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 2021 WSU-wide Summary of Undergraduate Degree Program Assessment Reports (PDF).
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 related experiences in the curriculum or major. Program-level assessment helps faculty collaboratively develop, maintain, and improve an effective curriculum that promotes student learning.
WSU-wide Targets for Meaningful Assessment. WSU aims to have substantially all programs (≥ 90%) reporting that program assessment elements are in place and that program-level student learning outcomes data, including the achievement of program-level student learning outcomes near the end of the curriculum, are regularly collected and used to inform decision-making about teaching, learning, and curricula. 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 and 2021.
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 programs. University-wide targets for program assessment are intended to monitor the status of program assessment systems at WSU, while recognizing that making meaningful adjustments to program assessment elements, processes, and tools takes time. In any given year, a number of programs may experience a change in their context, prompting faculty to revisit program assessment elements, processes, and/or tools. For example, faculty might work to refresh a measure to increase the quality of their data or to align with changes to student learning outcomes, curriculum, or instruction. WSU’s approach encourages faculty to develop program assessment systems that are sustainable, with room to respond to the evolving needs of teaching, learning, and curriculum.
Areas of Strength. Overall, undergraduate degree program assessment at WSU 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. Substantially all WSU undergraduate degree programs reported conducting some program-level assessment in 2021, despite pandemic disruptions to teaching and learning, and to the personal lives of students, faculty, and staff. Note: In fall 2021, most classes at WSU returned to in-person instruction following the move to distance education beginning March 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Substantially all programs reported that two or more faculty engaged in assessment activities in 2021, including evaluating student work, discussing assessment results or findings, and making decisions based on assessment data. Additionally, substantially all programs reported that assessment was discussed by the majority of faculty who teach over the past two years.
Additionally, substantially all programs reported collecting at least one indirect measure near the end of the curriculum over the past two years, providing information associated with student learning, such as experiences, perceived success, or satisfaction as students are completing the curriculum.
Areas for Attention. Direct assessment of program-level student learning outcomes near the end of the curriculum, providing demonstrated evidence of what students are able to achieve at the end of the program, continues to be an area for attention at WSU. 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.
Additionally, the status of program-level student learning outcomes and curriculum maps is an area for attention, with only 81% of undergraduate degree programs reporting that their program-level student learning outcomes were up to date over the past two years and only 63% of programs reporting that their curriculum map was up to date over the past two years. Curriculum maps help faculty understand how courses situate in the curriculum and the contribution that each course makes towards advancing program-level student learning outcomes for the degree.
Finally, ACE extends appreciation to all faculty and chairs/directors who have invested time in program assessment activities, as well as into annual program assessment reporting, especially during a challenging 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, 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.