An Effective Infrastructure that Supports Program-level Assessment (Human Development)

Infrastructure for program assessment, including communication pathways, helps make evidence of student learning readily available for faculty and departments to use in decision-making.

WSU’s Department of Human Development has developed its process of conducting and using undergraduate program assessment over many years and, as a result, was selected by WSU as a program assessment case study for WSU’s NWCCU Mid-Cycle Evaluation visit in April 2021. The accreditation evaluation team was impressed with the “comprehensive, well-coordinated, and collaborative assessment infrastructure in place” for the BA in Human Development, a large undergraduate degree program offered on the Pullman, Vancouver, and Global campuses.

Further, the evaluation team complimented Human Development’s “efforts to collect internship mentor data to measure and enhance student skill building, especially with consideration of students’ career choices” and the program’s system of collecting “multiple sources of data that are consistently analyzed and applied to strengthen the program’s aspired learning outcomes.”

Deborah Handy.Dr. Deborah Handy has led Human Development’s undergraduate program assessment for many years, in her role as faculty assessment coordinator. “It’s been a long process, but now many pieces of our assessment work are automatic,” she explains. “We have a ‘curiosity culture’ and we all like data. Faculty are interested in knowing whether what we’re doing works, if we’re preparing our undergraduates, and if our students are gaining the skills they need for their chosen major. “

Human Development credits its strong culture of assessment to department leadership who prioritize undergraduate program design and assessment.  For example, former department chair Dr. Laura Hill gave attention to how committees are formed and populated, and what their priorities are, as part of a five-year plan to develop standard operating procedures that are not dependent on individuals.

The Undergraduate Program Committee oversees program assessment in concert with the faculty assessment coordinator. This committee has faculty representation from the Pullman, Vancouver, and Global Campuses, and is co-chaired with one committee chair on the Pullman Campus and another on the Vancouver Campus. All undergraduate curriculum discussions and changes go through this committee. Program adjustments are made as a multi-campus committee, and changes to the curriculum are decided and implemented with consideration for how those changes will affect students on each campus. Assessment is also periodically discussed at full faculty meetings, including discussion of some assessment data as a part of strategic planning.

Matthew Bumpus.Current department chair Dr. Matthew Bumpus underscores the importance of multi-campus infrastructure to support finding approaches to program assessment that work in different settings and in multiple modes of delivery. “For all our campuses, a key evaluation comes from the internship mentor,” Bumpus explains. “We send mentors the evaluation form in advance, before they agree to be a mentor, so the mentors understand their assessment is important and know what to look for. Mentors make a substantial commitment and provide valuable assessment from outside the classroom setting.”

As outlined in its assessment plan, the program collects direct and indirect assessment data on each campus where the degree is offered:

  • Fieldwork: Internship mentors/early childhood education mentors/student teaching supervisors provide feedback regarding student skills and knowledge each semester. The internship mentor evaluations address four program learning outcomes related to students’ knowledge of human development and context, communication skills, and professional preparation. All Human Development majors are required to complete an internship/field experience and follow-up with mentors ensures that the program receives feedback about more than 90% of majors. This measure is well-established and has been collected for a number of years.
  • State Certification: Students pursuing the family and consumer sciences education option must also pass a state certification assessment.
  • Student Presentations: Program faculty have also used rubrics to evaluate written and oral communication skills in students’ final papers and presentations in HD 410, Public Policy Issues in Human Development.
  • Exit Survey: To provide information about the student experience, the program also collects an end of program student survey about the types of experiences students have had during their programs and internships/field experiences.

Assessment data have been used to inform revisions to the Human Development program (course content, order of courses, addition of courses, scaffolding of student experiences to meet student learning outcomes), to schedule faculty professional development, and to establish teams of faculty to more closely align course content and experiences for students on all three campuses. The program has also triangulated assessment data from mentor evaluations and the end of program student exit survey to inform revisions to program options to align more clearly with students’ career choices, and industry needs.

ACE extends appreciation to the Human Development faculty and leadership who have engaged in program assessment activities. ACE is also available to collaborate with undergraduate degree programs to assess student learning towards the improvement of undergraduate degree programs. Please contact ACE staff for more information.