Designing a Department Assessment Plan

“Assessment of student learning can be defined as the systematic collection of information about student learning, using the time, knowledge, expertise, and resources available, in order to inform decisions about how to improve learning.”
— Barbara E. Walvoord, Assessment Clear and Simple, p. 2.

According to the old adage “perfect information breeds perfect decisions”—assessment of student learning generates relevant data, which informs strategic plans for university, college, and program development and improvement. The assessment process also provides the faculty a forum for defining the precise cognitive, behavioral, and affective learning outcomes they value and want students to acquire upon completion of their academic program. A robust assessment conversation, planning and implementation process leads to a vigorous learning environment.

The basic steps of assessment are the clarification of learning objectives, collecting evidence, and using that information to inform our decisions and improve the level of student learning within our programs. Systematic assessment breeds of culture of evidence where evidence is weighed and used to communicate our successes.

Overview of Assessment

Value-Added Learning—what did our students learn as a direct result of their experience at ENMU?

Process of Faculty-Driven Assessment

 Faculty members from each program:

  • Specify learning objectives
  • Develop measures to directly and indirectly assess how well the learning objectives were achieved
  • Set standards which student are expected to achieve in order to demonstrate that the objectives are being successively fulfilled
  • Apply assessment measures and compare results to performance criteria
  • Assess progress within the program and college
  • Implement improvements or changes to the program, as needed.

Developing Student Learning Assessment Objectives

Learning objectives can include measures of any or all of the outcomes listed below.

  •  Cognitive Outcomes—at end of the program, our students should know;
  • Behavioral Outcomes—at the end of the program, our students should be able to demonstrate these skills;
  • Affective Outcomes—at the end of the program, our students should hold these professional values . [Hatfield, Assessment Planning Workbook]

 Assessment Instruments and Methods to Assess Student Learning.

 There are many different instruments available to measure student learning—direct, indirect, and measurements collected by the University.

 Direct Indicators of Student Learning

  • Capstone Course or Performance Evaluation
  • Classroom-Based Assessment [PTA]
  • Tests and Examinations (Locally/Faculty designed or external standardized tests)
  • Portfolio Evaluation
  • Pre-test/Post-test evaluation
  • Thesis Evaluation
  • Performance Evaluation—Live, Videotape and Audiotape

Indirect Indicators of Student Learning

  • External Reviewers
  • Student Surveying and Exit Interviews
  • Focus Groups
  • Alumni Surveying
  • Employer Surveying
  • Curriculum and Syllabus Analysis

University Information Available

  1. Transcript Analysis
    1. Patterns of course-taking
  2. Trends in Student performance
    1. Tracking exams or course grades over time
  3. Descriptive indicators for enrolled students or alumni
    1. Student data such as SAT, ACT, High School Percentile Rank, GPA
  4. Nationally Normed Data on Student Expectations and Satisfaction
    1. NSSE, CIRP Freshman Survey, and Your First College Year
  5. Trends in Student Enrollment
    1. Retention, enrollment, or graduation rates for students in departments

Checklist for Writing Program Objectives/Outcomes

  •  Is the objective integrated with the Mission of Eastern New Mexico University? The Mission of the program? Is the objective integrated with any appropriate discipline accrediting competencies? Does it fit the Institutional Strategic Plan?
  • Can it be measured?
  • Is it Reasonable/achievable?
  • Does it relate to Students’ Needs?
  • Is it outcome driven?
  • Is it specific?
  • Is it simple and easy to understand?
  • Is it focused on the purpose(s) of the program?
  • If fulfilled will it lead to improved student performance?
  • Is it cost effective?
  • Does it use current technology?
  • Is there a time/date established for goal introduction, reinforcement and assessment?
  • Is it written with assessment and evaluation in mind?

Checklist for Program Assessment Plan

  •  Agree on program mission.
  • Create goals/objectives for student learning outcomes and processes
  • Map linkages between institutional, general education and program goals.
  • Map the introduction, reinforcement and assessment of goals within curricular offerings.
  • Evaluate and select appropriate measures for each outcome [more than one measure is desirable.]
  • Identify appropriate performance criteria for each goal and measure
  • Set timeline for assessing goals
  • Implement assessment plan
  • Use data to improve student learning and assessment processes
  • Communicate results

Adapted from Winona State University.

Timeframe for Program Assessment

Timeframe Activity
  • Reviewed program assessment plan
  • Implemented assessment plan measures [in steps]
  • Reviewed assessment results with special attention to the possible implications of those results on revisions and modifications of the department curriculum.
  • Report of assessment—methods, results, and how the results were used.