Closing the Loop

For many (perhaps most) programs, this step is the most difficult and is typically where the assessment effort gets derailed. If the analysis is not compelling and sufficiently granular, constituents frequently are unable to reach consensus on which actions might be indicated by the data. Unable to even agree on a set of possible actions, no action is taken and the program fails to “close the loop.” To be successful at this step, programs need to present the data to stakeholders who can take action (department chairs, program coordinators, deans, etc.) in a form that is sufficiently granular so that a set of actions can be developed. Sometimes graphical data or data broken down by relevant student characteristics helps define the boundary for actions. Once a set of possible actions is completed, each action can be screened based on criticality, cost, time, and other dimensions to create an agreed-upon subset to implement.

Actions can be anything from concluding that student performance with respect to a learning goal meets expectations to major curriculum change. Other actions may include increasing admission requirements, remediation, adding prerequisites, increasing or changing specific assignments in existing courses, and providing support structures such as tutoring or help sessions. Another action could be to reevaluate whether the learning goal or expectations for performance on that goal are appropriate.

Finally the recommendations need to be implemented and follow up is required to see if the implemented change actually made a difference. This is largely a management function, and there has to be some way to make the execution of action and the follow up part of the ongoing work of department chairs, program coordinators and/or deans. Here is an example of how this is done in the College of Business.