WSU’s undergraduate degree programs report annually on their system of assessing student learning, a practice begun in 2009. In August, ACE provided Interim Vice Provost for Academic Engagement and Student Achievement Bill Davis with the 2020 WSU-wide Summary of Undergraduate Degree Program Assessment Reports.
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 or major. Program-level assessment helps faculty collaboratively develop, maintain, and improve an effective curriculum that promotes student learning.
In line with WSU’s 2020-2025 System Strategic Plan “Goal 2: Student Experience” objective of enhancing the quality of the undergraduate academic experience, WSU’s overarching goal is for program-level assessment to be meaningful and useful to faculty and students. WSU aims to have substantially all programs (≥ 90%) reporting that program assessment elements and other indicators of quality assessment are in place. However, WSU recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic presented challenges that impacted, and in some cases limited, the assessment that programs were able to accomplish in 2020. Note: In spring 2020, WSU made the emergency move to distance education beginning March 23rd as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. For summer and fall 2020, undergraduate courses at WSU were delivered at a distance and completed remotely, with extremely limited exceptions for in-person instruction.
Areas of Strength. Overall, WSU undergraduate degree program assessment contributes to 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. All undergraduate degree programs reported conducting some program-level assessment in 2020, despite pandemic disruptions to teaching and learning, and to the personal lives of students, faculty, and staff.
In substantially all programs, faculty regularly engage in program assessment activities, including evaluating student work, discussing assessment results or findings, and making decisions based on assessment results. WSU programs use program-level student learning outcomes assessment to improve degree programs in various ways, including decisions about curricula, instruction, faculty development, and improving assessment processes. In this way, program-level assessment at WSU enhances student learning.
Areas for Attention. Continued attention is needed to ensure that degree programs have Key Elements of Program Assessment in place, forming the framework for useful, sustainable assessment at WSU. While substantially all programs reported having program-level student learning outcomes (100%), curriculum maps (100%), indirect measures (98%), and assessment plans (92%) in place in 2020, only 85% of programs collected a direct measure and only 88% of programs used assessment to inform decision-making in 2020.
Assessment of student learning at the senior-level, providing programs with information about program-level student learning outcomes achievement as students are completing the curriculum, has continued to be a focus university-wide. Continued attention is 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, ACE extends appreciation to all faculty and chairs who have invested time in program assessment activities, as well as into annual program assessment reporting, especially during a difficult year. As faculty and leadership engage in program-level assessment over time, and work with ACE 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.