Assessment, CSU, Chico

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Is outcomes assessment really here to stay or just one more exercise that will end up in someone's drawer with no action being taking?
A. Outcomes assessment is indeed here to stay. It is the basis of our WASC accreditation visits that commence next year, and it has been included in our new five-year review format. Spring 2005 the University brought Mary Allen, an outcomes assessment expert, to campus to conduct workshops on the topic. There are plans for her to return spring 2006 for additional workshops. Fall 2005 semester 17 programs benefited from grants directed at assessment activities and there are plans to offer such grants on a continuing basis. The CELT conference fall 2005 offered three workshops related to outcomes assessment.

Q. Is outcomes assessment new to the CSU, Chico campus?
A. Discussions about outcomes assessment have been taking place across campus for the past 5-10 years; however, not all programs actually began developing an outcomes assessment plan until recently. Programs that report to accrediting agencies have been involved in outcomes assessment for at least four to five years. What is relatively new to our campus is the AURA committee which was formed Fall 2004 and has spearheaded unified efforts across campus for all programs/units to have outcomes assessment plans in place, measurement of student learning outcomes, and use of this measurement data for program/unit improvement. See more detailed history (.doc).

Q. What type of documentation is my department/program expected to produce?
A. In many ways, assessment simply formalizes activities that often go on informally in the halls and in other discussions with colleagues. But it is important to make assessment an explicit part of department culture and to document your efforts. Each baccalaureate program is expected to have a mission statement, a set of goals, and a list of student learning outcomes (SLOs). You will also need to produce a course alignment matrix and an assessment plan. After this initial startup cost there will be a brief annual report that analyzes the results of your current assessment and recommends action or follow up if necessary. Departments/programs should be assessing one or more SLOs each year and discussing the results of assessment to improve student learning in the program. This is an iterative process, and it is never really finished.

Q. To whom do I send assessment documents?
A. Your college dean is the main person to collect assessment data and help departments plan, revise, and improve programs based on assessment. If you received an AURA grant to help your assessment work, the AURA chair should also get a copy of your documentation.

Q. When are these things due?
A. The mission, goals, SLOs, alignment matrix, and assessment plan are due December 15th 2005. The annual reports will be due May 15 each year.

Q. How is all of this assessment work connected to the five-year review?
A. Program assessment is an important component of the review process, but it is not the entire process. It is most relevant to CFRs 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 2.2, 2.3, 2.5, 3.3, and 6.2 in the Phase III version of the five-year review process.

Q. Isn't this just another way for The Man to oppress faculty?
A. Perhaps, but please be clear that this is an assessment of student learning that is a product of our curriculum and programs; it is not an assessment of individual faculty. It is in no way connected to the RTP process.

Q. Doesn't assessment infringe on academic freedom? Is this a move to take control of the curriculum away from the faculty?
A. While assessment is being pushed by administrators everywhere, especially in state-supported universities where accountability to the legislature and taxpayers is a huge issue, the assessment process is in the hands of the faculty. Faculty set the standards of what a graduate of program X should know, be able to do, and value. Faculty measure how well students are performing. Faculty decide what curricular or program changes are indicated in order to improve students' knowledge of their major. Universities are being held accountable for their performance in terms of student learning. Is that a bad thing? Before you answer that question, think about the education a doctor or lawyer or other professional gets at a university. We all want competent graduates. Assessment helps us know how well we are doing in our principal task: educating students.

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