WSU’s Approach to Assessment Highlighted by National Organization

The National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), widely-recognized as the preeminent organization in the area of student learning outcomes assessment in higher education, regularly spotlights good assessment practices employed by colleges and universities across the country. In 2019, WSU was showcased by NILOA in a case study due to our promising approach to assessing student learning outcomes in the complex environment of a large, highly decentralized research university.

Based on interviews with 21 WSU faculty and staff, author Pat Hutchings conveys 6 major lessons that other universities can learn from WSU’s efforts in Washington State University: Building Institutional Capacity for Ongoing Improvement.

In particular, the case study highlights WSU’s deliberately incremental and iterative process, moving the institution step-by-step toward habits, practices, and policies that support ongoing educational improvement, providing a window into what it takes to support, scaffold, and build systems for meaningful student learning outcomes assessment in a large, complex institutional setting.

In describing this capacity-building, Dr. Hutchings writes:

“What WSU has worked to create is a process that respects and reflects different disciplinary and program cultures and that takes the time needed to shape approaches accordingly. This, then, has allowed programs and departments—again, in a decentralized way and one that recognizes faculty expertise—to own their assessment findings and use them to make decisions that strengthen curriculum and instruction.”

In the case study, Dr. Hutchings also highlighted ATL’s work with the assessment of the University Common Requirements (UCORE) program, through an embedded process that aggregates up, providing a holistic portrait of student achievement.

“We’re delighted to receive this recognition,” said Kimberly Green, ATL Director. “As ATL staff members work with programs to develop assessment practices, our approach is tailored to individual program needs and opportunities. Depending on what works in a particular setting, we may focus on capstone projects, or develop other embedded assessments that align with what faculty are already doing.”