Oklahoma Higher Education Campus E-Clips sponsored by the Communicators Council

September 2017

Eastern Completes Five-Year Assessment Academy to Improve Student Learning Outcomes

Eastern Oklahoma State College recently completed a five-year program aimed at advancing the institution’s efforts to assess and improve student learning.

Eastern completed the Higher Learning Commission’s Assessment Academy this summer after beginning the project in 2012. Dr. Janet Wansick, vice president for academic affairs, said the overreaching goal of the mentor-facilitated project was to improve campus-wide assessment of Eastern’s student learning outcomes.

“Our mission was to develop five general education learning goals that we felt were essential for every student graduating from Eastern,” Wansick said. “We want to ensure that these learning outcomes are integrated into our entire curriculum, regardless of major or type of course delivery. This process helps us measure student success to make sure we’re effectively preparing students in transfer and terminal degree programs.”

The five general education goals include communication; critical thinking; information and technology literacy; quantitative and scientific reasoning; and culture, global awareness and social responsibility.

During the Assessment Academy, Eastern was paired with a mentor and scholar to provide guidance and support throughout the duration of the project. Other institutions participating in the Academy share strategies and ideas to improve the assessment initiatives. Eastern’s Assessment Academy team was led by Wansick and faculty members Dr. Cathy Cogburn, Dr. Julie Collins, Maye Durant, Penny Raspotnik-Jones, Amanda Smith and Kristen Turner.

Wansick said the first stage of the project was to develop oral, written and critical thinking assessments for students in each of Eastern’s six academic divisions - Agriculture; Behavioral and Social Sciences; Business; Language, Humanities and Education; Nursing; Science and Mathematics. The assessment tools were first piloted for a semester and then refined as necessary. Depending upon the learning goal, student learning is assessed using a rubric for specific assignments with questions embedded into existing assignments, surveys to directly assess learning information, or new assignments added that specifically capture student performance.

“Before becoming involved with the Assessment Academy, we used pre- and post-tests to evaluate what our students were learning in specific courses. However, we didn’t have cohesive goals across academic divisions and we didn’t consistently take corrective action in areas where students were struggling,” Wansick said. “Now, our faculty better understand using assessment results to enhance student learning. We close that loop. Our faculty is committed to continuous improvement by using learning outcomes to evaluate student performance, make improvements in learning techniques and re-assess regularly.”

Wansick said faculty meet twice a year for professional development sessions to share the results of the student assessments, evaluate their progress and discuss new ideas to enhance and improve their five general education goals.

Institutions taking part in the Assessment Academy are encouraged to participate in HLC’s annual conference in Chicago. Eastern’s assessment team attended the conference in July and took part in an event to showcase their Academy project.

“Participating in the Assessment Academy has been an invaluable experience and together, we have changed the culture of assessment at Eastern,” Wansick said. “Our faculty, across divisions, are working together to continually improve program quality and student learning. Although we have successfully completed the Academy, we plan to continue this important work to meet the needs of the students we serve.”

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