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.
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 will be required to submit brief descriptions of their assessment plans and results each fall beginning in 2023 after program educational goals have been collected from each program. As recommended by the task force, this report will be relatively brief; it will 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 report will be provided to chairs/directors and their deans in the spring with the intent that they will form part of the basis for the collegial discussions that occur during the appraisal of each chair/director.
Characteristics of Good Program-level Assessment Plans
Program-level assessment plans should include:
- Assessments of student work and performance – in courses, during field experiences, in and out of class, etc. – that evaluate the extent of student achievement of institutional and program educational goals.
- Collaboration between faculty in the program who create and use assessments of student work and performance that are meaningfully and effectively integrated to assess all program educational goals.
- Assessments of student work in courses, in and out of class, that are clearly aligned with or linked to institution- and program-level educational goals.
- Assessments of student work in courses, in and out of class, that are systematically, clearly, and effectively used for the improvement of the educational effectiveness of this program.
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.
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.
Faculty and staff are welcome to request support from CTAL to develop or revise program assessment plans. These consultations may include briefings at faculty meetings, guided workshops, reviews of drafts, assistance in identiying examples and disciplinary resources, or other interactions and support services. We also offer some events and workshops that are specifically geared toward helping groups of faculty begin this work e.g., the Winter Institute on Learning in 2020 and 2021.