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 2022 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 Program 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 recent years.
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 2022, despite continuing COVID-19 disruptions. Note: Beginning in AY 2021-22, most classes at WSU returned to in-person instruction following the March 2020 move to distance education as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, many COVID-19 related restrictions began to be lifted in 2022, although many programs reported that faculty and students continued to experience impacts from the pandemic, affecting courses, instruction, engagement, and assessment.
Substantially all programs reported that two or more faculty engaged in program assessment activities in 2022, such as 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 program leadership and by a faculty committee or the majority of faculty who teach.
Finally, substantially all programs reported regularly collecting indirect measures, including at least one indirect measure near the end of the curriculum within 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, including the collection of direct measures providing demonstrated evidence of what students are able to achieve near the end of the curriculum, continues to be an area for attention at WSU. Continued attention is also needed to ensure that program-level learning outcomes data — including learning outcomes achievement data near the end of the curriculum — are regularly evaluated by program faculty and used to inform decision-making about teaching, learning, and curricula.
Additionally, the status of program-level student learning outcomes and curriculum maps are areas for attention, with only 80% of undergraduate degree programs reporting that their program-level learning outcomes were up to date within the past two years and only 56% of programs reporting that their curriculum map was up to date within 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 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. 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.