Getting Started with Student Learning Assessment
What is it?
- A tool that educators use to determine whether their institution or program (the college, the department) is providing students the skills and knowledge they should have for their education
- A systematic, long-term process of gathering information about student learning and the educational experience, with the goal of using this data to improve majors, minors, and concentrations, courses, and teaching practices.
Why do it?
- Federal government
- State government
- Reaccrediting bodies
- Foundations and donors
- Do we achieve our educational goals?
- How well?
- If we aren't performing, how do we decide what to change?
- How do we know that our efforts achieve good results?
Where do I start?
Since student learning assessment is about educational goals, the process starts with faculty defining the knowledge and skills they want their students to walk out the door with – for their major program as a whole, and then for specific courses and assignments.
Program level assessment examines whether the major curriculum enables students to meet departmental learning goals. A department might assess a single goal at a time. The department might also choose to assess the senior thesis, as Haverford thinks of the thesis as the point where students display the knowledge they’ve gained in the major. A department might also survey students about all the learning goals, asking them to rate the extent to which the covered these goals in their major careers.
Course level assessment might:
- Be directed toward departmental learning goals: an individual faculty member might identify which departmental learning goals s/he covers in her/his course, and then devise a strategy to see how well the students do with those learning goals.
- Look at specific pedagogical strategies that the professor adopted, and ascertain whether they helped the students learn the material.
- Include tracking student progress on particular learning goals over the course of the semester, checking to see if they do better at the learning goal from the first to the last assignments.