|Assessment Process Guide||apg|
|University of Central Arkansas|
Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes
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Academic assessment information flow is essentially the same for action and information items. Whether information is being conveyed or approval sought, assessment information flows from the department and department chair to the college Curriculum and Assessment Committee and college dean, then to the Academic Planning and Assessment Committee (APAC) and the Office of the Provost.
Action items require approval at departmental, college, and university levels before implementation. At each level beyond the department, the item is forwarded if approved, returned to the department if not approved. Action items include the following:
New assessment plans are normally developed in the context of new program development (see Curriculum Development Process Guide). No separate form is necessary for assessment plans approved at the time of new program approval (see Curriculum Form 3 in the Curriculum Development Process Guide); those developed and approved separately from new program approval must be accompanied by Form AP-C.
Substantive revisions include added, deleted, or significantly altered program purposes, intended outcomes/objectives, or assessment procedures and criteria.
Accredited programs and their colleges have been invited to make proposals for coordinating university assessment responsibilities with the obligations associated with specialized accreditation. (See requirements for proposals.) These proposals are developed jointly by a department/program and its college Curriculum and Assessment Committee and follow the normal process of approval.
Information items require notification to but not approval from the college and university entities noted in the preceding section. Such items include mere changes of wording and minor changes in assessment criteria.
The Annual Assessment Summary currently comprises two brief items: (1) description of assessment activities and (2) completion of the Assessment Activities Survey. The Assessment Activities Survey form is available on the OAPA forms page.
A full report, including description of assessment activities, analysis of results, and discussion of conclusions and planned actions (see general reporting guidelines below) is due every three to five years in conjunction with existing program review. Every program, that is, submits full reports on assessment twice in any ten-year period (see further information about existing program review):
A section on assessment is required in the self-studies undertaken by non-accredited programs for external review; accredited programs will either use an approved alternative reporting method coordinated with their accreditor's assessment requirements (see requirements for alternative-reporting proposals) or will write a separate assessment report at the time of their accreditation review; and all programs, whether accredited or non-accredited, will report on assessment at the time of their internal follow-up review by the Undergraduate or Graduate Council.
The general reporting guidelines that follow apply particularly to programs that have not had an alternative assessment plan and/or reporting method approved in their colleges and by the Academic Planning and Assessment Committee. Those programs with approved alternatives, however, will likely find these guidelines useful as well, particularly in preparing the assessment report that accompanies their internal review by the Undergraduate or Graduate Council.
The Assessment Report, whether it stands alone or is part of a larger self-study, has at least two purposes: (1) It provides a formal opportunity for a program to communicate the results of its self-assessments to certain interested constituencies, most notably the larger university community and the university's accrediting body (the North Central Association's Higher Learning Commission). To best fulfill this purpose, an assessment report should be written as a public document, suitable for dissemination. (2) Of at least equal importance, it provides to every participating program a regular and on-going opportunity for reflection, decision-making, and, sometimes, change.
The usefulness of assessment reporting depends on many factors, probably the most important being the way a program or department has approached implementation of its assessment plans. If, as we hope, assessment plans have been implemented critically--that is, with serious attention paid to the plans and the programs they address, to what is working well, what might work better, and what seems not to work--then these critical implementations will quite naturally become the basis for effective and useful reports. Every assessment report, whether an annual summary or a more extensive five-year report, should give evidence of an active and functional assessment process.
Any assessment report should grapple seriously with the assessment process and its results and, as a whole, should answer five essential questions. Questions 1-3 ask for description; question 4 asks for evaluation; and question 5 asks about projected actions. These questions are listed as a guide to content, not to format; the latter will usually revolve around a program's intended outcomes/objectives (see Format/Presentation, below).
Question 1: What objectives have been assessed?
This question asks a program to identify which of its objectives, stipulated in the program's assessment plan, have been assessed in this cycle. Beginning with AY 1998-1999, all departments should be fully implementing assessment plans for all their programs, with all objectives assessed; realistically, of course, some objectives will receive more emphasis than others, and programs may well find that some objectives need revision or deletion. The following items suggest appropriate considerations at this point: Have all objectives been assessed? If not, which objectives have been left out, and why? Have any additions, deletions, or modifications been made to the objectives during this assessment cycle? If changes have been made, what are they, and why have they been made?
Question 2: How have the objectives been assessed?
This question asks a program which of the assessment procedures, stipulated in the program's assessment plan, have been used in this cycle. The following items suggest appropriate considerations at this point: Have all the assessment procedures been used? If not, which procedures have not been used, and why? Have any additions, deletions, or modifications been made to the assessment procedures during this assessment cycle? If changes have been made, what are they, and why have they been made?
Question 3: What are the results of the assessment?
This question asks a program about the relationship between objectives and performance--how students in the program have fared in relation to the assessment procedures and criteria associated with the objectives stipulated in the assessment plan. Were criteria exceeded? met? not met? The question should be answered in detail, with appropriate explanation. (Note that "pass" and "fail" are not generally considered appropriate terms for assessments.) If the assessment cycle is being used to establish standards for success, the report should indicate what student performance has suggested about appropriate targets for the procedures employed.
Question 4: What conclusions can be drawn from this assessment cycle?
This question asks a program to evaluate the results of assessment during the assessment cycle. The following items suggest appropriate considerations at this point: Has the department/program learned anything about itself or about assessment during the process? Do changes need to be made in the program, its policies, or its processes? Do changes need to be made in assessment plans or processes (program purpose statement, objectives, procedures, criteria, implementation)?
Question 5: What actions will result from this assessment cycle?
If analysis and evaluation of assessment results suggest that changes (in program or plan) should be made, the report should indicate specific actions to be taken, a proposed sequence and timeframe for the actions, and the person(s) responsible. In this context the report could appropriately indicate as well what assistance the department/program would like to receive from the university Planning and Assessment Committee or the Office of Academic Planning and Assessment in implementing changes or considering the assessment results.
Departments that participate in the departmental honors program will additionally report honors program activity during the assessment cycle.
An assessment report should include the following parts:
The details of format may vary to accommodate, for example, a larger self-study. Regardless of format details, however, any assessment report should include complete information for each intended outcome/objective; collectively, this information will answer the "five essential questions" discussed above:
Tables and figures may be useful in clarifying and summarizing information, but they should support--not take the place of--explanation and discussion.
The report for each program should end with a summary statement about the particular program's assessment results.
--Adapted from a report on assessment of the BS program in Speech-Language Pathology
Example 1: Assessment information for an intended outcome/objective
NB: This example uses grade distribution. A brief discussion of the use of GPA in assessment appears in OAPA's position paper, The Use of GPA in Assessment.
OUTCOME 1: Undergraduate students will demonstrate understanding of basic science course work.
Ninety percent of students will successfully complete the University requirements in math, the social sciences, and the sciences with a 3.0 GPA or better.
Seventy-one (71) percent of students successfully completed the University requirements in math, the social sciences, and the sciences with a 3.0 GPA or better (natural science, 64%; math and the social sciences, 77%).
The Speech-Language Pathology department (specifically the undergraduate committee) considers the successful completion of basic science courses a necessary component and significant predictor of student achievement for students admitted to its program. After having actively collected data relative to student achievement for basic science courses, several revision and/or application options are being considered: (1) The 90% criterion may be lowered as performance in basic communication courses has not been adversely affected by the previous performance abilities in math, the social sciences, and the sciences. (2) Maintain the 90% criterion and average the performance levels so as to reflect a composite or overall 3.0 GPA of undergraduate students. (3) Continue the assessment process as written so that each basic science course is individually considered. Regardless of the revision/application of the assessment goal elected, the assessment goal will be highly considered for admission to the undergraduate program. Clarification of revisions will be submitted according to the outcome assessment timelines for August 1997.
Example 2: A summary table of assessment results
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