The OWU Assessment Committee asks that academic departments and programs develop assessment activities with three components: a written assessment plan, methods for measuring student learning, and an annual report on assessment activities. Details about these components are given below. Development of the plan and submission of the report (in consultation with departmental/program colleagues) is the responsibility of the Assessment Liaison for the department/program. Each department/program should select a faculty member to serve as the Assessment Liaison and make that person known to the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs for Accreditation and Assessment or the Chair of the Assessment Committee.
The Assessment Plan
A good assessment plan should describe the learning goals of the department/program, the methods used to measure student progress toward those goals, and a concrete plan for collecting, managing, analyzing, storing and using the data. There is considerable flexibility in meeting these criteria. We encourage departments and programs to explore questions about student learning that they are interested in, and learning goals can change over time. In addition, departments/programs may choose to focus on a subset of learning goals to measure in any particular year. It is assumed that the assessment plan is a document that is revised as needed. In forming or revising a plan, we recommend that departments/programs consider these questions: What do we want to know about what our students are learning? How can we document what we observe about our majors and minors? How compelling is the learning evidence we have? Is it relevant to our stated goals? The Assessment Committee is happy to assist departments/programs in developing workable, meaningful assessment plans that serve their unique interests.
There are many ways to assess student learning and each department/program should select methods that will address their specific goals. Direct measures of student learning include pre- and post-tests on course or major content, comparisons of papers written by first-year students and seniors, and the evaluation of synthesis papers for capstone seminars in terms of how well students are demonstrating certain kinds of knowledge or skills. Indirect measures of student learning are data collected in surveys where the students self-report on their progress. Both kinds of measures, as well as others that might be devised, can be valuable to departments/programs in terms of providing perspective on student learning. The Assessment Committee is glad provide information to departments/programs on different measurement methods as needed.
The Annual Report
The annual report functions to inform the Assessment Committee of the progress the department/program has made in carrying out its assessment plan. These reports have been useful in allowing the Assessment Committee to provide feedback to departments and programs on measurement methods or other assessment issues. Reports also allow the department or program to describe strengths that have been revealed or curricular changes that have been made based on assessment data. Finally, these reports serve the crucial function of documenting active departmental/programmatic assessment activities for our accreditation agency. The annual report is generally due at the end of each academic year, and is usually in the range of 2-4 pages of text. The report should include the following:
- A list of the assessment measures that were used during the year, and the classes and number of students, or percentage of majors involved. An example: “Exit surveys were given to all graduating seniors with 12 out of 15 responding. Pre-tests were given to 31 students in Introduction to Underwater Basketweaving 101. These results were compared to results of the same tests given to 13 students in Advanced Underwater Basketweaving.” Please provide a copy of surveys, tests, or other measures used, if these were not included in your Assessment Plan or in prior year’s reports.
- A summary of data/results from those measures. Spreadsheets (such as Excel) work well for tabulating results. Please do not send papers, exams, surveys, etc. Your department can keep files of these as it sees fit. Once these instruments have been evaluated and the necessary summary has been made, you may keep or destroy them, as you think appropriate.
- Describe how the data/results/evidence that you have gathered have been disseminated in your department/program and results of conversations about those data. In particular, report what changes (large or small) have been considered and any that will be implemented as a result of these data. Remember that many of you had (or at least promised to have) discussions of last year’s data in the fall, after your report was turned in. Please report on those conversations.If your changes will require resources beyond what your department can provide, please indicate what you anticipate needing and where you will seek these resources. If no changes are planned, describe how the data suggest this as an appropriate course of action.
Some data (especially longitudinal data) will take several years to collect and the results from those measures might not be available yet, though comparison of different cohorts may be possible (e.g., comparing first year and senior performances for this year). In this year’s annual assessment report please include comparisons you are able to make using this year’s measures and data, as well as comparisons with similar results obtained last year. Similarly, your feedback and changes may not be in sync with your data. You may have made changes last fall based on assessment data from last year. You may not be ready to make changes yet (or even have the conversation about potential changes) using this year’s results. The annual report should be just that—a report of the most recent year’s assessment activities—even if the activities are not all from the same cycle.
- If your department intends to change the assessment measures or procedures it uses, state in your annual report how your Assessment Plan will change. In this way, the annual report will serve as a useful record of how your assessment program has evolved.