Assessment of Student Learning



Tuesday, March 10, 1998

2:00 PM in the Prairie Lounge


Minutes of the Ninth Meeting of the Committee on Assessment of Student Learning


Bert Ahern (Chair), Mary Elizabeth Bezanson, Jim Cotter, Mario French, Tom Johnson, Aaron O’Leary, Carol Marxen, Erica Rosch, Sam Schuman (Dean), Engin Sungur (Coordinator of Assessment)




AGENDA (continuation from last week)

Subcommittee Reports

External Consultant

Unit Assessment Responses



Endorsed Program Unit Surveys (1)

Tentatively scheduled ASL committee meetings for 8 AM Tuesdays starting the second week of spring quarter.

Subcommittee Reports

® Assessment of the Assessment (Bezanson, French, Johnson, Ng)

Will look at the guidelines for unit assessment plans. There is a good body of literature (e.g., A. Astin, What Matters in College) of studies with follow-up that shows practices leading to effective student learning. NCA seems to want only our imperfect practices rather than these studied practices. We should be using this scholarship (e.g., seven principles of effective practice in classroom methodology) to identify certain characteristics that enhance student learning/goals and explain the extent to which we are using them.

There are two ways to understand assessment: 1) implicit - we are doing very well, and 2) explicit - NCA needs to put hurdles up for us or we won’t jump. Purpose of assessment is not to make us do something different necessarily, but to affirm our practices that are effective. We are doing a good job. We are trying to clarify and articulate what we already know, not change how we are doing everything. We might well be doing more confirming rather than changing of behaviors, and we need to articulate this. We shouldn’t have to prove this or help us do this right.

® GenEd (Ahern, Klinger, Leroux, Taylor, Schuman, Sungur)

Worked on revision of the GenEd senior survey (on Web now). Agreed with ASL committee that senior survey should become part of the procedures for graduation rather than a formal requirement.

® External Models (Bezanson, Marxen, O’Leary, Rosch)

Had presented their findings at an earlier meeting. They had looked at assessment methods used by academic units at Boulder and Dordt Colleges. Dordt College is considered by NCA to have a good assessment plan. Question asked if we are looking at whether people are taking assessment seriously (are they all working at it) or whether the programs are actually working?

® Unit Assessment (Cotter, French, Johnson, Sungur)

Goal is to give feedback to disciplines and decide how often we use surveys. Will units see this survey every year or maybe according to bulletin changes? Look at how useful the questions are in the unit assessment survey and discover if we need to ask questions about some units. Use guidelines and then send that back and ask for further clarification. Don’t say a bad plan. Give feedback, but ask how persuasive is your argument for student learning (history disciplines says transcripts are defensible for them). Personal meetings would be good with disciplines but it depends on how many need changes and if we have time.

Unit Assessment Responses

Is it the role of this committee to act as an enforcer of NCA? Or do we say it looks to us as if this isn’t going to be satisfactory--there is a conflict between your answers and NCA expectations. Said last year we are not going to tell programs what to say. Assessment is a tool, not an objective. Integrate into existing forms for 3-5 year plan. When you complete the cycle it will be easier to make changes.

External Consultant

Pros and cons on whether we need an external voice. Would be helpful to have someone look at what we have done so far and the unit plans. Some thought we might need GenEd assessment plan ready first. Will it be one person ongoing or several people? Better to come after guidelines sent and unit returned surveys again or come now before we bother people again? Helps to have positive comments. Ahern and Sungur looking into possible names.


This is the last meeting during winter quarter.

Meeting adjourned at 3:00 PM.