Plan
  • Mapping PLOs to CLOs
  • Program Results: Closing the Loop
Course assessment should include the following:
  • Regular review of course learning outcomes
  • Course Closing the Loop (for General Education courses and courses identified as part of a program assessment plan)
  • Assessment CLOs by individual faculty
The “Culture of Assessment” involves:
  • Identifying the Program/Course learning outcomes
  • Identifying the tools used for assessment
  • Identifying the change(s) made to the instruction/curriculum to improve teaching/learning based on data
  • Documenting the evidence gathered indicating the effect thechanges may or may not have had on student learning

What is assessment?
Generally speaking, assessment is:

establishing outcomes and engaging in a systematic, ongoing process of collecting and analyzing data, making evidence-based changes to instruction/curriculum, and reassessing (aka “closing the loop”) to prove whether or not those changes were effective; generating data that is meant to ensure that students are learning as effectively as possible; a way to help us improve the programs and courses we provide to students.

Data is the evidence that allows us to check the effectiveness of what we do and how we do it. It also helps us demonstrate how our programs, courses, and learning activities: 
  • support student learning,
  • promote student success,
  • enhance the institutional priorities and missions of the College and the Divisions.
Purpose of Assessment
A sustainable and continuous cycle is essential for effective assessment as the results determine not only the quality of program/course offerings, but what students learn as a result of successfully completing an academic program or course.
 
Additional purposes of assessment include:
 
  • Improve - assessment provides feedback to determine how academic programs/courses/learning opportunities can be improved
  • Inform - assessment informs decision-makers of the contributions and impact a program/course has in fostering student success
  • Prove - assessment should be transparent to demonstrate to students, faculty, staff, and other stakeholders what the program is accomplishing through student learning
  • Support - assessment provides support for campus decision-making activities such as strategic planning, resource allocation, as well as external accountability activities such as accreditation
Assessment is directly and inseparably linked to teaching and learning, serving as both a professional responsibility and an obligation. As faculty are the content experts in their disciplines, the process of assessment allows faculty to take ownership of this process and to help fulfill the College’s accreditation requirements with MSCHE.

1
Adapted from The “Why,” “What,” and “How” of Performance Measurement, (Terrell, J.D., 1999)
 

Benefits of Assessment



Both students and faculty benefit from assessment. A process that helps students focus on where and on how to best utilize their time and energy, assessment helps to empower them to become responsible for their own learning.  Through being given multiple opportunities to achieve the desired outcomes, student learning will improve.  In addition, as a result of assessment, faculty will be able to obtain useful feedback that can be used to improve courses and programs. More importantly, faculty will have the occasion to collaborate with colleagues both within their divisions and with other disciplines.

Academic Assessment
As previously mentioned, academic assessment is comprised of General Education Assessment, Program/Course Assessment, and five-year Program Reviews.

1. General Education Assessment
Assessed at institutional and course levels, General Education is measured through General Education Learning Outcomes (Institutional Learning Outcomes), program learning outcomes, and course learning outcomes. They are also assessed through standardized testing of students using the ETS Proficiency Profile and through course-specific assessment in ENG 101 and 102, HIS 101 and 102, PSY 101, and, and MAT 119. This course-specific assessment must be documented in the Course Assessment: Closing the Loop form (Appendix A).

Defined as the skills and abilities with which every student graduates, General Education Learning

 

2. Program Learning Outcome Assessment
Program Assessment is a five-step continuous cycle that can be done on a yearly or a semesterly basis.


 

It is important to remember that faculty members have choice and flexibility when choosing the methods through which they will conduct program assessment. Some methods of assessment include:

  • Key courses
  • Capstone experiences
  • Standardized exams
  • Portfolios
  • Other approaches selected by faculty
Required Documentation and Uploading
There are three (3) components to the documentation of program assessment, which requires the following.
 
  1. Program Assessment Plan
  2. Mapping PLOs to CLOs
  3. Program Results: Closing the Loop

Once assessment forms are completed, they must be uploaded to the Learning Outcomes Assessment Team Site on Owl’s Nest (http://owlsnest.ucc.edu/depts/LOA/Shared%20Documents/Forms/AllItems.aspx).  Examples of completed assessment forms can be found in that repository.

Writing Learning Outcomes
Generally, the information in a learning outcome should be as specific as possible and measure a BEHAVIOR as opposed to a thought or a belief. Double-barreled outcomes (i.e., if the outcome has an “and” in it), should generally be split into two outcomes. This will make it easier to report results (how would you report your progress if one part of the outcome was achieved, but not the other?).

A good way to start thinking about learning outcomes is to ask yourself:

How will I know that students know/are able to do…?

As a result of program assessment, it may be decided that a program learning outcome or a course learning outcome may need to be changed completely, or simply refined, to make it easier to assess. Below are some examples of refined learning outcomes.

 As a result of program assessment, it may be decided that a program learning outcome or a course learning outcome may need to be changed completely, or simply refined, to make it easier to assess. Below are some examples of refined learning outcomes. 
 
  • Students will understand the biological problems caused by human misuse of the environment.
  • Students will be able to discuss the biological problems caused by human misuse of the environment.
  • Students will appreciate cultural differences in society.
  • Students will be able to summarize cultural differences in society.
  • Upon successful completion of the course, students will know about global market trends.
  • Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to analyze global market trends.

Bloom’s Taxonomy – the classification of levels of the cognitive process – is a helpful tool when writing learning outcomes. It is important to have outcomes reflect the level of thinking that is being measured through the assessment method and learning activity. For more specific verbs, see Bloom’s Taxonomy.
completion of the following forms:

Using Canvas for Assessment
Learning management systems can ease assessment by generating reports, mapping PLOs and CLOs, and aligning results with General Education Learning Outcomes (Institutional Learning Outcomes). See the “Faculty Lounge” video tutorials in Canvas on mapping course learning outcomes.

Additional Resources
1. Bloom’s Taxonomy
    http://www.bloomstaxonomy.org/Blooms%20Taxonomy%20questions.pdf
2. Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP)/Tuning Project
    http://degreeprofile.org/
3. National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA)
    http://www.learningoutcomesassessment.org/

1Adapted from The “Why,” “What,” and “How” of Performance Measurement, (Terrell, J.D., 1999)

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