Assessing Program Educational Goals
Just as faculty at the university have the authority to determine the educational goals of each degree program, faculty also have the responsibility to determine the effectiveness of their program(s). For this assessment to be effective, it must be done systematically and all faculty in the program must be involved in evaluating the results.
Collection of program learning assessment information
In the writing of our 2021 Middle States Self-Study, we realized that program educational goals and assessments are not being systematically documented across the university. The Task Force on Learning Goals & Assessment recommended that assessment plans and results be collected from programs each year. The process should be straight-forward and not impose rigid requirements on how the assessments are carried out; they must remain true to the nature of the program and the kinds of evidence that are acceptable to and valued by faculty in the program.
Degree-granting programs are asked to submit brief descriptions of their assessment plans and results each fall beginning in 2023 using the Annual Program Educational Goal Assessment Report Web form. As recommended by the task force, these reports are relatively brief; they describe at least one program educational goal, how it was assessed, the assessment results, a brief discussion of any program or course modifications to be made in response to the results, and an outline of any support/resources needed to make necessary alignments. The reports are provided to chairs/directors and their deans in the spring help guide collaborative discussions and planning each spring. A detailed description and discussion of this Web form is available in our How-To Guide for UD’s Annual Program Educational Goal Assessment Report. A Google Doc with the questions from the Web form is also available; it is ideal for drafting responses to the questions and sharing with colleagues for feedback and editing prior to submitting the completed Web form.
Academic units are asked to assess all of their program educational goals at least once by fall 2027 or by their next APR self-study, whichever comes later. This timeline aligns with UD’s Middle States accreditation cycle and the task force’s recommendations.
Support for revising or developing program learning assessment plans
Frequently asked questions about the collection process of program-level assessment plans
Collection of discipline-specific examples of program-level assessment plans and literature on creating those plans
Characteristics of good program learning assessment plans
Evaluation of the extent of student achievement
Assignments that faculty grade should provide students and faculty with evidence of student learning and not be rote, administrative activities unrelated to learning. This can occur in all kinds of activities that are part of the program, in and out of class, e.g., courses, field experiences.
Collaboration between faculty
Assessments of and within programs are the responsibility of all faculty in the program, not the sole responsibility of a small number of faculty members or one individual. Of course, significant portions can and often must be organized and carried out by small groups or individual faculty members e.g., assignments in specific classes, analyses of assessment results conducted by an assessment or curriculum committee. But all faculty must regularly and systematically analyze the learning – or lack thereof – that is occurring in their program.
Alignment between assessments and goals
The assessments that occur in the program must be clearly aligned with the educational goals of the program, including those that are imposed from outside of the program e.g., General Education goals, goals required by program accreditation. Of course, this is most easily accomplished if faculty ensure that courses have clear goals that are themselves aligned with program goals and assessments are clearly aligned with those course goals.
Systematic use of data
Data collected assessments and used to provide feedback about the effectiveness of a program are only useful if faculty routinely analyze those data. This does not have to be complicated; a standing item on regular faculty meetings devoted to discussing the results of one assignment in one course can ensure that many faculty understand student learning in the program and lead to consideration of changes in the program, if necessary.
Faculty and staff are welcome to request support from CTAL to develop or revise program educational goals. These consultations may include briefings at faculty meetings, guided workshops, reviews of drafts, assistance in identifying examples and disciplinary resources, or other interactions and support services. In the 2023-2024 academic year, we are offering guided support series in the fall and spring semesters. Self-guided modules are also available.
There are many resources that provide clear and helpful advice and examples of program-level assessment. Some of the best that are freely available include:
- How to Assess Student Learning at the Program-level hosted by the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation at Carnegie Mellon University
- Example of Uses of Assessment to Improve Student Learning hosted by Institutional Research & Planning at Bucknell University
- Many program assessment resources provided by the Office of Academic Assessment at Auburn University.