by Vera Zdravkovich, Vice President for
Instead of concentrating on how we are teaching, [in a learning
centered college] the focus shifts to measuring how well students
are learning. . . . By defining the knowledge and skills we expect
students to have mastered by the time they leave us, we clarify our
Community College Journal,
August/September 2001, p. 3
After two years of limited assessment of a small number of courses,
the assessment process has been expanded so that all departments
participate. This fall each department is preparing an assessment plan
to pilot in one course. During spring semester, the departments will
implement their assessment plans. This year’s pilot will provide
experience for developing assessments for additional courses next year.
The purpose of the assessment is to determine how well students are
learning the outcomes specified in the course master syllabus. The
assessment will provide the departments with this opportunity. The
assessment will not only document student learning, but also identify
areas in which the course can be improved, if improvement is needed.
What the Departments Will Be Doing This Year
Beginning this year, all departments will be fully involved in the
assessment process with a full agenda of activities. This year the
departments will complete their revisions of course master syllabi by
writing learning outcomes in behavioral terms: "Upon successful
completion of the course, students will be able to . . . ."
- Develop and implement an assessment for one course that determines
if the outcomes are being learned and how well they are being
learned. Tests and assignments currently used in the course may be a
good base for the assessment.
- Analyze the results of the course assessment to determine what
improvement, if any, should be made to the course to facilitate
student learning, before the course is taught again.
- Begin developing an assessment program to use with other courses
What Support the Departments Will Receive
I have appointed Bill Peirce to coordinate all phases of the syllabi
revision/assessment plan process and the work of the Academic Outcomes
Assessment Committee (AOAC). Liaisons from the AOAC have been assigned
to each department. Planning forms and samples of "Some Ways Other
Colleges Assess Learning Outcomes" have been distributed to all
department chairs. See Bill's article in this issue of the Instructional
The AOAC will continue to review the revised master syllabi. The
committee also will review each department’s assessment plan to
determine if it complies with the planning form.
What Commitment the Departments Will Make to Assessment
When the department chairs turn in the planning form with the
necessary related materials to Bill Peirce on October 29, they are
- The course master syllabus identifies the course learning
- All instructors are addressing the course learning outcomes and
assessing how well students have mastered them.
- The department has planned an assessment to gather evidence about
students' success in learning the course outcomes.
- The department intends to use the information obtained from
implementing the assessment to improve student learning.
Tests and assignments that you already use in your courses will
probably be a good base for this internal audit.
What the Benefits Are of an Internal Assessment Plan
- Every faculty member benefits from assessing student outcomes on a
wider scale than his or her own classroom.
- Systematic assessment provides evidence for departmental
reflection and renewal.
- A good assessment has great potential for improving how well
students learn what the faculty teach by providing detailed
information about students’ strengths and weaknesses.
- With the results from the assessment, faculty can pinpoint the
areas where individual courses need revising—perhaps by changing
the syllabus, involving adjuncts to a greater degree, adopting
additional teaching methods, buying lab equipment, revising
placement procedures, or improving some other feature.
A good assessment plan systematically carried out, and a thoughtful
analysis of the assessment results provide faculty members with the
information necessary to know how to best revise a course, if revision
is necessary. If the assessment results confirm that large numbers of
students are learning well, then both the department chair and the
faculty members teaching the course can feel a justified satisfaction in
what they are doing. Good assessment reinforces high standards and high