Assessment of student learning
McKendree University (IL) is engaged in a seven-year assessment revision initiative entitled “Assessment 2.0.” Its purpose is to build a comprehensive and sustainable system to assess undergraduate student learning outcomes, and to link that system to faculty-development activities.
The first step was to adopt a revised set of seven student learning outcomes for undergraduate students (e.g., engagement, effective communication, inquiry and problem solving, etc.).
The faculty derived the new outcomes directly from the university mission statement. Each year since then, one of the seven outcomes is targeted annually, with a volunteer committee of faculty and staff charged with determining performance indicators and identifying assessment tools to be used.
In 2011-12, a committee created a crosswalk among the DQP, the McKendree University student learning outcomes, the Association of American Colleges and Universities LEAP Essential Learning Outcomes, and the NCAA key attributes. Completing this crosswalk helped to provide construct validity for its student learning outcomes and to create a common language for some outcomes. Notably, the DQP category of “broad, integrative knowledge” has helped lead the university to identify a capstone experience in all fields of study. The university is now working to create faculty-
development programs related to capstone experiences.
Faculty members at Middlesex Community College and the University of Massachusetts-Lowell have a history of collaborative vertical curriculum alignment work. As with colleagues at other two- and four-year institutions, they have grappled with questions related to students’ achievement of stated institutional learning outcomes. A continuing concern is demonstrating how the outcomes at the associate degree level differ from those at the bachelor’s level.
Under the auspices of the AAC&U Quality Collaboratives project, the DQP was used as a framework for developing a scaffolded set of expectations for student achievement of specific learning outcomes associated with the associate degree and bachelor’s degree.
These two campuses focused their collaborative work on assessing the quality of student writing from the first year of college through the senior year. The intent is to apply and extend this model to assess student proficiency in Quantitative Fluency over time and across the curriculum, drawing on faculty expertise from both institutions in the biology, business, criminal justice and psychology programs. This focus on assessment helped spark important work on assignment design as well.
The University of Charleston (WV) is a private institution offering associate, baccalaureate and graduate programs. Rather than completing a traditional general education program, baccalaureate students at the University of Charleston are required to demonstrate achievement of six Liberal Learning Outcomes (LLOs): Citizenship, Communication, Creativity, Critical Thinking, Ethical Practice and Science.
Demonstration of achievement occurs through learning activities embedded in selected courses, within and outside the student’s chosen field of study.
The DQP framework is being used as the model for developing specific descriptors for demonstration of LLOs at all degree levels. The framework has helped sharpen thinking about differentiation in levels of skills and knowledge, and more clearly articulate what graduates should know and be able to do with degrees.
Opportunities for demonstrating outcomes achievement at Foundational, Mid-level or Advanced proficiencies vary in academic programs. This presents a challenge for transfer students who may have missed opportunities that occur early in a specific program, and for students moving into six-year graduate professional programs (e.g., pharmacy and physician assistant) who aspired to earn a bachelor’s degree. Articulating expectations for achievement at levels above and below the baccalaureate through the framework of the DQP is expected to resolve many of these issues.
Assessment is embedded into courses with student work being posted to e-portfolios and assessed using university- developed rubrics. While the DQP project has been valuable in articulating proficiencies for outcomes at all degree levels, it has prompted a closer examination of whether the existing rubrics were yielding actionable information about student performance. Conversations on this topic are ongoing in Liberal Learning Roundtables this year and will likely result in revisions of most rubrics.