Tips to Facilitate Your Department/Program's Academic Assessment Initiatives
- If you're having trouble writing outcomes, or need to revise your current assessment outcomes, visit the LEARN Center website (www.uww.edu/Learn) and click on the "Assessment" heading. It includes a great summary (pilfered from another university) regarding how to draft outcomes, and includes examples of exemplars from UW-Whitewater programs.
- After settling on a set of outcomes, begin collecting perception data with a simple instrument from a readily available source: exit surveys of graduating majors, and surveys conducted during academic advising. Make it a required part of their exit process. Depending on the number of majors you have, you might consider exit interviews. Make sure the questions focus on student perception regarding the extent to which their involvement in the program contributed to their learning or acquiring the specific outcomes.
- Don't collect data or information unless it relates to the outcomes, and it is data that your program (and the faculty) value and will use to initiate change. Data that is collected that doesn't relate to the outcomes is less likely to spur discussions about improvement and change.
- Choose a couple of critical courses in the curriculum that clearly link to your assessment outcomes and explore how specific assignments in the course could assist you in collecting "curriculum-embedded" assessment data. This is particularly effective if your departmental curriculum has a capstone course.
- Portfolios stand to be a comprehensive and useful method for helping students chronicle performance-based growth in your program. However, effective portfolio use is keyed to two labor-intensive tasks: a clear and definitive statement of what is to be included in the portfolio, and careful assessment of elements included in the portfolio using a rubric or primary-trait analysis scale that are linked to your program's assessment outcomes.
- Academic programs with internships have a built-in method for collecting external assessment data (from onsite supervisor) directly relevant to student performance. Again, make sure that the survey instrument asks, specifically, about issues related to student performance against the department's assessment outcomes.
- Advisory Boards can be very helpful and represent an excellent source of external feedback. However, involve the Advisory Board in a way that they can help you focus on changes and improvements to the program. Let them review your assessment data, reflect on current professional practice, and offer counsel relevant to change.
- The nationwide assessment evolution has enough history such that the prevailing assumption (particularly by accrediting agencies) is that departments/programs should be "closing the loop"—using the assessment data to spawn actions designed to improve the program. These actions might include, but are not limited to: additions or eliminations of classes; changes in course requirements; changes in prerequisites; changes in pedagogy; additions or eliminations of specific assignments; revisions or assessment outcomes; changes to data collection methods; etc.