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Program-Based Review and Assessment: Tools and Techniques for Program Improvement

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Designing an Assessment Plan

What does an assessment plan include?

See Table 4 for what is included in an assessment plan.

What is already in place?

The most effective departmental assessment plan is one that is closely linked to the curriculum and uses available information and resources to the greatest degree possible. Before designing additional assessment components it's important to document how the current curriculum matches the goals and learning objectives you have identified and to inventory what assessment-related information/processes are already in place that you can draw upon.

Curriculum Mapping:

Linking goals/objectives to the curriculum: Curriculum mapping makes it possible to identify where within the current curriculum your departmental learning objectives are addressed.

Following is a table [Table 5] that might be helpful to you in identifying these links between intended outcomes and curricular processes. Along the top of the table, list all the courses and other requirements/options (internships, service learning, theses, etc.) for the major. Along the side, list your departmental objectives. Then indicate which of the objectives are addressed in each of the requirements/options.

Inventory of Current Assessment Practices

Instructors and departments are already assessing student learning through a variety of methods including grades, competency exams, capstone courses, etc., though you may not call them "assessment." Before designing a department assessment program, it is important to identify what assessment information you are already collecting and match these data sources to the learning goals and objectives you have outlined.

An assessment matrix is a particularly useful way of linking goals and objectives to assessment tools, program requirements or course curricula.

In this matrix [Table 6], the link between objectives and data sources is identified in two ways ­ direct measures of the objectives (D) and indirect measures (I)

What should you add?

Once you have identified assessment processes that are currently in place, you can pinpoint central questions that are not being answered by your currently available data sources. For example, does your department currently collect direct measures of the learning objectives? (Unfortunately, for many departments, the information that best reflects learning objectives is kept at the course level ­ department level analyses/synthesis of student learning is rarely done.)

Also, pay attention to points in the student experience where information collection is most easily accomplished. For example, courses required for the major (those courses that all students in the major take) are ideal opportunities to collect systematic information from students. Embedding assessment activities into the curriculum for these courses and making them "count" toward the student's final grade will facilitate successful data gathering.

What can you assess?

Table 7 describes what attributes you can assess

Assessment Consulting