Accreditation and strategic planning
Point Loma Nazarene University (CA) has a liberal arts-focused mission combining traditional residential undergraduate student population (2,400 students) with professional graduate programs (1,000 students) located at three regional centers. PLNU began discussions about the DQP early in the fall 2011 semester when both WASC (PLNU’s regional accreditation association) and the Council of Independent Colleges invited universities to participate in pilot projects. PLNU participated in both pilot projects.
The discussions prompted by its DQP pilot have primarily focused on undergraduate programs. At the same time, graduate program deans and chairs have been asked to think about the challenges and benefits of implementing the DQP framework at the master’s degree level.
Initial discussions centered on the fact that the DQP reflects skills and knowledge developed both in the student’s major program of study and in general education courses. At that time the academic major programs were pursuing their well-crafted assessment activities and it was unclear how DQP could inform or add value to that work. However, the General Education Committee was re-evaluating how to assess general education learning outcomes and how to use that data to assist with general education curricular redesign.
In November of 2011 WASC announced the new requirement for more in-depth assessment of graduating seniors in five basic proficiencies: oral communication, information literacy, written communication, critical thinking and quantitative literacy. These skills explicitly connect with the DQP’s Intellectual Skills proficiencies.
Rather than approach each important assessment of student learning as a separate activity, the DQP Task Force believed it important to think more strategically and move toward using the individual majors’ culminating or capstone experience as a place to assess these five proficiencies, additional components from the DQP, and student learning in the major.
The DQP Task Force’s first challenge was to identify the culminating experience for each academic major. The Task Force surveyed the undergraduate majors and found significant structural variation among the culminating experiences. The data from the survey also indicated variation in what skills and knowledge were being assessed in these culminating experiences.
While many discrete activities combine to build an assessment foundation for the DQP, the Task Force decided to invite academic units that already have significant capstone courses to pilot the DQP in spring semester 2013. The faculty and courses selected represent both colleges, the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Social Sciences and Professional Studies, as well as the School of Education.
In fall 2012 the Task Force identified the guidelines and essential learning outcomes to be assessed. The faculty are now designing assessment assignments and reviewing and adapting the AAC&U Essential Learning Outcome Rubrics for the assessment activities.