Electronic Network Update

Project 2: Assessment of Student Learning in Programs

1. Describe the accomplishments you made in the past six months and the current status of each of your Student Learning Projects. (100-200 words)  

  • An Academy mentor (Elaine Klein) came to our campus in May to facilitate a “train the trainers” workshop.
    We developed a plan to train assessment peer consultants. This fall we did more detailed planning. We have written a rough draft of a curriculum,
    are developing a toolkit for consultants, and have begun taking applications for January's training sessions.
  • We initiated an assessment grant competition with criteria written to support the tasks identifiedin our project. The funds will support at least 15 projects.
  • Last Spring we drafted an annual report template and assessment plan definition that the Faculty Senate approved for use on a pilot basis.
    Consequently, last year’s information about program assessment was incomplete and of uneven quality. This fall we revised the template based
    upon faculty suggestions, but the Senate voted it down again. We will encourage but cannot require programs to use the templates.
  • We set very ambitious goals and are behind where we had hoped to be. The peer consulting program and the assessment grants will help us meet our goals.
  • We laid the groundwork for the January workshops with Barbara Walvoord with several workshops.

2. What are your next steps towards realizing the results for each of these Student Learning Projects? For example, who will do what, when? (100-200 words)

Next Steps When? Who has primary responsibility?
Barbara Walvoord workshops January 14 and 15, 2008 Assessment office and Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning
Construct handbook and peer consultant toolkit January 2008 Assessment office and a subcommittee of the Assessment Steering Committee
Conduct assessment peer consultant training January 28 and 29, 2008 Five core trainers and three specialized trainers from Assessment Steering Committee
Provide consulting assistance to programs Spring 2008 Assessment office coordinates and consultants provide the assistance
Publish a newsletter Spring 2008 Assessment office
Encourage programs to post assessment plansonline Spring 2008 Assessment Steering Committee
Encourage use of the annual report template Spring 2008 Assessment office and college assessment directors
Reorganize and update the Assessment website Spring 2008 Assessment office
Implement assessment grants Spring 2008 Grant recipients and Assessment Steering Committee
Conduct assessment workshops April 2008, August 2008 Members of the Assessment Steering Committee and other faculty members and staff

3a. Describe any "effective practice(s)" that resulted from your work on assessing student learning.
3b. What makes this an “effective practice” at your institution? Specifically, we are asking you to contextualize the “effective practice” so others will understand why it was successful. This will help others decide if and how these practices could be customized to meet their own specific needs.

3. a. Practice 3.b. What makes this an effective practice?
Annual report template It has had a good response from those who have used it. We have improved it based upon faculty suggestions. It requests only the information needed for use by the institution (for strategic planning and assessment of assessment) or by the program (for improvement of student learning).
Assessment luncheon This brings together people from across the campus to talk about assessment. The luncheon provides the Assessment Steering Committee with feedback and direction, as well as an opportunity to inform the campus about current initiatives.
Assessment peer consultant training The application deadline is several weeks away, but we have already received many more applications than we anticipated. The peer consulting program will expand assessment capacity in the institution and will help to build facultysupport for assessmentover time.
SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) exercise used in assessment peer consultant training Thisgenerated positive feedback when used in a workshop at a national disciplinary conference. It focuses on assessment problems with which participants are familiar and that they regard as important.
Significant workshop presence on campus faculty development days Sessions have been relatively well-attended. They provide an opportunity for faculty to communicate and network across disciplines on matters related to program assessment
PowerPoint on student learning outcomes used for campus workshops Programs have found it useful, because it is fairly comprehensive. It suggests multiple avenues for improvement.

4. How has this project engaged stakeholders (e.g., faculty, administrators, staff, students) in assessing and improving student learning?

Activity Engagement of Stakeholders
Walvoord workshops on assessment, grading, and general education. Barbara Walvoord will be the keynote speaker and will offer three workshops at our annual January Workshop days.  We expect at least 200 to attend, and we will provide copies of Walvoord’s book, Assessment Clear and Simple, to those who attend any of the workshops.
“Train the Trainers” workshop (initial planning for peer consultant training) This was attended by 20 persons from varied backgrounds, including the Faculty Association president, several administrators, two former University Assessment Directors, one person from student services, and faculty members from all colleges.
Assessment peer consulting program This will enhance the skills of the peer consultants. Programs may request consultant assistance with any aspect of assessment. In the few days since theannouncement, we have received24 requests for applications and 9 completed applications. Note: the application due date is November 27.
Assessment luncheon This builds commitment among those who already are involved in assessment in some capacity. It also facilitates communication between the Assessment Steering Committee and others across the campus.
University Assessment Director Presentation to Academic Affairs Council This group includes deans and other Academic Affairs administrators. The presentation promoted awareness of our Academy projects and requested assistance in generating faculty involvement.
Assessment workshops on professional improvement days (topics have included student learning outcomes, closing the loop, upper division writing, the report template, and peer consultant training) They provide a venue for discussing assessment-related problems, for disseminating best practices, and for brainstorming ways to improve assessment practices.  Ratings on feedback forms collected from participants have been consistently high. 
Faculty Senate approval process This provided an opportunity to engage faculty members on a broad scale. Although our efforts have not been totally successful, they have created greater awareness of our Academy projects among the faculty, and they probably have contributed to a modest increase in faculty support for assessment.
$30,000 funding for assessment grants from the Provost and from the Dean of Continuing Studies This demonstrates support for our student learning project at an administrative level. The grant criteria are based closely on our project on "Assessment of Student Learning in Programs." In the few days since therequest for proposals, 13 faculty/staff have requestedapplications. Note: the application due date is November 27.
Task Force on Upper Division Writing This task force reviewed assessment criteria for the Upper Division Writing requirement, which all major programs must provide. The task force dealt with program-level assessment and had an impact across the institution. Four of the nine members of the task forces were on the Assessment Steering Committee.
Implementation of assessment of student learning in student services The fourteen departments of Student Life and Development have created and are measuring student learning outcomes. They have also created cards for students that explain the student learning outcomes in their respective areas.  Efforts are underway to connect these outcomes to academic learning outcomes as well.

5. What has been the impact of your Academy work on the institution, faculty and staff, students, learning and teaching, the culture...etc.?

It has generated a buzz among the faculty. For example, in response to an item on a questionnairedistributed at our luncheon last fall, 100% agreed that interest in and awareness of assessment is increasing at our institution (48 respondents). Also, the response to our request for participants in assessment peer consultant training has exceeded our expectations.

6. What challenges are you still facing in regards to assessing and improving student learning?Departments and programs are realizing that not only is assessment “politically” important but that they and their students can benefit from the process. 

Improvements need to be made as follows:

  • Increasing the percentage of programs that use the template for completing their annual reports
  • Making the report template useful for all accredited programs
  • Increasing the percentage of programs that have completed their assessment plans and posted them online
  • Promoting program level discussions of assessment among the faculty
  • Documenting improvements that result from assessment
  • Providing constructive feedback to programs that will help them improve
  • Preserving program-level control over assessment, while generating data needed for institutional decisions
  • Generating increased commitment to assessment among the faculty
  • Clarifying the contributions of assessment work to teaching effectiveness and scholarship, and ensuring that these contributions are properly
    rewarded in the faculty evaluation process
  • Ensuring consistentresources to support assessment—such as ongoing funding for assessment grants and compensation for teams of
    general education faculty engaged in time-consuming summer assessment projects

7. If you need specific help to stimulate progress on this action project, explain your need(s) and who to contact?

If you can provide any help with these problems, please contact Jim Sherohman.

  1. More faculty buy-in is needed to approach our targets for the project, but we are limited by what we can do to speed up this process. Among the underlying issues are time/workload, faculty ownership of data, the lack of an institutionalized mechanism for program level discussions about assessment, and a sporadic history of support for assessment. (Perhaps we also need to scale back our expectations, but that is another issue.)
  2. Coordinating institutional, HLC-based assessment policies with assessment policies for specialized or professional accrediting bodies (NCATE, AACSB, ABET, etc.). We are making some progress but are extremely interested in how other institutions are handling this issue. This affects two of our five colleges most strongly (Business and Education). Faculty members in those collegeshave an increased workload related to accreditation-related assessment.
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