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Assessment is a systematic effort that should involve all members of a program at all levels. At its best assessment can be the catalyst for a culture of continuous improvement, creating many positive and lasting changes to the way that students learn in a program:
Faculty and staff will be able to perform best when provided with the appropriate resources and information to carry forward initiatives. These resources can be small, such as providing an open door policy for discussions about ideas for improving issues in student learning or to extend upon already successful endeavors. Flexible yet clear and measurable goals will additionally allow members of the program to take initiative and ownership of ideas related to assessment and continuous improvement.
Additionally, as difficult as it can become when working towards the success of students in the learning environment, provide space for all members of the assessment process to reflect on their actions and the larger goals of the program. A space for dialogue, workshops, brown bags, or individual professional development can be very helpful towards allowing members of the program to realize potentials for further exploration.
Look to past or current successes. These efforts should be recognized by assessment leaders and where appropriate provided as a framework for further growth and success. Use the data collected from assessment endeavors to further strengthen the program’s backing of successful learning initiatives. Successful initiatives should be backed with empirical evidence and important decisions regarding the direction of a program should be based on said evidence. If the values of the program remain on improving the learning outcomes of students, assessment is an auxiliary practice meant to simply support the goals of learning.
Working in a culture of continuous improvement, it is possible that differences of opinion may arise in how to pursue learning goals. Assessment leaders should value all perspectives of the issues, and pursue the path of the highest consensus. A culture of continuous improvement is not a culture free of debate, but it should be a culture that values and considers all options and solutions. Additionally, following “empowerment,” if individual approaches are possible in conjunction with additional initiatives, these should be considered and studied through the assessment process. Innovation and experimentation should be valued and given the support necessary towards success.
The guiding principle for faculty in the assessment process is to ensure the alignment between learning goals and instruction. There are a large number of steps that faculty can carry forward; this section will cover just a few suggestions for the process of improving assessment activities and learning achievements.
1. Analyze curriculum. This within itself also has a multitude of possible actions with a few addressed here:
a. Curriculum mapping: This will allow a program to analyze the key courses in a student’s academic progress to see where learning opportunities arise. By detailing the goals and the degree to which goals are addressed in a course, programs can assess where new learning opportunities may best arise or where gaps might exist within the curriculum. You may also find that while a learning goal is addressed, perhaps no required course examines it to the depth you would expect.
b. Syllabus analysis: This will be the best method for determining, in more depth, the criteria and expectations within a single course. Perhaps a process of reviewing syllabi on a regular rotation may be beneficial to ensure courses delve into the expected material and that student expectations can be fully realized with the correct products of the course (test, paper, presentation, etc.)
2. Develop internal principles of good assessment practices:
You know what will work best for your program and its needs. Leaders should provide a guideline of expectations and responsibilities. Assessment and continuous improvement can seem like a daunting process, however all members should see the larger goal and know their role towards that goal. Simply clarifying language such as goals vs outcomes or providing templates of rubrics with analytic scoring, can make large steps towards ensuring an internal consistency and steady direction in the assessment process and continuous improvement.
3. Take advantage of professional development opportunities to be aware of contemporary teaching methods:
Allow time for reflection and contemplation on your own personal performance to see if organic changes can begin within your own courses. These changes can be assessed and may provide a new model down the road for others to follow.
To assist units in the assessment planning process, we created a handbook: Effective Assessment Planning, Reporting, and Decision Making. Please refer to this handbook as you create your assessment plans and reports. To access this handbook, please authenticate using your ASURITE.
The following link will open the UOEEE Assessment Portal where all assessment plan development and reporting activities take place.