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Delaware State University College Portrait

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Delaware State University Learning Outcomes

Student learning is fundamental to Delaware State’s University’s Mission. Clearly articulated expected student learning outcomes occur at all levels and at different points of the student experience. Student learning outcomes assessment is mission-driven and essential to the achievement of the University’s Mission and goals.

Since 2007 DSU has implemented a comprehensive assessment system to evaluate whether the institution is meeting its mission and goals regarding student learning and in order to continuously improve the quality of programs. From the identification of learning goals and targeted outcomes to the establishment of the Assessment Office, the implementation of WEAVEonline® and the Assessment Data Collection System (ADCS), DSU is continuously enhancing its ability to assess the effectiveness of its educational programs and the institution. This chapter describes the processes, measures, support systems, and activities related to the assessment of student learning. Both direct and indirect data from student learning assessment and documented outcomes achievement are highlighted. Examples from colleges and units, including program-specific accreditations, are reported and action steps for strengthening the collection and use of student learning assessment data are provided. Figure 1 depicts this cycle of goals and outcomes identification, data gathering, analysis, and improvement.

Figure 1. Delaware State University's assessment of student learning cycle.

 

Learning Goals and Outcomes

 

Delaware State University’s commitment to student learning begins with the identification of learning goals and targeted outcomes. The University systematically assesses learning outcomes at all levels. The General Education program, major curricula, Honors Program, and Housing and Residential Education share the determination to prepare DSU graduates to be

  • competent communicators;
  • effective inquirers, critical thinkers, and problem-solvers able to use appropriate quantitative and qualitative information;
  • ethical, collaborative, and productive citizens of a complex, diverse world;
  • independent learners able to integrate knowledge and technology to achieve personal and professional success.

These goals are developed and supplemented throughout a student’s course of study and are aligned with additional learning goals in discipline-specific courses.

The development of commonly accepted student learning goals is an ongoing rigorous process based on periodic re-evaluation of existing goals. Stakeholders review external benchmarks, such as those developed by professional organizations related to their field of study, and solicit peer feedback to continuously monitor the efficacy of currently adopted goals and the extent to which they are aligned with each other. 

A survey of department chairs was undertaken in order to learn more about student learning assessment and to gather information to orient the reconstituted Institutional Effectiveness Committee. The survey shows that academic departments utilize varied methods to bring faculty together to review student learning based on program outcomes. Table 1 shows that at least two-thirds of the chairs reported engaging faculty to review student outcomes each semester or each year. Another 13% of baccalaureate-granting programs bring faculty together to review student learning outcomes every two years. At the graduate level, however, assessment of student learning outcomes has not been as consistent. An assessment time-line is being developed by the Graduate Council, in collaboration with the Assessment Office and the Center for Teaching and Learning, to correct this situation.

Table 1: Periodic Review of Learning Goals and Targeted Outcomes

 

 Question

Never

Every Semester

Every Academic Year

Every Two Academic years

Responses

GE Program Required Course

22%

22%

29%

13%

22

Baccalaureate Degree

13%

26%

36%

13%

22

Graduate Degree

40%

20%

23%

15%

22

 

Alignment of Mission, Learning Goals and Outcomes

Intentional connections among the Mission, learning goals, and targeted outcomes occur at all levels. The centerpiece of Delaware State’s tripartite mission is to “provide for the people of Delaware and others who are admitted, meaningful and relevant education that emphasizes both the liberal and professional aspects of higher education ... with a broad range of programs in instruction, service, and research...” Three of DSU’s nine Strategic Goals -- academic programs (I), dynamic research (II), and outreach to underserved populations (III) -- directly relate to the “tripartite mission.” Each department aligns its mission with the University’s, while maintaining a specific focus on meeting students’ professional and personal development needs in their respective disciplines. A review of department mission statements demonstrates these close linkages.

Each program also specifies the alignment of its learning goals and targeted outcomes with the University learning goals which, in turn, support the University Mission. Course syllabi indicate how objectives are aligned with program learning goals and outcomes. The Institutional Effectiveness Committee and academic departments systematically review the mission, goals, and targeted student learning outcomes of every program to ensure that they are properly aligned with the University’s Mission and student learning goals and to facilitate the measurement of student learning.

All of the learning goals and targeted outcomes are entered into the WEAVEonline® system, a management system that helps facilitate continuous improvement processes in both the academic and administrative structures, including assessment, planning, accreditation, budgeting, and institutional priorities. See Appendices 9.2 and 9.3 for sample WEAVEOnline® reports.

 

Communication of Student Learning Goals

The University communicates student learning goals and targeted outcomes in multiple ways. The Director of General Education shares general education learning goals through public forums sponsored by the Assessment Office and Center for Teaching and Learning, the University catalog, and the DSU website. General education learning outcomes are present in each Core, Breadth, and Across-the-Curriculum course syllabus. Students, faculty, staff, and administrators receive information about student learning goals through the governance structure and well-established practices primarily based at the department or program level. The Academic Affairs Committee, the General Education Committee, the Honors Council, and the General Faculty Meeting routinely disseminate information about student learning goals. The college curriculum committees and the Faculty Senate require that new program and course proposals include explicit statements regarding student learning outcomes. Faculty and administrators review university-wide efforts to enhance student learning and development outcomes at the Faculty Senate and General Faculty meetings.

At the program level, faculty members discuss student learning goals at assessment and planning meetings and during curriculum revision. Academic departments communicate goals to students enrolled in their programs during advising meetings and through informational materials. Faculty members outline learning objectives to students in class and through course syllabi. Data from a survey of department chairs, seen in Table 2, shows that syllabi are the primary mechanism to communicate course expectations of student learning outcomes. Additional sources such as on-line homework systems, department guidebooks, or handbooks are also utilized.

Table 2: Communication of Course Expectations for Student Learning

 

Communication Method

Response

Percent

Syllabus

15

100%

On-line homework systems

3

21%

Department guides/handbooks

4

29%

Other

3

21%

 

The University’s website also communicates goals to the larger community. DSU participates in the Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA) that produces the College Portrait for review by prospective students and parents. In this way, faculty, students, and interested community members develop a deeper understanding of the skills, intellectual rigor, and content that students are expected to develop as they progress through their program.

Measuring Student Learning

Since 2007 the University has put into place a comprehensive system to meet its institutional goal regarding assessment (Strategic Goal VIII). This system measures student achievement of learning goals and provides feedback for improvement of programs and courses.

Student learning assessment is primarily a programmatic activity managed at the department level. Programs in business, social work, nursing, dietetics, and teacher education have well-defined plans and procedures for gathering data on student outcomes and use the results for improvement in order to maintain accreditation. Programs not linked to accrediting bodies develop their own methodology. Each program is charged with setting desired benchmarks/targets, analyzing their data, reporting progress to date, and preparing and implementing plans designed to improve student learning that is being measured. Achievement of student learning and program goals is documented in a mandatory annual report available to others through the WEAVEonline® system. Using this medium faculty and staff can see the extent to which students are reaching prescribed goals.

The Assessment Office and the Center for Teaching and Learning work collaboratively with faculty members across the institution to encourage and support them in their efforts to design appropriate strategies for measuring student learning outcomes at the course, program, college and institution-wide levels and to systematically gather and evaluate information from those assessments.

When the new General Education Program was implemented in 2009 each program specified Across-the-Curriculum Outcomes to be demonstrated in their courses and designated specific courses to be assessed. The General Education Committee is in the process of developing rubrics to assess the achievement of these goals. The Assessment Data Collection System (ADCS) was created to facilitate data collection and analysis from these rubrics. Table 3 shows the timeline for the implementation of these rubrics.

Table 3: Across-the-Curriculum Outcomes Rubric Implementation

 

Date

Rubric Implementation

Spring 2010

Information Literacy

Writing in the Major

Critical Thinking/Problem Solving

Fall 2010

Quantitative Reasoning

Oral Communication-Presentation

Spring 2012

Global Learning

African-American Experience

Fall 2012

Wellness

 

Fall 2013

Reading I and Reading II

 

Spring 2014

Computer Competency

Oral Communication – Discussion

Self-Evaluation

 

 

 

Program-level student learning assessment utilizes multiple measures. Thirty-six and thirty-eight percent, respectively, of academic department chairs reported that their programs conduct pretest and exit assessments of student learning (see Table 4).  Seventy-seven percent of departments utilize research projects or the capstone course (the modal category) to assess student learning and 67% engage in comprehensive testing.

Table 9.4: Types of Assessments of Student Learning

 

Type of Assessment

Response

Percent

Pretest

8

36%

Exit Assessment

8

36%

Comprehensive Testing

15

68%

Portfolio or project exhibition

9

41%

Performance Assessment

5

23%

Research project/capstone

17

77%

Student course evaluation

13

59%

Other

6

27%

 

Assessment tools are designed to assess critical program competencies and knowledge in a comprehensive manner. For example, the Educational Testing Service (ETS) PRAXIS exam for education students tests students in basic skills, professional knowledge, academic content areas, other content areas, teaching special populations, and performance assessment. Scores for this and other national examinations such as the American Chemical Society standardized chemistry exam and the Didactic Program for Dietetics Graduates Registration Examination are analytical and permit the programs to pinpoint areas of accomplished performance by students and areas of needed improvement.

Data entered into the ADCS measures student learning in both the capstone experience and in the achievement of Across-the-Curriculum outcomes. Some programs use additional systems to methodically collect data using sophisticated technology platforms. The Professional Education Unit (PEU) for example, uses TK20® to collect student ratings on assignments, observed lessons, and other data. TK20® is used to systematically collect data, plan assessments, compare assessment data against specific outcomes/objectives, and generate detailed reports for the purposes of compliance, analysis, and program improvement. The Hospitality and Tourism Management Program has usedLiveText® for the same purposes.