Examples of Using Assessment to Inform Decisions
In effective systems of student learning assessment, programs regularly complete the assessment cycle by using what was learned from assessment to inform or influence program decisions. Decisions may relate to various aspects of a program and student experience in a program including curriculum, instruction, course scheduling, advising, faculty professional development, TA training, facilities, assessment processes, or other aspects of the program. Below are some examples of how assessment can inform program decisions.
Curriculum and Instruction Decisions
- A program has a student learning outcome that students will be able to communicate effectively in written, oral and graphical forms. Faculty and successful alumni assess this outcome by evaluating student performance on a senior capstone project. Results from the project indicate that students perform well in relation to oral and graphical skills, but are weak in written communication. To address concerns with students’ writing, the assessment committee talks to instructors about where students should be getting written communication skills in the curriculum and decide to create a new course that better addresses the needs of students in the program.
- A program’s student learning outcomes include use of evolving information technology to monitor and improve care of clients. To assess student performance on this outcome, the program use exit surveys and focus groups. Results from surveys indicate that students are not as confident on this outcome as the program would like. Faculty agreed that they need to be more intentional about including it in all coursework and have worked to integrate informatics throughout the curriculum.
- A program collects instructor feedback and information from the Student Success Collaborative (longitudinal data on grades and retention). They see that a particular course is a “success marker” — that when students succeed in this course, they are likely to succeed in graduating from the program. To ensure students are prepared for this “success marker,” they add prerequisite to the course.
- Faculty members in a program participate in intensive strategic planning in which they consider the curriculum map, recruitment, retention, student grades, input from students, and their own experiences with the program. After discussion, they develop a capstone course, simplify their program’s core required courses to provide students with a recognizable cohort and better focus the program in correspondence with student interest and faculty expertise.
Other Program Decisions
- One of a program’s student learning outcomes is that students demonstrate ability to evaluate scientific claims and critically relate claims to global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. The program used a program rubric to assess student performance in several assignments. They found that assessors interpreted the learning outcome (which was on the rubric) differently than intended. The program decided to slightly modify the outcome for greater clarity.
- A program piloted a new exit survey that asks students to self-assess themselves on all program student learning outcomes. The pilot was successful and students strongly agreed that they had developed the skills noted in the student learning outcomes. The program decided that use of the exit survey should be expanded to include all graduates in the program.
- A program had a student learning outcome that students would be able to conduct experiments and analyze data. The program considered end of semester feedback from students and faculty, and determined that students were being hampered in conducting experiments due to insufficient student lab equipment. The program decided to purchase the needed equipment.
- A program conducts a focus group with graduating seniors. Responses at the focus group indicated that students were not receiving adequate career preparation advice from advisors. To address this deficit, the program decided to redesign their advising system to ensure students receive both academic and career advising.
- A program analyzed data from an internship survey. On the survey, many students indicated that it would be helpful to have clearer alignment between the skills in the internship and the questions they were asked in their post-internship debrief form. After discussion, faculty suggested adjustments to the evaluation form to help students better reflect on and summarize their internship experience.
- A program reviews several years of course evaluations from students. Student feedback indicates that teaching assistants (TAs) vary widely in ability to communicate course material. To ensure quality teaching, the program decides to require that all TAs take the Preparation for College Teaching course offered by the University.