In October, ATL provided Vice Provost for Academic Engagement and Student Achievement Mary Wack and Vice Provost for System Innovation and Policy Craig Parks with the 2019 WSU-wide Summary of Undergraduate Degree Program Assessment Reports.
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.
In substantially all programs, faculty regularly engage in assessment activities, including evaluating student work for program assessment, discussing assessment results or findings, and making decisions based on assessment results. WSU programs use assessment of student learning outcomes to improve the degree program in various ways, including decisions about curriculum, instruction, faculty development, and improving assessment processes. In this way, program-level assessment at WSU enhances student learning.
Assessment of student learning at the senior-level has continued to be a focus university-wide. For the first time in 2019, annual undergraduate program assessment reporting piloted a new section designed to provide the university with information about program-level student learning outcomes achievement as students are completing the curriculum. Senior achievement summary information provides a useful overview of student learning achievement for WSU—helping programs demonstrate academic strengths, as well as set priorities for improvement—and also supports WSU’s strategic planning and mission fulfillment for university accreditation.
Pilot results indicated that roughly two-thirds of programs reported reviewing assessment results that indicated senior major achievement of program-level student learning outcomes. In these programs, 194 out of the 214 evaluated program-level SLOs (91%) were met or exceeded by students. Summary results from this pilot will be shared university-wide and discussed by academic leadership and programs in 2019-20. Roughly one-third of programs reported that they had collected assessments of senior majors on program SLOs, but that faculty had not yet determined the extent to which seniors had achieved them at the level targeted by faculty. It may be that results were unclear or not sufficiently representative of senior majors, or that faculty had not discussed results in relation to a minimum threshold of competency for majors. ATL can assist programs with improving measures or facilitating faculty discussion of minimum thresholds of competency for majors and determining group targets for the program.
Ensuring that Key Program Assessment Elements are in place, to contribute to WSU’s Strategic Plan Goal Theme 2, Transformative Student Experience is also an area for attention. Program-level assessment contributes information to guide decisions and initiatives that support Theme 2 of WSU’s Strategic Plan, in particular for excellent teaching and learning opportunities for a larger and more diverse student population, and for student success in quality curricula. Metric 16 associated with this WSU Strategic Plan Goal is the percent of undergraduate degrees with all six assessment elements in place. With a number of degrees in transition, 2019 reports show that fewer programs—just 79%—have all six elements in place, down from 90% in each of the prior two years.
Continued attention is also needed to ensure that students and courses on each campus (including online) are included in meaningful assessment for all degrees in representative numbers. Pilot assessments will need to efficiently scale up and other degrees considering expanding to additional campuses or online should build on effective assessment practices to include these courses and students. Where core course offerings differ by campus, assessments may also need adjustment to better fit a particular campus context, students and faculty.
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. WSU policies communicate the value leadership places on sustainable assessment and, updated in 2018, the faculty manual now provides a mechanism to recognize faculty participation in assessment in the annual review process. This update aligns with the university’s new faculty annual review software, Activity Insight, and EPPM policies on assessment, which include recognizing assessment work in annual review at all levels.
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. For more information about undergraduate program assessment reporting, including past summaries, see Program Assessment Reporting.