Assessment and Accreditation
How do University Assessment Efforts align to NWCCU requirements?
NWCCU requires that program outcomes and course goals be aligned with evidence of student learning and be meaningful, assessable and verifiable and that we maintain a university wide system for alignment, assessment and improvement. Our emphasis on alignment to University-wide learning outcomes (ULO, GLO, or GELO) and the review by a campus-wide PLC that produces recommendations for needed adjustments to maintain effectiveness and improve outcomes as needed address these requirements.
We grade our students regularly. Why do we have to do this extra work?
Grading tends to be most effective in evaluating the learning of individual students and often incorporate criteria that are not direct learning measures. Assessment goes beyond individual students to examine patterns of learning and often relies on ungraded measures. There are ways to implement embedded assessments that connect to graded assignments. The office of Academic Effectiveness can provide support to programs wishing to engage in this practice.
I want to learn more about assessment. Where can I go?
There are many resources available through the Academic Effectiveness Resources page.
An excellent place to start is the site hosted by the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation at Carnegie Mellon University
Program Outcomes and Course Goals
Where can we find the PLOs or Course Goals?
All PLOs and course goals submitted to Academic Affairs are available via the Academic Effectiveness office Outcomes and Goals page. All programs should publish their PLOs on their program websites and other materials and clearly list Course Goals on syllabi.
How do we change our PLOs or Course Goals? Does this require a curriculum proposal?
Programs may adjust their PLOs or Course Goals through the faculty senate curriculum system. The system is set up so that department heads or program coordinators approve course goals, and then they are accepted into the curriculum database. A full curriculum proposal is required if those adjustments have bearing on program or course requirements (e.g. prerequisites, credit numbers, course requirements).
Our program has some specific requirements tied to our professional accreditation that do not align to University Learning Outcomes. What should we do about that?
Programs can and should develop PLOs that account for specific disciplinary or professional requirements; it is only necessary to include one PLO that ties to ULOs or GELOs.
How should we plan and report on our program assessment?
Each year every academic program assesses student achievement of at least one program learning outcome. The report for a given academic year is due on October 31 of the next academic year. Additional information about program assessment, including templates for program assessment plans and reports can be found on the Academic Effectiveness Program Assessment page.
Are we supposed to examine all of our PLOs every year?
It is recommended that programs focus on one PLO each year, although they may choose to collect information on additional PLOs for future review.
We have a PLO that can be addressed by a nationally normed standardized test. Can we just do that test every year for our assessment program?
It makes sense to use nationally normed instruments if they are well-aligned to a particular PLO. However, only focusing on a single instrument aligned to one PLO is not optimal assessment practice. All PLOs will need to be assessed, so regular collection of an instrument that supports only a single PLO is not insufficient.
The PLO we are assessing this year aligns to a ULO. Do we need to address the ULO specifically?
In the process of assessing your PLO, we are asking faculty to make explicit connections between your assessment data and the ULO. Programs don’t need to do extra assessment work to assess the ULO and PLO separately. If the PLO and ULO are well-aligned, programs should be able to assess them together. If the PLO and ULO cannot be assessed together, your program should consider whether the PLO and ULO are actually aligned.
Do we only need to assess PLOs that align to ULOs or GELOs?
Programs should regularly assess all PLOs, including those that are unique to the program so as to holistically assess the program.
What is involved in program review?
For review purposes, programs will be organized into “clusters” of related programs (majors, minors, certificates), with most clusters representing the programs in a department. Interdisciplinary minors will be assigned to a cluster for review purposes, a decision that will be made in consultation with division chairs and department heads.
Who is responsible for program review?
Program review is a joint effort. Support is provided by Provost’s office and by the Dean responsible for the program. A program leader will take responsibility for leading the program review self-study but all program members should have the opportunity to provide input and take part in the review.
What is a program leader?
At WOU, nomenclature varies by college. “Program leader” refers to the department head, program coordinator or division chair, whichever is appropriate.
What is the purpose of Academic Program Review?
While required by NWCCU, academic program review is, first and foremost, for the benefit of WOU programs and the students we serve, ensuring that we engage in systematic inquiry into the effectiveness of our academic programs and use findings to communicate and advocate for our own best practices and to improve, when needed.
How often are programs reviewed?
- WOU has a review cycle where each program is reviewed at least once every seven years.
- Programs with external accreditation would have Academic Program Review aligned to their accreditation cycles.
Who decides when program review takes place?
The University has an established seven-year program review schedule in consultation with deans, division chairs and department heads. See the Academic Effectiveness Program Review page for this information.
What are the phases of program review?
- Pre-planning: Departments are notified of review, oriented to academic program review, provided institutional research data, and supported in conceptualizing self-study and review visit.
- Self-study: Program faculty describe of program’s context and its changes, assess program strengths and areas for improvement, explain alignment with WOU strategic plan and core themes, analyze contributions to institutional priorities, reflect on program sustainability and future potential, and establish goals and plans for the future.
- Review Visit: Review includes campus visit by internal/external reviewers, and evaluation and recommendations to the program. The review visit may happen in the spring of the year of the self-study or in the following fall.
- Planning for the future: The Action Plan is very much like a strategic plan for the department and its programs. It includes: (1) goals for the department and its programs, (2) specific actions for the department to take to achieve the goals, (3) metrics or performance measures used to ascertain whether — and to what extent — the goals have been met, and (4) an overall timeline for implementation.
What support will be provided for program review?
- The Provost’s Office will notify departments of upcoming reviews and provide guidelines, workshops and consultations on preparing the self-study and planning the review visit.
- The program leader will receive a one-course release in the year of the program review to prepare, in consultation with program faculty, the self-study report and associated review activities.
- WOU’s Institutional Research Office will provide longitudinal data to programs for use in the self-study report.
Who will see the self-study and external review?
The self-study and external review will be available to the program, dean and provost, as well as other authorized parties (e.g. NWCCU reviewers). An executive summary of the review will be posted on the Academic Effectiveness website.
General Education Alignment
What are the General Education Learning Outcomes? Where can I find them?
The General Education Learning Outcomes were established by the General Education Committee in alignment with the Undergraduate Learning Outcomes and can be found at the General Education Program homepage.
Intellectual foundations and breadth of exposure
Our program is offering courses that support our Program Learning Outcomes, but we also want them to be available as courses in the General Education program. What should we do?
Courses that are offered for General Education requirements must align to the specific GELOs identified for each General Education category. Proposals to offer General Education courses may be submitted to the General Education Committee via the curriculum proposal process. The General Education Program provides assistance to faculty who would like assistance aligning their courses to GELOs.
Undergraduate Learning Outcomes
What are the Undergraduate Learning Outcomes? Where can I find them?
The Undergraduate Learning Outcomes align to the AAC&U LEAP outcomes and can be found at the Academic Effectiveness Undergraduate Programs page:
Inquiry and Analysis
How are the Undergraduate Learning Outcomes assessed?
Each year WOU selects 1-2 Undergraduate Learning Outcome’s for institution-wide review. Faculty only participate in ULO assessment if you teach a course aligned (by Primary ULO) to that year’s ULO. Calls for submissions are disseminated towards middle of Fall, Winter and Spring terms.
I am interested in being on a PLC. How does that work?
PLC membership is recruited via the Assessment Facilitation Steering Committee. PLC members meet for about two hours each month during the academic year to engage in reviewing student work submitted from across the university and to make institutional recommendations about how to guide the student achievement of a particular learning outcome.
We are staff members employing student workers who are meeting a ULO through their employment in our program. Can we participate in a PLC?
All members of the WOU campus who are supporting a particular ULO are welcomed to participate in PLC work.
How many Undergraduate Learning Outcomes are reviewed each year?
Currently, we review one ULO each year; in 2019-20 the ULO of focus is Quantitative Literacy. In previous cycles we have reviewed between one and two ULOs per year. More details about which ULOs were reviewed in each year can be found on the Undergraduate Learning Outcomes page.
What courses submit materials this year?
Check here to see if any of your courses have IL or D as primary ULO’s. If you have IL or D as a primary ULO, you are expected to submit materials to the 2018-19 ULO assessment process.
If your course does not have a primary ULO, you should use the faculty senate curriculum system to submit your course goals and ULO alignments as soon as possible. The system is set up so that department heads or program coordinators approve course goals, and then they are accepted into the curriculum database.
How will I submit materials?
Online submission forms will be available on the timeline approved by the AFSC. The online submission form allows you to select and describe the ULO alignment and upload instructions and typical student work. Please make sure you have “scrubbed” student work of identifying details prior to submission.
How often do I submit?
You will submit materials for each IL and D course you teach this year. If you teach multiple sections of a course, you need only submit materials from one of the sections.
Also, for multi-section courses that are coordinated and use the same assignment in all sections, the course coordinator has the option of submitting a single piece of typical work to represent all sections. If this option is used, we expect that instructors will discuss samples of student work as a group before deciding on the typical piece to be submitted. These discussions are often fruitful for courses and programs.
Alternatively, each instructor of a multi-section course can submit their own materials.
What do I submit?
Your submission depends upon its type:
- University requirements: Materials from courses that satisfy university requirements (e.g., LACC, BA/BS requirements) will submit assignment instructions, one piece of typical student work, and some information about the course and your expectations.
- Program requirements: Materials from all other courses (those that satisfy program requirements but do notsatisfy university requirements) will submit assignment instructions and some information about the course and your expectations.
What is meant by “typical student work”?
Typical student work is the most common or modal work from students. It is not necessarily the best or worst work that you see in a term. Of course, if the best or work you see is also the most frequent work you see, then that should be selected as typical. We understand that determining “typical” student work is as much art as science; understand that the ULO assessment process is about learning about student learning and improving our curriculum. In those cases where “typical” student work disappoints, it is still just fine to submit it because we can learn from it.
Does my submission have to cover ALL of the features that are on the LEAP rubric?
No. It is unlikely that an assignment, especially in a general education course, will allow students to demonstrate all of the features in the LEAP rubric. The PLC’s encourage faculty to identify two or three features that are most prominent in the assignment. We also ask for some guidance on where in the assignment you see that features. Some faculty have provided this information to us, and it has been very helpful in helping us see what you see, especially in long or complex submissions.
What happens next?
The PLC will review work to learn more about the opportunities we provide our students, the expectations we have of them, and how well our students are meeting those expectations. Ultimately, the PLCs will report out aggregate findings and engage in campus-wide conversations about our successes and how we might strengthen our students’ learning.
How is this information used?
Per the Assessment Facilitation Steering Committee, and with the agreement of the PLCs:
The Assessment Facilitation Steering committee by unanimous vote of quorum endorses the Assessment Professional Learning Community (PLC) policy of maintaining confidentiality regarding submitted assessment artifacts. PLCs shall not release submitted assignments or student work samples outside the PLC to any academic unit. PLCs shall produce comprehensive reports on university-wide assessment of university learning outcomes and may choose to include sample assignments but only with the express permission of the submitting faculty member and with confidentiality maintained by scrubbing identifying details.
This allows us to be confident that the conversation will focus on student learning and how we might improve it university-wide. It also means that neither instructors nor departments will receive individual feedback on their submissions.
What about our program outcomes that align to ULO’s? Are we looking at those?
Not this year. We are postponing that work as we implement our first large scale assessment of two ULOs each year. However, we encourage programs to engage in program assessment of IL and D this year to conserve their efforts.
Who can answer questions or receive concerns?
Questions or concerns about submitting materials can be brought to:
Integrative Learning: Becka Morgan
Diversity and Global Learning: Tandy Tillinghast-Voit and Garima Thakur
Assessment Facilitation Steering Committee – Brent King, chair
Academic Effectiveness Office – Erin Baumgartner, Interim Associate Provost for Academic Programs and Effectiveness
Graduate Learning Outcomes
What are the Graduate Learning Outcomes? Where can I find them?
The Graduate Learning Outcomes are aligned to the Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP) and more information can be found at the Academic Effectiveness Graduate Programs page.
Does every Program Learning Outcome need to support a Graduate Learning Outcome?
At least one PLO does need to support a GLO; it is not necessary for every PLO to do so.