Best and Innovative Practices in Higher Education Assessment

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1 Best and Innovative Practices in Higher Education Assessment April 2013 In the following report, Hanover Research investigates innovative practices in higher education assessment. Trends and future directions in assessment and accreditation are also discussed.

2 TABLE OF CONTENTS Executive Summary and Key Findings... 3 KEY FINDINGS... 3 Section I: Trends and Future Directions... 4 BACKGROUND... 4 FUTURE DIRECTIONS FOR ACCREDITATION AND ASSESSMENT... 4 TRENDS AMONG ACCREDITING ORGANIZATIONS... 7 INNOVATIVE PRACTICES... 9 GLOBAL TRENDS AND DIRECTIONS Section II: Best Practice Institutions INNOVATIVE PRACTICES AMONG PEER INSTITUTIONS California Institute of the Arts Carnegie Mellon University Cornell University Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Southern California Institute of Architecture University of Massachusetts Amherst Wesleyan University OTHER BEST PRACTICE INSTITUTIONS Princeton University Purdue University St. Olaf College University of Minnesota University of Wisconsin La Crosse Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 2

3 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND KEY FINDINGS The following report explores best and innovative practices in higher education assessment. In Section I, we review available literature on trends and future directions of assessment and accreditation. While our analysis focuses primarily on the United States, we also briefly introduce global trends and future directions in the global higher education market. In Section II, we profile 12 institutions with innovative approaches to assessment of student learning and institutional assessment. Additional profiles represent best practices used by prominent research institutions, CHEA award recipients, and other institutions found to be innovative in their assessment practices. KEY FINDINGS Overall, the trend in the United States and worldwide is to provide students with the appropriate information to make enrollment decisions, as evident by language that stresses accountability and transparency. In the United States, literature suggests that the direction taken by accreditation in the coming years is toward more government involvement and standardization across measures of quality. Some regional accrediting agencies are preparing for this by providing more structure and guidance to institutions while still allowing for flexibility and innovation. The future of global higher education accreditation places more emphasis on access and equity, though quality is also a predominant feature. Faculty that use innovative assessment practices take care to be explicit in communicating learning outcomes and expectations to students, and are deliberate in aligning learning outcomes with valid assessment tools. A common practice among best practice institutions is to use portfolios and other physical or digital compilations of student achievements to assess learning outcomes. This type of assessment is well poised to make use of emerging technologies such as badges and e-portfolios. Qualitative reviews such as mentor meetings, committee reviews, and selfassessments are also common among the institutions reviewed in this report. These are particularly relevant when evaluating non-technical student learning outcomes that are not easily measured by more traditional assessments Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 3

4 SECTION I: TRENDS AND FUTURE DIRECTIONS In this section, we review literature on trends and future directions of assessment and accreditation in higher education. Our analysis primarily focuses on the United States, though a subsection introduces global trends and future directions in the global higher education market. The goal of this section is to identify potential issues related to the future direction of accreditation and assessment in order to assist the institution with formulating goals for its Campus-Wide Assessment Plan. BACKGROUND According to Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) President Judith Eaton, policy related to accreditation and assessment is being transformed by a variety of factors, most notably the federal money at stake, the price of higher education, the expectation of universal access, the press for greater public accountability, the nationalizing of public policy, and the immediacy created by electronic technology. 1 Likewise, recent discussion of the future of assessment and accreditation has been driven by the emphasis on accountability and public demands for evidence of student achievement from colleges and universities. 2 A recent newsletter from the CHEA International Quality Group (CIQG) further enumerated the emerging issues impacting higher education accreditation. The issues, which may lead to a new paradigm for quality assurance around the world, include: Higher education and quality assurance and relationships with government Innovations and what some call disruptive technologies such as massive open online courses (MOOCs) and open badges Crossborder higher education in its different forms Regional harmonization of quality assurance as a new development Rankings and quality assurance Links between qualifications frameworks and quality assurance Diversity of private providers, including the for-profit sector 3 FUTURE DIRECTIONS FOR ACCREDITATION AND ASSESSMENT Our review of literature relating to the future of higher education accreditation revealed that in the coming years, there is likely to be an increased involvement of the federal 1 Eaton, J The Future of Accreditation. Planning for Higher Education, 40:3, p Eaton, J Care, Caution, and the Credit Hour Conversation. Inside Accreditation with the President of CHEA, 9:2. 3 CHEA International Quality Group Newsletter Quality International, Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 4

5 government, and, as a result, more regulation of the accreditation process. 4 The 2013 State of the Union supplement recently brought attention to this when it described possible actions to be taken toward increased involvement of the federal government: The President will call on Congress to consider value, affordability, and student outcomes in making determinations about which colleges and universities receive access to federal student aid, either by incorporating measures of value and affordability into the existing accreditation system; or by establishing a new, alternative system of accreditation that would provide pathways for higher education models and colleges to receive federal student aid based on performance and results. 5 Standardization and government involvement were key themes in the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity s final draft report of recommendations for higher education accreditation reauthorization. The 2012 report highlights three key features that describe how accreditation will be viewed and how the federal government would like it to operate in the future. 6 The features, summarized by Eaton, are as follows: Emphasis on continuity: the report emphasizes continuity through framing expectations of accreditation that are similar to those that have been discussed in many federal venues during the last half-dozen years. It envisions a future role of accreditation as primarily focused on public accountability and consumer protection, with less emphasis on quality improvement. Call for change in the government role: this feature significantly expands the role of the federal government in judging academic quality as well as establishing standards for quality. Government would determine what is important. Challenge to core features of higher education and accreditation: this feature has two dimensions. By calling for judgment of academic quality to be increasingly based on common definitions and common data, the report encourages a convergence of accreditation standards. This is a significant challenge to the decentralized structure of accreditation as well as the diverse, mission-driven enterprise of higher education itself. It calls into question whether characteristics of higher education that have been fundamental to its mission-driven success institutional autonomy, peer review and academic freedom can continue to be effective. 7 Another perspective is provided by the Secretary of Education s Commission on the Future of Higher Education. A 2006 issue paper on assuring quality in higher education describes several recommendations for developing a national blueprint for transforming 4 The CHEA Initiative Final Report Council for Higher Education Accreditation, p The President s Plan for a Strong Middle Class and a Strong America Whitehouse.gov, p NACIQI Draft Final Report National Advisory Committee on Instructional Quality and Integrity. 7 Eaton, J NACIQI s Draft Final Report: Continuity, Change, and Challenge. Inside Accreditation with the President of CHEA, 8: Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 5

6 accreditation. 8 Two of these recommendations, if implemented, would particularly impact assessment processes undertaken by individual institutions. First, the Commission asserts that a national accreditation framework must be developed, one that holds higher education accountable for results. Accrediting processes and decisions, according to the Commission, should strongly emphasize performance outcomes and student-learning outcomes in particular. This proposed national accreditation framework includes three components: Performance Outcome Measures. The strongest emphasis would be placed on the demonstration by institutions and programs that they are producing results, especially evidence of student learning. The framework would report student learning based on standards for valid and reliable assessment. The framework would also contain a set of comparable performance measures that include student learning that would be tailored according to institutional mission and program so they can be used for both accreditation and public reporting and consumer profiles. New Process Standards. The framework would promote more open and flexible process standards that encourage innovation and diversity in higher education and do not prescribe specific input and process standards (e.g., facilities, faculty). These national process standards would be based on proven public and private models such as Baldrige. The Baldrige standards are open because they do not prescribe specific organizational structures, resources, or approaches but only require that organizations have the capacity to manage organizational learning and continuous improvement (e.g., information management, process management). They are flexible because they promote creative solutions that are continuously being changed and adapted and are effective in getting results and promoting continuous improvement. Continuous Improvement. The framework would require institutions and programs to move toward world-class quality and report measurable progress in relationship to their national and international peers. This requirement would be modeled using leading best practices for benchmarking and continuous improvement techniques. 9 The second recommendation is to set expectations and build capacity for measuring student learning. The Commission is in favor of developing national standards for how institutions and programs define and assess their own student learning performance. Such national standards would address the following: Defining student learning outcomes. These standards should require institutions and programs to define their learning outcomes based on their own missions and the input of the employers and other stakeholders. However, these standards should require institutions and programs to use a common format so that similarities and differences are transparent to students, parents, and employers. 8 Schray, V Assuring Quality in Higher Education: Recommendations for Improving Accreditation. The Secretary of Education s Commission on the Future of Higher Education, pp Ibid. (Bullets quoted verbatim) 2013 Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 6

7 Valid and reliable assessments. These standards also should establish some requirements for valid and reliable assessments so that accrediting organizations can provide the public some assurance that students receiving degrees or other types of credentials have the skills that institutions and programs claim. 10 As accreditation systems change over the next several years, there are several actions that must be taken by institutions to transform assessments of student learning. A 2012 brief from the New Leadership Alliance on the future of institutional accountability and assessment provides several guidelines to help institutions take responsibility for assessing and improving student learning. 11 The guidelines below outline actions to be taken to systematically gather evidence of student learning: Policies and procedures are in place that describe when, how, and how frequently learning outcomes will be assessed. Assessment processes are ongoing, sustainable, and integrated into the work of faculty, administrators, and staff. Evidence includes results that can be assessed against an externally informed or benchmarked level of achievement or compared with those of other institutions and programs. Evidence also includes assessments of levels of engagement in academically challenging work and active learning practices. Results can be used to examine differences in performance among significant subgroups of students, such as minority, first-generation, and non-traditional-age students. 12 TRENDS AMONG ACCREDITING ORGANIZATIONS A 2010 report from the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) describes several trends among regional accrediting commissions. 13 Among them, nearly all regional accreditors have standards that include the expectation that institutions clearly state learning outcomes. Additionally, all regional accreditors expect institutions to assess stated learning outcomes at all levels with multiple measures, both direct and indirect, and these measures must be appropriate for what is being assessed. Finally, institutions are expected to use the assessment information primarily for institutional improvement Ibid. (Bullets quoted verbatim) 11 Committing to Quality: Guidelines for Assessment and Accountability in Higher Education New Leadership Alliance for Student Learning and Accountability, p Ibid., pp Provezis, S Regional Accreditation and Student Learning Outcomes: Mapping the Territory. National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment. 14 Ibid., p Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 7

8 Aside from these general guidelines, regional accreditation organizations take care not to prescribe specific methods or tools for assessing outcomes. According to the report, In fact, each [accrediting body] stressed the diversity of institutions in its region and the need for the assessment process to reflect the concerns of the institution. All of the accreditors echoed the sentiment that institutions should select the process that works best for them while at the same time institutions should draw on multiple indirect and direct measures for evidence of student learning. All regional accreditors agreed that institutions should embed the assessment process in activities already taking place on campus. While not prescribing a model, regional accreditors expect that a campus s assessment activities will be supported by an institutional commitment to the assessment by the institution s president and other leaders and through funding and other support for assessment activities. 15 Regional accrediting bodies have already implemented a variety of policies to address the impending changes to accreditation. The NILOA report provides examples of accrediting agencies that are currently experimenting with different assessment strategies and with the accreditation process itself, [thereby] creating expectations for assessment but are also providing structured ways for institutions to organize their assessment strategies by providing guidance on possible ways institutions can engage the process and provide data for accreditors. In comparison to the current Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) policy of expecting institutions to include assessment information as part of a larger self-study, other accrediting agencies such as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities (Western Senior) look for evidence of learning outcomes through more focused initiatives. 16 For example, the NEASC s assessment policy initiative comprises two parts, which include Making Assessment More Explicit (E-series) and Documenting Student Success (Sseries): For the E-series, institutions select and declare their basic approach to assessment and summarize their findings, choosing from the following approaches to assessment: o An inventory of program assessment and specialized accreditation o The Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA) plus program review o A statement of claims for student achievement with supporting evidence o A comparison to peers on measures of student achievement and success For the S-series, institutions provide retention and graduation data and any other measures consistent with the institutional missions. This S-Series portion is meant to be missionsensitive; that is, the types of information collected would allow a diverse set of institutions to demonstrate success. In that regard, the initiative was designed to promote 15 Ibid., pp Ibid., p Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 8

9 creativity as well as institutional improvement by offering flexibility along with a clear structure. 17 Another example is the HLC s new initiative that features two programs that guide the approach to student learning outcomes assessment. One program is the Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP), described as follows: AQIP serves as an alternative to the self-study process and aims to improve institutional quality through the initiation of a continuous improvement cycle. AQIP institutions are part of an intensive, collaborative effort to reshape their cultures and to make a commitment to continuous quality improvement their constant focus. Assessment is a key function of the AQIP process. Institutions participating in AQIP must measure student learning and use the results to improve teaching and learning processes as well as all other institutional processes that contribute to student learning. 18 Furthermore, the HLC recently revised its standards and processes to make accreditation results more easily available and more meaningful to the public. In particular, HLC increased its standards for assessing student learning and more explicitly requires colleges to have a plan for improving student-retention and graduation rates In addition, the commission now annually requires the institutions it accredits to provide data on the student-loan-default rates of their students. 19 Finally, the Chronicle for Higher Education recently described efforts of the Northeast Commission on Higher Education (NCHEA) to address the rapid growth of massive open online courses and the movement toward awarding academic credit based solely on student assessment sometimes referred to as competency-based education rather than the traditional measure of seat time a student spends in a course. According to the Chronicle, the NCHEA recently approved Southern New Hampshire University s plan to award credit based on competencies demonstrated through tasks meant to simulate real world workplace requirements like critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, and writing and speech skills. 20 INNOVATIVE PRACTICES A 2012 report from the New America Foundation describes several emerging trends in learning assessment; among them are two recent initiatives from the Lumina Foundation. 21 According to the report, these two efforts appear to be promising and, when fully 17 Ibid., citing: New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), Commission on Institutions of Higher Education Student Achievement and Success. 18 Ibid., citing: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, Higher Learning Commission (NCA-HLC) Commission statement on accountability projects. 19 Kelderman, E. Obama s Accreditation Proposals Surprise Higher-Education Leaders. The Chronicle of Higher Education, February 13, Ibid. 21 Laitinen, A Cracking the Credit Hour. New America Foundation and Education Sector, pp pdf 2013 Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 9

10 implemented, have the potential to provide a foundation for measuring student achievements using non-traditional criteria: The Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP) is a framework for what students should know and be able to do with a degree, regardless of discipline, whether it s an associate, bachelor s, or master s degree. The DQP highlights five key areas (broad, integrative knowledge; applied learning; intellectual skills; specialized knowledge; and civic learning) that should be part of any degree program, and articulates differences in depth and sophistication of each key area as one moves up the degree ladder. The idea of the DQP came from qualifications frameworks developed by European nations looking to improve transparency, consistency, and quality in their disparate higher education systems. A beta version of the DQP was released in 2011 and is currently being tested in more than 30 states and 100 institutions. Participating institutions bring together faculty from a cross section of disciplines to consider curriculum planning in light of the DQP framework and determine if and how improvements could be made in defining and assessing student learning. Tuning USA is a faculty-driven process that also seeks to articulate learning outcomes at the discipline level. This is often less an exercise in creating minimum outcomes than an effort to articulate what is already in practice, allowing groups of experts to collectively fine- tune their expectations, and make these expectations transparent to students, other institutions, and employers. While much of the tuning work is being done at the institutional level, there are also state and national-level efforts under way. The state of Texas has been a leader in tuning, bringing together faculty, students, recent graduates, and employers to establish common learning outcomes by degree level for eight disciplines, and it is working on an additional four. Tuning is also being implemented at the national level; the American Historical Association has begun a three-year process to define learning outcomes for associate, bachelor s, master s, and doctorate degrees in history. 22 GLOBAL TRENDS AND DIRECTIONS On a global scale, our review of international sources revealed a focus on equity and access. This trend can be seen in issue papers and presentations on government visions for the future of higher education, as well as in measures of quality and effectiveness used by international agencies. First, higher education in the United Kingdom is expected to become more studentcentered, 23 according to the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education s (QAA) presentation at the CHEA 2012 International Seminar. Key characteristics of the government s vision for the future of higher education in England include: Diversity and competition Better information Reduced regulation and fewer barriers to entry 22 Ibid. (Bullets quoted verbatim) 23 Campbell, C QAA and UK Higher Education Today. CHEA 2012 International Seminar Presentations Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 10

11 Level playing field for all HE [higher education] providers 24 Similar efforts are being undertaken to transform the Australian higher education system. As described in a CHEA 2012 International Seminar presentation from Australian Education International, the overall emphasis is on access and equity: The objectives of the Australian Government s education agenda is to support a higher education system that: o Is characterized by quality, diversity and equity of access; o Contributes to the development of cultural and intellectual life in Australia; o Is appropriate to meet Australia s social and economic needs for a highly educated and skilled population. The Government has set two critical targets for transforming Australian Higher Education: o Forty percent of 25- to 34-year-olds will hold a bachelor s qualification or above by 2025 o Twenty percent of higher education enrollments at the undergraduate level will be from people from a low socioeconomic background by 2020 A key aim of the agenda is to increase the size of the sector while improving both quality and the consistency of regulatory requirements. 25 Additionally, a CHEA article on major European trends affecting higher education described several issues concerning quality and quality assurance among European institutions. 26 Of particular importance are the following: The importance attached by governments and international bodies to improving access, completion, and graduate employability, at a time of growing global competition requiring a more highly trained workforce, but also of reduced budgets due to the economic crisis The growing importance of internationalization for universities and governments that brings with it from the perspective of both governments and institutions a focus on quality and the need to be able to demonstrate quality 27 The article continues by explaining that the main elements of quality assurance among European institutions include: Qualifications frameworks (i.e., system level compatibility and mobility) Greater focus on output-based systems (particularly funding systems and incentives and the articulation of learning outcomes) The European Standards and Guidelines for quality assurance (ESGs) 24 Ibid. (Bullets quoted verbatim) 25 Bullets quoted verbatim from: Darby, M. Quality in Australian Higher Education. CHEA 2012 International Seminar Presentations. 26 Wilson, L. Major European trends and issues affecting higher education and quality assurance in an international setting and their implications for colleges, universities, and countries CHEA Annual Conference Presentation. %20Wilson2.pdf 27 Ibid., pp (Bullets quoted verbatim) 2013 Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 11

12 The growing impact of EQAR (driving greater internationalization and competition) International rankings and what makes a world-class university 28 Similar trends can be seen across the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development s (OECD) measures of institutional effectiveness. General categories that demonstrate effectiveness include: Education levels and student numbers: education levels in the general population, how and where young people are studying and how well they make the transition into the world of work. The economic and social benefits of education: the extent to which education brings economic gains to individuals (in the form of higher incomes and lower unemployment rates) and at how these benefits serve as an incentive for people and societies to invest in education, as well as the societal benefits related to having a highly educated population. Paying for education: how much countries spend on education, the role of private spending, what education money is spent on and whether countries are getting value for money. The school environment: how much time teachers spend at work, and how much of that time is spent teaching, class sizes, teachers salaries and the age and gender distribution of teachers. Equity: issues relating to equity in education, particularly the accessibility of education at all levels, intergenerational mobility, gender gaps in education and the impact of socioeconomic background on student performance, especially for the children of immigrants Ibid., pp Bullets quoted verbatim from: Education at a Glance OECD, p Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 12

13 SECTION II: BEST PRACTICE INSTITUTIONS In this section, we look at what U.S. institutions are doing regarding innovative assessment practices and approaches to demonstrating institutional quality. INNOVATIVE PRACTICES AMONG PEER INSTITUTIONS Below, we profile the innovative assessment practices and approaches used by several institutions. All of the institutions profiled here are notable for being similar to our Partner Institution across several kinds of criteria including scope of academic offerings, size of student body, reputation, and selectivity, among others. Our analysis has identified the following institutions as having the most innovative practices: California Institute of the Arts Carnegie Mellon University Cornell University Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Southern California Institute of Architecture University of Massachusetts Amherst Wesleyan University CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF THE ARTS At California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), formative assessment of student learning stresses progress over letter grades. As such, review processes at CalArts are based heavily on faculty-student interactions: faculty members attend student concerts and productions; they visit studios; and they discuss student work with the students. 30 Specific assessment practices include: Mentor s Report: Each student entering the Institute is assigned a faculty mentor from the School in which the student is enrolled. The mentor monitors progress in the student s métier courses and advises and guides the student in achieving the student s own artistic goals and the goals of the program. Annually in the spring semester, the mentor prepares a Mentor s Report, which becomes a part of the student s educational record. Faculty committee review: A faculty committee formally reviews CalArts students at least twice during their education at CalArts, at the mid-residence point and before graduation. The review entails a detailed assessment of the student s record and work in relation to the objectives of the program, the student s goals, and the progress towards the degree or certificate. Almost all programs have rubrics that distill faculty expectations for levels of 30 All bullets quoted with slight variation from: California Institute of the Arts Educational Effectiveness Review California Institute of the Arts, pp Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 13

14 student progress through the program, culminating in expectations for the graduating students. Mid-residence review: At the mid-residence review, faculty will generally discuss a student s artistic projects and process in the program thus far, along with plans for the final years. The student receives a mid-residence review report, which becomes a part of their permanent educational record at CalArts. Students must pass their mid-residence review to persist at CalArts. Following the mid-residence review meeting, BFA students in the School of Critical Studies must write a short reflection on three essays written for their Critical Studies courses. Graduation review: At the graduation review, the main focus is usually on the final artistic project, portfolio, thesis, film, show, performance, or composition. For assessing schools and programs, CalArts has used Annual Assessment Reports and general program review since Specific practices for assessing program effectiveness include: Annual assessment reports: Annually, program directors receive analyzed data for their programs from the Returning Students Questionnaire, the annual Exit Survey of graduating students, graduation and retention figures, and the results of ad hoc surveys and projects, such as the special Mentor Survey. They use this data as a starting point for completing their Annual Assessment Reports. Annual Assessment Reports provide an opportunity for program directors and faculty to reflect upon a degree program s assessment efforts and curricular changes during the prior academic year. Program review: Each program completes a written self-study, following an outline created in conjunction with the Office of the Provost. Program review self-studies evaluate resources, facilities, faculty, staff, results of student surveys, and retention and graduation rates, while taking into consideration the history and mission of the program. They evaluate the impact each of these factors has on current program functioning and put forth aspirations for the program in the coming years. Students participate in the program review process by meeting with visitors and sharing their perspectives on program directions and functioning. Visitors also observe classes in session and review student work. 31 Finally, CalArts uses a number of practices to assess the Institute s Educational and Operational Objectives: 32 Institutional research: New surveys explored new and returning students expectations of mentoring, staff satisfaction, and orientation, among others. It has been more efficacious to look at student retention data and the results of surveys, rather than working on a very large and comprehensive research project, which would not have allowed other, more-focused research projects. Student graduation rates and retention rates: Recent IR efforts have focused on how data can best inform retention and graduation efforts. Graduation and retention rates have been 31 Ibid., pp Ibid., pp Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 14

15 analyzed using logistic regression models to determine if patterns exist across time and demographic groups. CARNEGIE MELLON UNIVERSITY Carnegie Mellon University was featured by the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment for having an approach to student learning outcomes assessment that reflects the institution s commitment to interdisciplinary and innovative teaching and learning. 33 The following three qualities exemplify the University s approach to assessment, as identified by Carnegie Mellon s Assessment Task Force: One size does not fit all. Individual instructs, departments, and colleges are best suited to determine how best to assess their programs and students; as such, individual programs and courses use different approaches that are appropriate in different contexts for different objectives and goals. In most cases, it is appropriate to use more than one type of assessment, but the tradeoffs of different assessment tools vary across campus. We assess what we value, not what is easy. Based on the understanding that students will try to learn only what is assessed, the university focuses assessments on what the institution values. Broadly speaking, Carnegie Mellon values graduates who are resourceful and creative in fluid environments, are leaders, and can cooperate in team efforts when that is appropriate. Thus, the university strives to use assessments that are valid for these traits, even if, at first, they are difficult to implement or lack established reliability and validity. The university has developed clearly articulated performance criteria through repeated reflection and revision, represented in rubrics or other shareable formats, such as group project grading rubrics. Learning outcomes assessment should be situated within a broader educational context. Assessment data are used to support, guide, and evaluate instructional practices and program design in addition to student learning. Faculty continuously collect data on their teaching and their courses much of it informal as well as more formal early course evaluations and focus groups. Departments and programs vary in their frequency in which they engage in, talk about, or use the results of assessment activities for student feedback and evaluation, internal monitoring and updating of educational programs, or other purposes. 34 An example of how student learning assessment is used as a tool for continuous improvement in the School of Art is provided below Kinzie, J Carnegie Mellon University: Fostering Assessment for Improvement and teaching Excellence. National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment, p Bullets quoted with slight variation from Final Report of the Assessment Task Force on Assessment of Student Learning at the Program Level Carnegie Mellon University, pp and ATF Position on Assessment. Carnegie Mellon University, pp Kinzie. Op. cit., p Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 15

16 Assessment in arts courses too often focuses on a review of the artifact, instead of the learning process. To address this problem, one instructor in the School of Art developed extensive course project briefs, concise guides specifying assignment objectives that describe specific behaviors and reflection tasks that students are asked to undertake. Project briefs are well suited to arts courses because they are process-focused and are less prescriptive about outcomes than traditional rubrics. As the project briefs developed, the instructor created interactive, visual formats for recording student achievement of the outcomes. The approach requires students and instructors to complete portions of the assessments and pass them back and forth, resulting in the side-by-side visualization of students and instructors views and emphasizing the importance of both perspectives. This visual tool allows the instructor to aggregate information and show how all students performed on the project, providing another opportunity to discuss project goals. 36 The University makes available several resources for establishing course and program reviews. Some of these resources include: Course-level examples by type of assessment: o Assignments and exams o Comprehension checks o Group process assessments o Performance criteria o Pre-/post-tests o Prior knowledge assessments o Reflective assessments Program-level examples by college o Student surveys o Alumni surveys o Supervisor questionnaires o Recruiter surveys o Proficiency assessments o Problem seminars o Assessment rubrics Examples of documented processes (program-level): o Design o Economics o History o Information Systems o Mechanical Engineering o Psychology o Social and Decision Sciences 36 Ibid. (Quoted with slight variation) 2013 Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 16

17 Specific examples of innovative assessments developed by Carnegie Mellon faculty are provided below: Students in the Mathematical Sciences Department are assessed using a Problem Seminar in Math Studies, which was developed to assess how effectively majors in Mathematical Sciences can apply the abstract theories of algebra, metric spaces, and multi-dimensional calculus in the kind of collaborative problem-solving required in mathematical research. The course is described as a meeting where the two lecturing professors give the students problems to solve and discuss. Students are not formally assessed during the seminars, but rather are allowed the freedom to explore mathematical proofs in a collaborative setting. 37 Students in the Systems Synthesis I course are evaluated using a Weighted Peer Evaluation for Group Projects in order to accurately assess students contributions to group projects with changing membership. The evaluation is described as follows: Students were given a packet containing a peer evaluation form for each student in their group, and were given several days at the end of the project to complete their evaluation. Failure to complete it would affect their grade. After students completed the evaluation, I reviewed their feedback and developed an algorithm for weighting it: the feedback of students who had worked together directly was given greater weight than the feedback of students who had not worked together directly, and the feedback of project managers and subgroup leaders (who monitored team performance throughout the semester) was given even greater weight. Students received a group grade for their project, but it was adjusted upwards or downwards on the basis of this weighted peer feedback. 38 Students in the Statistics Department s freshman seminar, The Statistics of the Gay and Lesbian Population, are evaluated using Journals to Monitor Student Thinking in Statistics. The evaluation allows the professor to have an ongoing dialogue with students that enables [her] to monitor and support how they make sense of the course content. Students are required to write a weekly journal entry using a specific prompt or writing on any issue related to the course theme or statistics. Evaluation processes are described as follows: There were no length or scope requirements. I collected, read, and scored the journals each week and returned them at the next class meeting. I scored entries on a four-point scale (1=completed the entry, 0=did not complete the entry) and provided written feedback (e.g., suggesting a web site, validating a tentative entry, asking a follow-up question). I also tracked the entries content in terms of statistical learning, intellectual development, and diversity skills. 39 CORNELL UNIVERSITY Cornell University is notable for incorporating non-traditional student outcomes, such as moral and ethical awareness, self-management, and multi-cultural competence, into its 37 Problem Seminar in Math Studies. Carnegie Mellon University. 38 Weighted Peer Evaluation for Group Project. Carnegie Mellon University. 39 Journals to Monitor Student Thinking in Statistics. Carnegie Mellon University Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 17

18 student learning assessment processes. 40 The University s framework for assessment of student learning, developed by the Core Assessment Committee, is described as follows: In recognition of the size and complexity of the University, the Core Assessment Committee asks colleges, schools, and departments to develop assessment plans consistent with their programmatic emphasis and specific goals. While there is flexibility in format, all assessment plans must address a series of essential points. These relate to the educational goals or objectives of a course or program, opportunities for students to achieve those goals, assessments of how well the goals have been attained, and clear mechanisms by which ongoing improvements may be made. 41 Cornell uses a four-step cycle for developing student learning assessments: 42 Start with clear statements of your most important goals. (What key things will students be able to say, think, or do after completing your course?) Clearly stating your goals for student learning outcomes is simply a process of communicating what you want students to be able to say, think, or do as a result of instruction. It makes your expectations clear, and helps you identify criteria for success. Keep it simple: limit yourself to a small number of outcomes that are fundamental. Provide opportunities for students to learn. Plan your assessments carefully so that they assess the goals you have articulated. (Are students given the opportunity to develop those attributes, and do the course assignments and exams assess them?) Develop a couple of ways to measure each learning goal. At least one of those measures should be direct (e.g. papers, questions on exams, projects, portfolios, presentations) but indirect measures (e.g. student self-reports of learning from surveys) may play a role in assessment as well. Define clear, appropriate standards for student performance. (What constitutes exemplary, adequate, and poor work?) Additionally, Cornell makes available several samples of learning outcomes and assessment tools. Examples of assessment tools include: Writing in the Disciplines (program assessment): o Enrollment data o Student evaluations o Demonstrated improvement o Mid-semester evaluations Department of Economics and Management (student learning assessment) o Course-embedded testing 40 Learning Outcomes at Cornell. Cornell University. 41 Core Assessment Committee Resources. Cornell University. 42 Bullets quoted verbatim from: Putting it into practice. Cornell University. and Getting started with assessment. Cornell University Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 18

19 o o o o Writing assignments Case analysis Computer simulations Participation in global experiences ROSE-HULMAN INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology s RosE Portfolio System (REPS) received the 2007 CHEA Award for Institutional Progress in Student Learning Outcomes in recognition of its institution-wide approach to student learning outcomes based on a defined set of outcomes that all students should develop by graduation. 43 Student learning assessment using REPS is described as follows: 44 All faculty members submit quarterly Curriculum Maps that show which of the Institutional learning outcomes are addressed in their courses. After the Curriculum Maps are analyzed, faculty members determine which assignments in their courses will provide the best evidence of student achievement in the outcome. Once the assignments have been identified, faculty members direct students to submit those assignments to their RosE Portfolios. Each student has a portfolio that he/she maintains over the course of their time at Rose-Hulman. We collect evidence of student learning for all ten Institute learning outcomes every year. At the end of the academic year, a team of trained faculty portfolio raters review all submissions to REPS over a two-day Rating Session, using pre-defined evaluation rubrics. Once the ratings are completed, the portfolio rating results are compiled and analyzed by the Office of Institutional Research, Planning and Assessment. Each department then receives a report that contains detailed portfolio results for all student majors (from freshman through to seniors). Departments use this data to make improvements in their curricula to address any deficiencies in student achievement. REPS allows the Institute to assess student learning in six non-traditional, non-technical learning outcomes. For each learning outcome, there are several criteria, potential assessment documents, and primary traits to pass each criterion. Examples of assessment documents include: Leadership: journal, essay, biographical report, case study, presentation, vision statement, reflection statement Teamwork: essay, memo, or reflective statement from team/group activity Communication: outreach presentation, description of current research in a discipline, oral presentation, written or oral description of student s position on a topic Culture and global awareness: artifacts from the arts, music, or performance; documents from relevant coursework Ethics: paper or essay from appropriate coursework 43 RosE Portfolio System. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. 44 CHEA Award Application Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 19

20 Service: document or recording summarizing volunteer activity, service experience that relies on knowledge from undergraduate education, reflective statement 45 The criteria evaluated for student portfolios in the Gas Dynamics course of the Department of Mechanical Engineering are provided below. In addition to the items listed, there must be evidence in the order of materials of the organizational structure chosen by the student (i.e., organized by type of material, topic, or exam coverage, for example). All items shown below are required for inclusion except for those listed under additional work, which must be submitted to receive a score above Class notes o Notes dated o Course handouts integrated o Active Learning Assignments Attempted (graded and ungraded) integrated Homework: o Handwritten solutions o Master List of Assignments Exams Additional Work o Solutions to unassigned problems and/or extensions to assigned problems o o Reworked exams Reading notes and/or chapter outlines SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF ARCHITECTURE Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) is notable for primarily using portfolios in assessing student learning. The Gateway Portfolio Review is described as follows: The portfolio is conceived as an experimental tool for engaging in a discussion of architecture, and is to be developed by each student as a self-contained project in its own right. In the B.Arch and M.Arch programs, the portfolio supports evidence of the student s capacity to learn about the world through general education coursework and the curriculum in architectural studies, the portfolio integrates general education, core and advanced interdisciplinary work. Students are required to maintain a comprehensive portfolio of their design studio work as well as selected work from other courses. The portfolios should document clearly and concisely each student s progress through the curriculum, organizing the work chronologically and cumulatively Institute Learning Outcomes. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. 46 Portfolio Review. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Student Handbook. Southern California Institute of Architecture, p Hanover Research Academy Administration Practice 20

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