Assessment Frequently Asked QuestionsOutcomes Assessment Approach
Outcomes Assessment Process
Common Concerns about Outcomes Assessment
Clarifying Assessment Terms
Faculty should work collaboratively to determine which educational outcomes to assess in their programs/departments, how to evaluate the outcomes, and how to use the results for program development/improvement. All academic areas are expected to participate in assessment. Program effectiveness should be evaluated based on assessment data. Data must be collected and used to make data driven decisions and changes. This process should be routine, continuous, and performed regularly.
2. What is our approach to outcomes assessment?
We believe that the assessment process should be transparent and as manageable as possible. There are many different ways to approach assessment. Our primary emphasis focuses on assessment of student learning outcomes. Direct alignment between the learning outcomes for the institution and program/department then program/department with course outcomes will ensure that we are assessing effectively at all levels.
3. What are the key elements of the outcomes assessment process?
- Courses should have common student learning outcomes. Faculty should agree on the most important learning outcomes to be assessed during each cycle. This does not interfere with how faculty members choose to deliver course content to their students. They are expected to teach the same course outcomes and use a common assessment for outcomes assessment regardless of how the course is taught.
- The entire department/academic area participates. Assessment of student
learning should be important to all faculty. All faculty should participate in
the assessment activities and discussions related to the process.
- Embed assessment instruments into courses. The easiest way for faculty and students is to integrate the assessment instrument (assignment, exam, clinical evaluation, etc.) into the course rather than have an additional assignment that does not fit naturally into the course. By using course embedded assessments, faculty can use the actual work that students produce in their courses.
- Ensure consistency through common outcomes, common instruments, and common scoring.
An excellent way to have a manageable assessment process and to receive useful and reliable results is to have consistency across outcomes being assessed and the methods by which they are assessed.
1. What am I (the instructor) supposed to do?
Outcomes assessment should be faculty driven. PTC’s faculty should be involved in assessment.
- Conduct course assessments to drive student learning and direct instructional strategies to enhance student learning.
- Present and share ideas and strategies with colleagues and document information for accreditation purposes.
- Engage in outlining and carrying out department and/or program assessment and collaborating with colleagues to improve department and program outcomes.
- Contribute to the institution’s assessment endeavors through active participation and support.
2. What are the expectations and requirements?
- Alignment - Align program/department outcomes with the institution’s general education outcomes and ensure that your program/department outcomes align with course outcomes.
- Assessment - Select outcomes that will be assessed each year (Academic Assessment Committee will assist you). It is imperative that there is faculty consensus about the outcomes and the plan to assess them. The department chairs will help encourage this consensus.
- Common instrument and scoring - A common assessment instrument should be used and scored the same way for the purposes of the Outcomes Assessment project.
- Share outcomes with students – Make students aware early on in the course of the expected learning outcomes for the course and how their performance will be evaluated. If a rubric will be used to score the assessment, students should receive this before they participate in the assessment.
- Data collection process - All faculty members are expected to record, document, and share with each other and department chair.
- Use the information - The significance of outcomes assessment is “closing the loop.” Results should be used to improve the outcomes that were assessed. It is critical for departments/programs to discuss the results and use them to celebrate strengths and remediate weaknesses.
1. What is outcomes assessment?
Outcomes assessment is the process of collecting evidence that measures student performance (the “outcome”) and the extent to which your program achieves its intentions. The primary goal is to use assessment feedback for the continued improvement of student learning. Effective learning outcomes assessment includes: identifying the knowledge, skills, and attitudes students should have upon graduation; collecting and analyzing data to determine how students perform relative to these learning outcomes; and using the results to improve programs to provide stronger academic experiences for students.
2. What do I gain by doing assessment?
Through assessment, you find answers to questions about your curriculum and can determine if changes need to be made. Questions might include: Are students learning the skills that they need to be successful? How strong are student skills? Are we providing the best kind of activities or events? Answers to questions like these can help you make data-based decisions. Assessment provides both information you can use to strengthen your program and evidence of success you can share with others.
3. Who benefits from Outcomes Assessment?
Learning outcomes assessment has benefits for the entire institution. For students, it will communicate clear and transparent expectations about the important aspects in a course or program in and ensure that they master the material of their degree program. For faculty, assessments helps determine what’s working and what’s not in their courses or programs. It also provides powerful evidence that lead to curricula development, justify needed resources to maintain or improve programs, and share what students learn. Furthermore, it benefits the entire institution by providing documented evidence of student learning and achievement, validating that the institution is meeting its mission and goals.
4. Why are we doing this?
The Higher Learning Commission requires that all institutions have a systematic outcomes assessment process. General education is the heart of higher education. As understood by the Commission, general education is intended to impart common knowledge and intellectual concepts to students and to develop in them the skills and attitudes that an organization's faculty believe every educated person should possess. From an organization's general education, a student acquires a breadth of knowledge in the areas and proficiency in the skills that the organization identifies as hallmarks of being college educated. Moreover, effective general education helps students gain competence in the exercise of independent intellectual inquiry and also stimulates their examination and understanding of personal, social, and civic values (Higher Learning Commission Statement on General Education).
5. Who is responsible for assessment?
Assessment is a collaborative process that involves everyone. All faculty should be committed to helping students learn and to ensure that their learning experiences are quality.
6. Why aren’t grades enough?
Course grades are useful assessment tools and show student work for the course, often including attendance and class participation. There is a lot of inconsistency across sections and terms for grades to be considered valid for overall program assessment. Not all instructors who teach the same course assign final grades the same way (assignments, exams, weights, grading approach). So grades alone will provide very limited data on the degree to which students are meeting the proposed outcomes.
7. Does this process affect my academic freedom?
The assessment process does not interfere or violate the academic freedom of an instructor. Learning outcomes are developed collaboratively by all stakeholders at the institution, and faculty help determine if students are meeting the outcomes as well as use the information to make changes when needed. A common instrument used across sections of courses to assess core outcomes is a common requirement in higher education that is generally accepted by faculty as reasonable. This common instrument does not affect faculty’s freedom to deliver course content or how they grade their students.
8. Will assessment information be used to judge my performance as an instructor?
Assessment is used to evaluate the effectiveness of programs, courses, and services, not individuals.
9. Will this be more work for us?
Yes somewhat, but we are committed to making sure the assessment process is transparent and manageable. It should not interfere with a faculty member’s commitment to teaching. Faculty members will be asked to participate, contribute, and work collaboratively with other faculty in the assessment process. Faculty also will be involved in discussions about assessment and how to use data to make improvements.
10. Is this just another academic fad that will be gone in a couple of years?
No. All accredited higher education institutions across our country include the assessment of student learning outcomes as a priority.
11. Is this something that I will submit and never receive any feedback?
Assessment is a continuous process to improve courses, degrees, certificates, and programs. We are responsible for using the data to improve learning. Assessment data should be shared with colleagues to make changes. The Academic Assessment Committee will also provide feedback.
1. What is a program outcome?
Program outcomes are measurable knowledge, skills, or behaviors students are expected to gain or be able to demonstrate as a result of participating in the program.
2. What is the difference between a program goal and program outcome?
Goals are broad, general statements of what the program intends to accomplish and may include the program purpose/mission. Goals describe more a state of being and help determine the outcomes, the results in behavioral and measurable terms that describe significant and essential learning that students have achieved or can reliably demonstrate at the end of a program.
3. How do program outcomes differ from course objectives?
Course objectives define the intended content students should learn in a specific course and are aligned with what the instructor will teach. Program outcomes outline the knowledge, skill, or behavior students should demonstrate upon completion of a program and are directly related to what the instructor teaches.
4. What is embedded assessment?
Embedded assessment means that assessment activities are integrated into the curriculum of a course, research project, etc. and are more likely to identify specific curricular needs/deficiencies. Faculty commitment is essential since it requires agreement among faculty on an assessment approach across courses. The intent is to make assessment activities regular, ongoing, and as unobtrusive as possible. An embedded assessment approach also emphasizes using information you already have or collect as much as possible.
5. What is an assessment plan?
It is your instructional plan that explains what you want to assess and how you are going to measure it. This outline helps you focus efforts and emphasis on specific assessment activities. Elements include outcomes/objectives, assessment activity, measurement method, criteria or standard of performance, etc.
6. What is an assessment cycle?
It is the iteration of the assessment process, beginning with reviewing and selecting learning outcomes to be assessed and ending with closing the loop.
1. How do I decide which data gathering method to use?
Programs should use a variety of methods to gather data, not just one single method. Evidence could include exams, presentations, portfolios, performance based projects, research reports, field experience evaluations, etc.
2. What’s the difference between direct and indirect methods?
Student learning can be measured using a variety of methods. The methods are commonly grouped into two categories: direct and indirect measures. Best practices recommend the use of both direct and indirect measures when determining the degree of student learning that has taken place (especially at the programmatic level). Direct measures assess student performance on specific learning outcomes (e.g. exams, projects, portfolios, assignments, licensure/certification, exams). Indirect measures imply that learning has taken place but do not specifically demonstrate that learning or skill (e.g. employer surveys, interviews, focus groups, student perception surveys, graduation rates, retention, job placement). Examples of indirect measures at the course level include reflection pieces, course evaluations, percent of class time spent in active learning, and service learning.
3. How much data do I need to collect and how often?
Assessment of student learning should be routine and ongoing; therefore data should be collected on a regular basis. Be sure to have sufficient evidence to determine whether you are meeting your outcomes. Data collection can be administered over time so that different data elements can be collected each semester or yearly on a regular cycle across multiple academic years. Our program is large, so how do we assess the outcomes of so many classes and students? For very large programs, an adequate and representative sample can be used among and within classes.
4. What is a rubric?
A rubric communicates the expectations for an assignment, project, written work, or performance. The scoring guide outlines the criteria and levels associated with quality work and what constitutes as poor work.
1. How do I analyze the assessment results?
Assessment results need to be analyzed to learn whether or not the criteria on the student learning outcomes were met. Data should be analyzed for context, understanding, and to draw conclusions. Questions to address should include: What does the evidence say about student mastery of the subject matter or crucial skills? What do the data say about students’ preparation for the next step? Where are our students consistently strong or weak?
2. How should assessment results be used?
Assessment results should be shared among faculty and as a tool for facilitating discussion about improving curricula and programs. Data driven decisions are important to improve efficiency and positively impact student learning.
3. What other type data would be beneficial to look at to make improvements?
Other data that should be analyzed and discussed on a regular basis include retention, graduation rates, course completion rates, course evaluations, survey results, focus group comments, etc.