In October, ATL presented Provost Dan Bernardo, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Erica Austin, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Mary Wack, and the Accreditation, Assessment, and Academic Program Review Committee with the 2017 WSU-wide Summary of Undergraduate Degree Program Assessment Reports from all WSU undergraduate degrees.
WSU’s undergraduate degree programs report annually on their system of assessing student learning, a practice begun in 2009. Program-level assessment looks at student learning in a degree or program of study — focusing on the key skills and knowledge students should develop, as well as their experiences in the curriculum. Assessment helps faculty collaboratively develop, maintain and improve an effective curriculum that promotes student learning.
Overall, WSU undergraduate degrees demonstrate an “effective, regular, and comprehensive system of assessment of student achievement,” as expected by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), WSU’s regional accreditor. WSU programs use assessment of student learning outcomes to improve the degree program in various ways, including decisions about curriculum, instruction, faculty development, or improving assessment processes. Substantially all programs regularly engage in assessment activities and discuss assessment, involving both faculty who teach and program leadership. In this way, program-level assessment at WSU enhances student learning.
Substantially all programs reported having all six key assessment elements in place in 2017, which contributes to meeting WSU’s Strategic Plan Goal for transformative student experience. Additionally, over the last three years all programs completed an assessment cycle for at least one program-level student learning outcome and used results to inform program decisions. In many programs, these decisions were characterized as being about curriculum, instruction or faculty development — the sorts of decisions that contribute most directly to improving student learning.
Assessment of student learning at the senior-level has continued to be a focus university-wide and this indicator has steadily increased over the past three years. In 2017, substantially all degree programs reported collecting a senior-level direct measure of student learning near the end of their degree, providing information about what students are able to achieve at the end of the curriculum.
WSU’s comprehensive accreditation review by the NWCCU will take place in Spring 2018. In preparation, ATL will continue to work with programs to ensure that all assessment elements are in place and effective. While much progress in the quality of undergraduate program assessment systems has been made in the past six years, the 2017 reports suggest that continued attention is needed in several areas.
Many programs are refining their senior-level assessment measures, piloting new measures, including new capstone courses in assessment of seniors, or extending degrees to new campuses or locations. ATL will continue consulting with programs to identify meaningful measures of student learning, to increase the quality and utility of senior-level measures and data analysis, and to scale up pilots in sustainable ways.
While assessment in degrees offered online shows improvement over 2016, continued attention is needed to ensure that online students and courses are included in meaningful assessment for all degrees offered online in representative numbers. Pilot assessments will need to efficiently scale up and other degrees considering expanding online should build on effective assessment practices to include online courses and students.
Finally, ATL extends appreciation to all faculty and chairs who have invested time in their assessment activities, as well as into their annual program assessment reports. As faculty and leadership engage in assessment over time, and work with ATL to improve the quality and utility of their assessment elements, we are collectively developing mature, meaningful systems that meet the evolving needs of WSU students, faculty and disciplines.