The purpose of student learning assessment is to determine whether students have attained the knowledge, skills, and responsibilities that faculty define as central to a degree and to use the resulting data to strengthen curriculum and instruction.
Building and maintaining excellence in student learning requires a rigorous, flexible program of assessment that evaluates learning in the Liberal Education Core and in major, minor and certificate programs. Responsibility for assessment of student learning rests with the faculty and instructional academic staff, but is coordinated by a director of assessment. Campus-level structures and processes must guide faculty and instructional academic staff assessment of student learning in liberal education and academic programs.
One site of student learning assessment at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire (UW-Eau Claire) is the Liberal Education Core. Faculty and instructional academic staff teaching courses or guiding experiences in the Liberal Education Core use approved rubrics to assess whether students have met benchmarks for each of the Liberal Education learning outcomes associated with a course. Faculty, instructional academic staff, departments, and programs identify how assessment data are used to refine course content, instructional methods, or assessment practices.
Student learning is also assessed in academic programs. Faculty in each academic program develop an assessment plan that identifies program learning outcomes, the courses in which each outcome is taught, and how each outcome is measured. Academic programs submit yearly assessment reports that describe findings and identify how assessment data are used to alter program curricula, course content, and instructional methods.
Assessment of student learning is conducted completely independently of assessment of faculty and instructional academic staff performance. Assessment practices are also distinct from the process of assigning student grades.
The academic department or program review process represents a peer assessment of a program's quality and strategic importance. Each academic department or program is reviewed on a seven-year rotation. The department or program completes a self-study using data provided by the Office of Institutional Research. After gathering additional data, an internal review team and an external reviewer prepare independent reports. Findings, recommendations and any program response are forwarded to the Academic Policies Committee, the college dean, and the Provost, who ultimately recommends program action. Programs complete a progress report two years after the completion of the review.
Assessment structures and processes are established, and most individuals and departments are participating in assessment activities; however, if UW-Eau Claire strives to provide students with excellent learning experiences, meaningful assessment of student learning must be embraced by all faculty and academic staff and assessment data must clearly and consistently be used to improve curriculum and instruction. Assessment must become an engrained part of the instructional culture if UW-Eau Claire wishes to continue to offer students an innovative curriculum and excellent instruction.
It is time to put aside misconceptions regarding assessment and embrace the process for the useful information it can and does provide. If faculty are serious about maintaining high-quality programs through improvements based on feedback and data, then they must be serious about assessment.
Faculty engage in continuous quality improvement for their individual classes by incorporating useful student and peer feedback. Programs need to engage in continuous quality improvement, too. Programs, like classes, need to remain current, relevant, and vital. That’s done by incorporating feedback gathered through the assessment process.
Priorities + Actions
Require all academic departments to participate in assessment of the liberal education learning outcomes and program learning outcomes.
Expect all faculty and instructional academic staff to participate in assessment activities in the Liberal Education Core and academic programs.
Add participation in assessment activities to the Strategic Accountability Matrix (SAM) categories.
Provide additional professional development regarding the role of assessment in building and maintaining excellence in curriculum and instruction.
Refine the program review process to focus on program-level planning to address priorities identified in this Academic Master Plan.
Revise self-study template to include plans for addressing priorities identified in this Academic Master Plan for the review cycle beginning spring semester 2017.
Revise review report template to review program plans for addressing priorities identified in this Academic Master Plan for the review cycle beginning spring semester 2017.