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by Vera Zdravkovich, Vice President for Instruction

My hope is that the course assessment process that we have initiated this year will demonstrate its value as a tool for faculty to use as a means to improve student learning.  Our assessment process consists of the following six steps:

  1. Determining essential course outcomes – Once faculty determine the essential course outcomes, they write the outcomes in assessable terms for the course master syllabus. Over the past two years, faculty have rewritten the majority of the master syllabi in assessable outcomes.
  2. Determining how well students are learning essential outcomes – Faculty and chairs develop a course assessment plan to find out how well students are learning the essential course outcomes. Last fall, department chairs and faculty designed an assessment plan for at least one course.
  3. Implementing the assessment plan – This spring faculty are implementing the assessment plan that they designed.
  4. Analyzing the results of the assessment – During fall semester 2002, faculty and department chairs will determine how well students learned the outcomes that were assessed.
  5. Implementing course improvement - Based on the finding from this spring’s assessment, faculty will know how well students are learning the essential course outcomes and make adjustments to the course, as necessary, to strengthen any identified weaknesses.
  6. Assessing to determine if course adjustments obtained the desired results – Some departments will choose to assess the course as adjusted within a year of the adjustment. Other departments will choose to assess the adjusted course after other courses have been assessed.

Course assessment results should promote a dialogue among faculty about the students’ strengths and weaknesses in learning the various outcomes. Based on these results, faculty and department chairs may decide to:

  • revise the course outcomes to include more higher-order thinking.
  • obtain more consistency in multi-section courses.
  • link test and course grades to mastery of all outcomes.
  • explore other ways of assessing outcomes.
  • increase contact with adjunct faculty.
  • explore active learning strategies.
  • conduct a faculty retreat or workshop.
  • or any other steps to improve student learning.

In time, assessment will become an automatic component for every course as faculty recognize the valuable information that they can obtain to help them facilitate learning among their students. In the meantime, I offer my profound appreciation to the faculty and department chairs that are working through this first cycle of course assessment. The assessment process that you have put in place will serve to help other faculty develop good assessment plans for each of the courses that will be assessed over the next several years.  More importantly, the assessment that you are doing will help to strengthen students learning and improve retention.


The Instructional Area Newsletter, Volume 17, No. 3

Spring 2002