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University of Houston-Downtown College Portrait

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University of Houston-Downtown Learning Outcomes

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) has established policies, practices, and infrastructure to ensure that student learning is systematically assessed and that the results of assessment are used to improve student learning.

UHD offers 44 undergraduate degrees and seven master's degree programs. Each program developed an Assessment Plan based on a common format which includes:

  • The program's mission statement
  • Program-level student learning outcomes
  • Assessment measures
  • Criteria for determining successful achievement of student learning outcomes
  • An updatable timeline according to which all program-level student learning outcomes are assessed and reported on annually over a six-year cycle

Each degree program also prepares an annual Assessment Report which contains: The program-level student learning outcomes which were measured during the preceding year

  • A summary of findings resulting from assessing those outcomes
  • A statement of the degree to which students achieved those outcomes
  • A summary of strategies which will be implemented over the next academic year
  • A summary of actions taken to implement improvements called for in the previous year’s Assessment Report  

In the last few years, 96% of UHD’s degree programs have implemented changes which directly impact student learning. Examples include:

·         Based on assessment data from ETS exams and student feedback, all College of Business programs are now placing significant emphasis on real-world applications with the goal of ensuring that students are able to apply their business knowledge effectively.

·         The BS-Applied Statistics program has hired two statisticians and worked to redesign courses throughout the degree.  The result has been strong improvement in student learning on several outcomes.

·         The History, Communication Studies, Psychology, Math and English programs adopted common syllabi for their courses in the General Education Core and in some other lower level courses because assessment data revealed that coverage of some key topics was inconsistent. Because these lower level courses should be where students build their foundational skills within the discipline, the faculty concluded that common syllabi would contribute to students developing a consistent foundation upon which to build future learning.

·         Thirty programs have mapped the courses in their curricula to their program-level learning outcomes and have identified areas in their curricula in need of revision or reinforcement in order to better address student learning outcomes.


Several programs are acting collaboratively to maximize the resources available to improve learning.

·         The programs in the Natural Sciences Department have collaborated on three initiatives designed to improve student learning across all the disciplines in the department:

o   First year general chemistry and biology serve as foundational courses for all Natural Sciences majors.  Assessment data revealed that students were struggling with foundational concepts and in response, the faculty participated in a major course redesign to improve learning and success in those courses.

o   Team-based learning is currently being implemented in first-year science courses as an effort to further improve students’ mastery of foundation concepts.

o   Finally, the Natural Sciences Department faculty have formed the Natural Sciences Academic Planning Committee which has developed a five-year plan for implementing major changes within the department.  Initiatives articulated in the plan which the faculty are currently implementing include:

§  Development of rubrics which describe specific curricular and programmatic elements that a course must have to be designated as a writing-intensive or research intensive course, a service-learning course or a capstone course.  These rubrics ensure that faculty across all disciplines and sections understand the level of rigor that courses with these designations should have.  This results in a much more cohesive curriculum, particularly for students who are in the interdisciplinary Biology and Physical Science program and for students who are pursuing interdisciplinary concentrations;

§  Development of common rubrics to be used across disciplines to assess writing and oral presentations; and

§  Increasing the number of undergraduate research-intensive, writing-intensive and service learning courses which are open to students.

·         Based on assessment data, the College of Business has implemented a major initiative to improve student writing which has included a revision of the BA 3300 Business Cornerstone (the first writing-intensive course that all business majors take) and implementation of a college-level tutoring program.  It should be noted that all College of Business majors are benefiting from these efforts.

UHD’s student services units have also developed Continuous Improvement Plans that identify the outcomes they strive to achieve with students.  Examples of improvements which these units made include:

·         UHD implement a self-serve advising tool designed to help students and academic advisors evaluate course work against degree requirements.  This tool generates an electronic evaluation report that shows how completed UHD courses, transfer courses, and in-progress courses apply toward the student’s academic degree requirements.  This system allows students and advisors to spend less time on record keeping and more time on program planning to achieve academic career goals.

·         The Career Development Center expanded its services to include:

o   Career counseling designed to help students match abilities, and passions with a field of study and careers;

o   Job search assistance is provided to students throughout their time at UHD.  For graduating students, the Center offers a complete package of services from resume development and job search workshops to mock interviews and job fairs to ensure students move seamlessly into their professions upon graduation.

o   The Center is making internships more available across all fields and provides services to alumni including hosting career days specifically marketed to alumni.

·         International Programscreated a suite of services to assist students who are interested in study abroad including assistance with scholarship research, partnerships with international organizations to facilitate study abroad and a study abroad handbook to help faculty plan study abroad activities.

As a result of student feedback, UHD’s student support units expanded the types of services which students can access without coming to campus.

·         W. I. Dykes Library   expanded its collection of electronically available materials.  The staff created a chat services that allows students to connect to library staff anytime they need assistance.

·         Student Counseling Services offers counseling services via Skype and phone to ensure access to services.

·         The Academic Support Center offers online tutoring in reading, writing, and mathematics.

Examples of post-graduate success include:

Employment and Graduate School:  Among the 2013 graduates, 74.2% of students were employed in Texas by the fourth quarter following graduate.  Another 7.4% were enrolled in a Texas graduate program or professional school.

Teacher Licensure Rates:  Of the 270 2013 graduates of UHD’s teacher education program, 92% passed the initial teacher licensure exam.

Learning Assessment Examples

University of Houston-Downtown administered the CLA+ in 2015.

University of Houston-Downtown conducted a Senior-only benchmarked administration of the CLA+ in 2015. The results are displayed below in the SLO Results tab.

For additional information on UHD’s process for administering CLA+, please click on the Assessment Process Tab below. For information on the students included in the administration, please click the Students Tested Tab.

Why did you choose the CLA+ for your institutional assessment?

The University of Houston-Downtown chose the CLA because we believed that it would provide a more authentic indication of our students' competencies than the multiple-choice instrument we had used previously.

Which University of Houston-Downtown students are assessed? When?

Since 2008 the University of Houston-Downtown has administered an instrument to assess students' cognitive competencies every three years as part of the assessment plan for our General Education program. Until 2012 we assessed only seniors, but starting Fall 2012 we began assessing freshmen and seniors.

How are assessment data collected?

The University of Houston-Downtown promotes the availability of the CLA to freshman students in fall semesters and to senior students in spring semesters of the years when it is administered. Multiple incentives are offered to encourage students to complete the instrument online and to motivate them to perform at their highest level.

How are data reported within University of Houston-Downtown?

Data are aggregated and analyzed initially by the Office of Institutional Effectiveness. Data are then distributed to groups of faculty, administrators, and staff throughout the university. Discussions with these groups focus on taking guidance from the data to make improvements in the effectiveness of student learning.

How are assessment data at UHD used to guide program improvements?

Data from the CLA are used primarily to improve student achievement of the university's General Education (GE) learning outcomes. Groups of faculty who are responsible for the GE program and for courses taught as part of the GE program are engaged in discussions and initiatives aimed at improving instruction and student learning.

Our tested students included a higher proportion of women and a lower proportion of men than exist in our student body so we will review the results by gender to be sure there aren't different patterns between men and women.  

The VSA advises institutions to follow assessment publisher guidelines for determining the appropriate number of students to test. In the absence of publisher guidelines, the VSA provides sample size guidelines for institutions based on a 95% confidence interval and 5% margin of error. So long as the tested sample demographics represent the student body, this means we can be 95% certain that the "true" population learning outcomes are with +/- 5% of the reported results. For more information on Sampling, please refer to the Research Methods Knowledge Base

At UHD, senior students who completed the CLA+ Performance Task (n=84) scored higher than 7% of seniors at all other CLA+-participating institutions in Spring 2015.

At UHD, senior students who completed the CLA+ Selected Response (n=84) scored higher than 11% of seniors at all other CLA+-participating institutions in Spring 2015.

As UHD did not participate in a value-added administration, scores are not adjusted to account for the incoming ability of UHD students.

Seniors Detail

The charts below show the proportion of tested seniors who scored at each level of the nine subscales that make up the CLA+. The subscale scores range from 1 to 6 with 6 representing a higher or better score. Due to rounding, subscores may not total 100%.

Performance Task
Analysis & Problem Solving
Writing Effectiveness
Writing Mechanics

The table below shows students' mean scores on the three subscales that make up the Selected-Response Questions section of the CLA+. The students subscores are determined by the number of correct responses in each subsection, with those raw numbers adjusted based on the difficulty of the question set the students received. Individual student scores are rounded to the nearest whole number.

Subscale Mean Student Scores
Scientific & Quantitative Reasoning (Range: 200 to 800) 512.0
Critical Reading & Evaluation (Range: 200 to 800) 513.0
Critique an Argument (Range: 200 to 800) 487.0