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Developing an Assessment Plan for Non-instructional Program Assessment

Student learning outcomes are like learning objectives for an instructional course in their focus on the measurable results of student learning. One difference is that verbs emphasizing what students will be able to do or know after the learning process is complete, replace the rather vague verbs comprehend and learn. The overarching goals of a non-instructional program, beyond service to the student, are the student learning outcomes. An emphasis, therefore, is on results which are sometimes reflected in the term accountability. The other change between learning objectives and student learning outcomes is that the new accreditation standards now require colleges to collect data on the success of students meeting those overarching goals.

Colleges are then charged with analyzing the data and making changes that will result in more effective student learning. Student learning outcomes are the measurable skills or accomplishments which embody the overarching goals of anon-instructional program or instructional course. They represent the most important learning that takes place through interaction with a program or participation in a course.

It may be helpful to think of them this way: when students complete their interaction with your program, you want them to be in firm possession of certain abilities or knowledge, and you want them to retain those abilities or that knowledge. those are the student learning outcomes. Because there are numerous ways in which a student may interact and gain knowledge from a non-instructional program, managers directing those programs may choose to have more than one student learning outcome for which they assess student learning. In order to begin formulating your programs student learning outcomes, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Describe the ideal student or client to utilize your services?
  • What are the attributes, skills, and values that are supported and nurtured by the students experience when in contact with your services?
  • What does this student know as a result of using your services?
  • What can this student do as a result of using your services?
  • What does this student care about as a result of using your services?
  • What are the services provided by your unit that contribute to the development of the ideal student?
    1. Develop criteria (3 domains see the Appendix F document below)
    2. Brainstorm
    3. Prioritize
    4. Select

Focus on what the student will be able to know, do, and feel (3 domains). Use verbs appropriate to learning based on Blooms Taxonomy.

Make sure that the program SLO is something that is readily observable and measurable in other words, build in assessment from the beginning. Don't create a program SLO that you cant envision a way to observe or evaluate or that requires data that you wont be able to access. According to Blooms Taxonomy, students experience several levels of learning from the acquisition of facts to the ability to think critically and solve problems

Setting goals for their departments or programs is not a new idea to managers and supervisors; it is an integral part of planning and directing the work flow of a program or department. Assessing a students knowledge about services received or processes learned, on the other hand, may be a new concept. Thee Student Learning Outcomes Assessment mandate focuses all of us on the strong links between statements of goals (SLOs) and their assessment. Here is a concise definition of assessment that explains those connections:

Assessment is an ongoing process aimed at understanding and improving student learning. It involves making our expectations explicit and public; setting appropriate criteria and high standards for learning quality; systematically gathering, analyzing, and interpreting evidence to determine how well performance matches those expectations and standards; and using the resulting information to document, explain, and improve performance. When it is embedded effectively within larger institutional systems, assessment can help us focus our collective attention, examine our assumptions, and create a shared academic culture dedicated to assuring and improving the quality of higher education (Thomas A. Angelo, AAHE Bulletin,November 1995, p. 7).

The WASC accreditation standard for student learning outcomes does not micromanage the assessment process. Instead, it leaves to managers and supervisors the decisions that will determine how useful the assessment process will be in improving teaching and learning. In other words, managers and supervisors decide how they will assess the student learning outcomes. Any tool that measures the degree to which students have met a learning outcome qualifies as assessment. Such tools include surveys and pre- and post-tests. Most outcomes can be measured in a variety of ways. Some of the principles of assessment to keep in mind when developing an assessment plan include:

  • Assessment is an integral part of teaching and learning.
  • Assessment is based on measurable criteria.
  • Assessment is accomplished with a variety of methods.
  • Assessment involves processes as well as outcomes.
  • Assessment improves teaching and learning.
  • Assessment informs planning and decision-making.

Some questions to ask:

  • What assessment instruments and methods may be used in the department or service unit?
  • Will they provide useful information?
  • What purpose will the assessments serve?
  • How will the assessment results be used?
  • Will the data collected from the assessment inform the units decision-making?

Criteria for selection of assessment methods and implementation:

  • The learning outcomes selected for assessment are important.
  • The assessment methods measure student achievement.
  • The assessment methods are varied.
  • The criteria for determining success is established
  • The time frame for assessing student learning is doable.
  • The time and person responsible for the administration of the assessment is clear
  • The time and person(s) responsible to collect and analyze the data is clear.

Here are some steps that will help you develop an assessment plan: First, check your SLOs:

  • How many are there?If there are more than three, they likely aren't true SLOs they may be objectives that were just moved into the SLO area. You should revise them into SLOs before creating an assessment plan.
  • Are the SLOs overarching (big picture learning for the department or program) or are they smaller objectives (things leaned in just one interaction with the department, for instance)?If they are not overarching, you should revise the SLOs before creating an assessment plan.
  • Is the student learning described in the SLO observable and measurable?If not, you should revise the SLOs to make them observable and measurable before creating an assessment plan.

Next, decide on an appropriate assessment tool. Consider:

  • What is the SLO asking the students to do?
    • Identify a fact?
    • Perform a skill?
    • Analyze a complex phenomenon?
    • Solve a problem?
    • Explain a concept?
    • Apply skills or knowledge to real-world situations?
    • Evaluate options and select appropriate resource tools
  • What types of activities will allow students to demonstrate the SLO (see Appendix A for more information about choosing an assessment tool)?
    • Pre and post-tests
    • Skill demonstrations?
    • Surveys?
  • What criteria will you use to measure success or failure to meet the SLO?
    • Rubric?
    • Raw score

Then, decide how and when you will do the assessment:

  • How often will you assess?
    • Will it be on a semesterly cycle? An annual cycle? Other?
    • Are there similar services that could be grouped together?
    • Which semester will you begin assessing this service?
    • If you make changes, when will you reassess to see the effects?
  • Will you assess all students or will you use sampling?
    • If you are sampling, how many students will be involved?
    • How will you decide which students to involve?
  • What do you need to do to prepare?
    • Do you need to set up meetings with staff?
    • Do you need to create a test or rubric?
    • How will you distribute materials?
    • Do you need any additional resources or training?

Finally, think about how and when you will share the assessment results and use the results in decision-making about the service and/or program (closing the loop):

  • What needs to be done to gather and present the data?
    • Do you need data from Institutional Research?
    • What format will you use to share the data? PowerPoint? Handouts? Other?
  • When will be a meaningful time for your department to reflect on the results?
    • Department retreats?
    • Department meetings?
    • Other?
  • What changes might be made to the service or program based on the results?
    • Changes to the assessment tool or method?
    • Changes to the service, program or department?
    • Changes to the service delivery methods?
    • Changes to student resources or services?
  • How will these results inform other decisions for the department or program?
    • How do the results of this assessment fit into the larger picture of the program or department?
    • Is there a need for professional development on specific topics?
    • Should budgeting priorities change?
    • Should staffing or other resources be adjusted?
    • Other

See Appendix F for Types of Data and Types of Assessment