OAPA supports departments' efforts to improve their programs through three activities: Undergraduate Program Assessment, Instructional Benchmarks for Program Improvement, and AQAD Program Review.
In Fall 2008, each UMass Undergraduate Department was asked to review its current Student Learning Assessment practices and identify next steps for enhancing these efforts. OAPA facilitated this process by creating an initial inventory of each department's assessment practices (see Inventory Example) and offering an assessment workshop that provided guidance for advancing departments' student learning assessment activities. Departments vary in their approaches to assessing student learning, but overall, 89 percent of departments have established student learning outcomes for their majors. Furthermore, 74 percent of departments are implementing their assessment plans, and another 19 percent are in the process of developing their assessment plans.
Assessment plans for specific departments are available on the Undergraduate Program Assessment page.
The Instructional Benchmarks report, based on several sources of student feedback, provides departments with a method of evaluation that allows for interdepartmental comparisons. Originally developed in 2006, the report details students' ratings of their experiences in their majors (see Senior Survey), their experiences in courses (see SRTI), and their perceived learning gains (see NSSE) organized by department. Departments use the information to understand more about the quality of the experience for their majors and the quality of instruction experienced by the students they teach, whether those students are majors or undergraduates in General Education courses, and to make changes based on the results. A recent study found that 76 percent of departments have made improvements to the undergraduate experience informed, at least in part, by the benchmarking data. These improvements are in a broad range of areas, including writing preparation, advising, access to classes, and faculty accessibility.
The University's Academic Quality, Assessment and Development (AQAD) program review process requires departments to conduct a self-study based on AQAD standards (Campus Procedures for AQAD), and undergo a review by an external team. OAPA provided the Deans of the University's schools and colleges with a summary of the issues and concerns that had been outlined by each departmental review team and asked them to provide updates on what the departments had accomplished to address these issues. For the 58 departments and programs involved in this review, improvements were made in a wide range of areas; some common areas that departments addressed include faculty hiring (74%), program design (67%), and the undergraduate experience (31%).