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Learning outcomes on the campus
In addition to a regular schedule of conducting the NSSE, we are on a regular cycle of assessing via direct measures the learning goals of the General Education program. During the 2011 – 2012 academic year, assessments were conducted on the written and oral communication, quantitative literacy, decision making, and wellness learning outcomes, drawing samples from appropriate core courses. For the 2012 – 2013 academic year, samples are being drawn for assessment of the learning outcomes for distribution courses in the sciences, social sciences, humanities, art, and histories.
Assessment Data Collection
Samples of student performance on the learning goals are drawn from relevant courses in high stakes conditions for assessments. For example, evaluations are made of students’ writing projects, speeches, or exam performances. In each case, a specific rubric or scoring scheme is used, and that information is translated into a more global rating on adaptations of the VALUE rubrics. That is, we have created global rubrics for each of our learning outcomes, which largely correspond to AAC&U’s essential learning outcomes, and are designed to be used with more specialized rubrics (of the same outcome) from a diversity of courses. To illustrate, many courses and programs have written communication learning outcomes but may have their own rubric – the global rubric is designed to serve as the common denominator.
Reporting of Assessment Data
First, findings from these assessments, which are organized by our General Education Assessment Committee, are presented to the community during our January workshop on General Education and Assessment. An annual report of findings and recommendations are submitted to the General Education (curriculum) Committee, and the Provost. Finally, every three years, any recommendations for major changes to the General Education curriculum are submitted to three university committees for discussion and approval.
There are two types of evidence-based changes and improvements. First, if assessments reveal areas where student learning falls short of the desired target, improvements may occur at the course level. In other words, an area that needs strengthening is likely to lead to increased attention or emphasis in the relevant course (e.g., oral communication outcome and the speech course). The second type concerns changes to the curriculum itself, which may involve new courses, better sequencing of courses, a structuring of the program, or even a refinement of the model underlying the learning outcomes.
Results regarding Student Learning
With respect to the assessments of several General Education learning goals in 2011 – 2012, findings reveal strengths as well as areas in which student performance may need to improve. It should be noted that the assessments were conducted in core courses and that generally speaking students would have other opportunities for learning at additional points in their careers; thus, performance levels appear appropriate to students’ level. Learning goals at the program level or major are also assessed, very often during a capstone experience. While it is difficult to easily summarize outcome assessments from a large number of diverse programs residing in four very different colleges, student performances generally appear to be at levels appropriate to students finishing the undergraduate major.