In October, ATL presented Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Mary Wack and the Provost’s Accreditation, Assessment, and Academic Program Review Committee with the 2018 WSU-wide Summary of Undergraduate Degree Program Assessment Reports from all WSU undergraduate degrees.
WSU’s undergraduate degree programs report annually on their system of assessing student learning, a practice begun in 2009. 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.
WSU programs use assessment of student learning outcomes to improve the degree program in various ways, including decisions about curriculum, instruction, faculty development, or improving assessment processes. Substantially all programs regularly engage in assessment activities and discuss assessment, involving both faculty who teach and program leadership. In this way, program-level assessment at WSU enhances student learning.
Substantially all programs reported having all six key assessment elements in place in 2018, as in past years, which contributes to meeting WSU’s Strategic Plan Goal for transformative student experience. Additionally, over the last three years all programs completed an assessment cycle for at least one program-level student learning outcome by using the results to inform program decisions. In many programs, these decisions were characterized as being about curriculum, instruction or faculty development — the sorts of decisions that contribute most directly to improving student learning.
Overall, WSU undergraduate degrees demonstrate an “effective, regular, and comprehensive system of assessment of student achievement,” as expected by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), WSU’s regional accreditor and, in 2018, the NWCCU commended WSU for its assessment practices. While much progress in the quality of undergraduate program assessment systems has been made in the past seven years, continued attention is needed in several areas.
New recommendations that will impact undergraduate program assessment planning and priorities include the need to incorporate student learning outcomes assessment findings into WSU’s Strategic Plan and the evaluation of university mission fulfillment, and the need to improve the availability and use of data which can be disaggregated to identify differences among campuses and learning modalities.
While assessment in degrees offered on multiple campus shows improvement over 2017, continued attention is needed to ensure that students and courses on each campus (including online) are included in meaningful assessment for all degrees in representative numbers. Pilot assessments will need to efficiently scale up and other degrees considering expanding to additional campuses or online should build on effective assessment practices to include these courses and students.
Assessment of student learning at the senior-level has continued to be a focus university-wide and this indicator has steadily increased. In 2018, substantially all degree programs reported collecting a senior-level direct measure of student learning near the end of their degree, providing information about what students are able to achieve at the end of the curriculum. However, many programs are refining their senior-level assessment measures, piloting new measures, including new capstone courses in assessment of seniors, or extending degrees to new campuses or locations. ATL will continue consulting with programs to identify meaningful measures of student learning, to increase the quality and utility of senior-level measures and data analysis, and to scale up pilots in sustainable ways.
Finally, ATL extends appreciation to all faculty and chairs who have invested time in their assessment activities, as well as into their annual program assessment reports. WSU policies communicate the value leadership places on sustainable assessment and, updated in 2018, the faculty manual now provides a mechanism to recognize faculty participation in assessment in the annual review process. This update aligns with the university’s new faculty annual review software and EPPM policies on assessment, which include recognizing assessment work in annual review at all levels.
As faculty and leadership engage in assessment over time, and work with ATL to improve the quality and utility of their assessment elements, we are collectively developing mature, meaningful systems that meet the evolving needs of WSU students, faculty and disciplines.