ATL recently presented Co-Provost Erica Austin and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Mary Wack with the 2015 summary of program assessment reports from all WSU undergraduate degrees. 

Program-level assessment looks at student learning in a degree or program of study — focusing on the key skills and knowledge students should develop, as well as their experiences in the curriculum. Assessment helps faculty collaboratively develop, maintain and improve an effective curriculum that promotes student learning.

Overall, substantially all undergraduate degree programs have effective assessment systems in place. A notable accomplishment for the university is the finding that all programs reported making decisions in the past year informed by assessment results, which included decisions about curriculum or instruction as well as other decisions to support students, or to improve the program or its assessment process. Assessment measures and results take a variety of forms in different programs as appropriate to their disciplines.

Communication is another strength that emerged from the 2015 reports. Substantially all programs reported that program leadership and a committee discussed assessment last year, and in most programs, the majority of faculty who teach also discussed assessment. Faculty engaged in a variety of activities, such as rubric development, curriculum mapping, and curriculum revision. Such activities offered ways for instructors to think about student learning in the program as a whole and how to support it most effectively in their own classes, strengthening a shared faculty understanding of the curriculum and student learning outcomes.

The university’s comprehensive accreditation review by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) is scheduled for Fall 2017. In preparation, ATL is working with programs to support their assessment activities. ATL will continue its focus of last year on strengthening direct and indirect measures of student learning, particularly at the senior level. Assessment specialists are helping programs to self-assess their measures and make needed improvements, especially regarding sample size, representation, and data analysis.

While much progress in the quality of undergraduate program assessment systems has been made in the past four years, the 2015 reports suggest that further work is needed in several areas.

  • Programs should ensure measures of student learning at the senior level are providing results that contribute to decisions about curriculum and instruction.
  • Programs should continue their efforts to ensure that assessment involves all campuses and locations offering degrees as well as degrees offered online.
  • Work is also needed to develop effective archives of assessment, which are useful to faculty and departments, and which will be important for the university’s 2017 accreditation review.

Finally, ATL extends appreciation to all faculty and chairs who have invested time in their assessment activities, as well as into their annual reports. For additional assessment support in the upcoming year, please contact the assessment specialist for your college or program.