Student Achievement Assessment Committee
1996 Plan Report to NCA
A PROGRESS REPORT
Implementation of a Plan for Assessing Student Academic Achievement
Bowling Green State University
Bowling Green, Ohio
Note: Appendices have been omitted from this version
This report was prepared in response to a requirement by the North Central Association (NCA) evaluation team which visited Bowling Green State University (BGSU) on February 22-24,1993. In its report the evaluation team required BGSU to "file a report on or before February 1, 1996 focused on . . . progress on developing and implementing a student assessment plan." Furthermore, the evaluation team indicated that the report should "be required for purposes of determining if a focused evaluation is necessary to ensure that the North Central Association's requirements in this area are being met."
The report is organized in accordance with the format suggested in the NCA Handbook on Accreditation, 1994-96 for submission of an assessment plan. It is being forwarded within the context of the evaluation team's overall report which stated that "(I)t is clear to the team that the student learning environment is a significant strength of the University. The team was very impressed with developments during the past decade in providing an excellent environment for students."
Bowling Green State University is a Doctoral I, state‑assisted institution serving more than 18,000 students in undergraduate, masters, and doctoral programs. Academic programs are available on the main campus in Bowling Green, Ohio, through six academic colleges plus the Graduate College, and at Firelands College, a two‑year branch campus in Huron, Ohio. (A more complete profile of the University is found in Appendix A.)
BGSU's most recent Self-Study Report prepared prior to the 1993 site visit contains a special emphasis section dealing with "Me Student Learning Environment." This section describes the work of a university assessment committee appointed by the Vice President for Academic Affairs. The committee was charged to (1) examine the relevant literature on assessment, (2) examine what has been done to assess student academic achievement at the University, (3) make a recommendation about BGSU's assessment efforts, and (4) develop a broad plan for assessment of student academic achievement which builds on the strengths and resources of the University. The recommendations of this committee have since undergone several reviews and modifications including one conducted by the Council of Deans. The committee's work builds on the institution's history of regular internal program review, program review for accreditation purposes, and more recent selective program reviews related to statewide initiatives.
The committee's review of student assessment activities within existing programs at BGSU revealed that past assessment strategies have (1) been performed at a variety of levels within the University, (2) involved a variety of methods and approaches, (3) been conducted during and after a student's educational career, (4) resulted in the enhancement of the learning environment by positively affecting the teaching methods of faculty and improving the academic performance of students, and (5) resulted in students being better prepared for life's opportunities. A list of assessment activities which have been undertaken in the past is contained in Appendix B of this report, and was contained as Appendix S of the Self‑Study Report.
Subsequently, during the 1994-95 academic year, the University's General Education Committee developed a series of learner outcomes that served as a precursor of and model for the development of learning outcomes by all of BGSU's academic programs. This list, excerpted from the 1994-95 General Education Annual Report, is contained in Appendix C. The General Education Committee is currently in the process of reviewing established learning environments related to general education offerings and developing appropriate methods of assessing the previously identified student learning outcomes.
Most recently the Vice President for Academic Affairs appointed the Student Achievement Assessment Committee (SAAC) with the specific charge of developing, coordinating, and nurturing assessment activities within the University. SAAC is comprised of representatives from the six main campus colleges; Firelands College; the Graduate College; Continuing Education, International and Summer Programs; Libraries and Learning Resources; the General Education Committee; and the Office of Academic Affairs. It is chaired by a faculty member from the College of Arts and Sciences who is the University's Eminent Scholar in Psychology. The chair has a significant record of involvement and accomplishment related to student assessment. Of particular importance is that fact that he has served as a consultant to Alverno College for 20 years in its efforts as a national leader in the assessment movement. He was an original member of Alverno's National Commission on Assessment and currently serves on the institution's National Council for Assessment.
Concomitantly, each college within the University has appointed an assessment committee to coordinate the development and implementation of assessment activities at the collegiate level. Each college committee is chaired by the college's representative on SAAC. The membership of SAAC and the college committees is contained in Appendix D, as is a statement of the "Role of the College/Area Assessment Committee" developed by SAAC.
This structure for developing and implementing BGSU's assessment plan is consistent with the institutional culture favoring a decentralized approach to developing academic programs and initiatives. SAAC, which is comprised primarily of full-time faculty members, is vested with overall responsibility for developing, coordinating and nurturing assessment activities within the university. SAAC's membership in turn directs collegiate assessment initiatives as well as assessment initiatives in general education and in University Programs (Honors, Cooperative Education, and Academic Enhancement). Administrative oversight is performed by the deans at the collegiate level and the Office of Academic Affairs at the institutional level. Appropriate administrative oversight is assured at the institutional level by the fact that the Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs is a member of SAAC. He has been charged by the Vice President with facilitating the development and implementation of BGSU's assessment plan, and assuring that NCA's requirements related to student assessment are satisfied.
SAAC has developed and is implementing the institutional assessment plan. During its first phase the plan is designed to initiate assessment activities at the academic program level, which in most cases is the academic department. Later phases are designed to build horizontally across the University through incorporating assessment of student learning outcomes in the Student Affairs division, and to build vertically within the Academic Affairs division through classroom assessment and assessment of institutionally defined student learning outcomes.
The assessment plan consists of the following six stages:
- Identify learning outcomes.
- Structure learning environments.
- Identify and develop assessment methods.
- Data /information collection.
- Data analysis.
- Convert data to useful information.
A schematic diagram of the plan and a description of its various phases and their interrelationships to one another are contained in Appendix E. The timetable for implementing the first phase of the plan in academic departments and programs is contained in Appendix F. Implementation is currently on schedule with all academic units having developed and submitted a set of student learning outcomes for their various academic programs. Identification and development of assessment methods, including identification of persons responsible for collecting the data, will be submitted by mid‑February. The remaining stages of the plan will be completed according to the timetable developed and coordinated by SAAC. The first complete cycle of the assessment plan will be completed by the end of academic year 1996‑97.
It should be understood that the initial phase of the assessment plan includes graduate level education in addition to undergraduate education. A representative from the Graduate College serves as a member of SAAC to assure inclusion of graduate programs in the assessment plan, and academic units are developing desired student learning outcomes for all of their academic programs, including graduate programs. This process of assessing student learning outcomes in graduate programs coincides with the statewide review of graduate programs currently being conducted by the Ohio Board of Regents. Statewide "standards of viability" have been established for doctoral programs throughout the state, with programs begin evaluated against these standards.
The second phase of the assessment plan, designed to build horizontally by incorporating Student Affairs, has already begun. Conversations between SAAC and key Student Affairs administrators (the Dean of Students and an Associate Dean of Students in charge of Student Affairs Research and Evaluation) were held during the 1995 fall semester regarding assessment of student learning outcomes in Student Affairs programs. These two Student Affairs administrators officially joined SAAC at its January 12,1996 meeting. The plan's third phase of building vertically within Academic Affairs to incorporate classroom assessment and assessment of institutionally defined student learning outcomes will be addressed by SAAC during academic year 1996-97.
SAAC has also facilitated other aspects of the assessment plan. In particular, it drafted a statement of institutional commitment to the process of assessment of student academic achievement. This statement reads as follows:
The Assessment of Student Academic Achievement:
A University Commitment
Bowling Green State University is committed to the development and continuing enhancement of an excellent learning environment for students at the undergraduate and graduate levels. In order to achieve such a goal, the University recognizes the need for the formulation and continuous refinement of a systematic process to assess the attainment of student learning outcomes for the purpose of improving teaching and the academic achievement of students. In this context, assessment is perceived as being the process of defining, selecting, collecting, analyzing, interpreting, and using information about the learning environment as a means of (1)
enhancing the quality of the educational experience, (2) heightening the ability of graduates to function successfully in their chosen careers, and (3) increasing the likelihood of students becoming broadly educated productive citizens.
As an institution accredited by the North Central Association MCA), and as a member of the National Association of State University and Land Grant Colleges (NASULGC), Bowling Green State University endorses the principles (Appendix G) of these organizations as they relate to the assessment of student academic achievement. Within the context of these principles, and with the belief that the most effective assessment program is a decentralized process emanating from faculty and staff who are responsible for various aspects of the student environment, BGSU affirms its commitment to establishing assessment procedures within all facets of student life.
This statement of commitment has been reviewed and endorsed by the University's Undergraduate Council, Graduate Council, and the Faculty Senate Committee on Academic Affairs. It is scheduled for action at the first meeting of the Faculty Senate during spring semester. Following approval by the Faculty Senate it will be sent to the President for transmittal and action by the University Board of Trustees.
Another important component of the plan coordinated by SAAC consists of providing appropriate professional development opportunities for faculty, staff, and students to become better informed regarding the purposes of assessment and the processes of implementing an effective assessment plan. The following developmental activities have been undertaken or planned by SAAC to facilitate the assessment plan's implementation:
- Conducted three "Discussion Forums on Assessment" (October 18, 20, and 25, 1995) for college assessment committee members, department chairs, and faculty to assist in developing meaningful student learning outcomes.
- Sponsored the attendance of three SAAC members at an assessment conference in Indianapolis (November 5-7,1995) entitled "Principles of Good Practice That Promote Student Learning."
- Coordinated the attendance of 43 faculty, staff and students at "A Day at Alverno College" on November 9,1995. This initiative was funded through the President's Office. A second group of faculty, staff, and students will attend the workshop at Alverno during spring semester.
- Held three follow up sessions (November 21, 27, and 28,1995) for attendees of "A Day at Alverno College." Output from the meetings included development of five assessment related projects which will be developed and planned during the spring semester.
- Organized an "Assessment Fair" (January 23,1996) representing a University wide "poster session" regarding assessment. The purpose of the fair was to share assessment activities currently being conducted across campus in order to assist the undertaking of assessment activities in other units. A list of the posters and displays presented at the Assessment Fair is contained in Appendix H.
- Attendees at the Assessment Fair identified a series of assessment workshops which will be developed and coordinated by SAAC during the spring semester.
- Encouraged the President to visit Alverno College with several Trustees. The visit will take place on February 16,1996.
SAAC will continue to meet regularly to develop, coordinate, and nurture assessment activities within the University. Specific tasks for the immediate future include facilitating the professional development activities described above and developing a concise template for reporting assessment activities to facilitate institutional oversight of the assessment plan. Other activities will be developed as the assessment plan evolves and iterations of assessment activities are completed.
1. To what extent has the institution demonstrated that the plan is linked to the mission, goals, and objectives of the institution for student learning and academic achievement, including learning in general education and in the major?
The description of Stage I of the assessment plan (Appendix E) indicates that student learning outcomes "emanate from the mission of the university, the college, and the unit." Each academic department and program has developed an initial set of learning outcomes consistent with these mission statements. The University Role and Mission Statement plays a particularly important role in this context. This document has been widely distributed on campus since its completion in 1984 and its prioritization in 1988. The institutional goals contained in the Role and Mission Statement, including those related to "Academic Programs" and "Learning Environments," are familiar to program faculty because they are used to justify annual personnel and operating budget requests in the budget planning process. As the Role and Mission Statement evolves as a result of current planning initiatives, it will continue to play an integral role in the development of student learning outcomes. Connection between the general education program and the assessment plan has been assured by including the current chair of the University's General Education Committee as a member of SAAC. Linkage between the assessment plan and the academic major has been assured by initiating the first phase of the assessment plan at the level of the academic program or unit which designs, modifies, and improves academic majors over time.
2. What is the institution's evidence that faculty have participated in the development of the institution's plan and that the plan is institution-wide in conceptualization and scope?
Faculty have participated in all stages of development of the institution's assessment plan. The initial assessment committee described in the recent institutional Self-Study Report and in the Executive Summary above was comprised of faculty. The University General Education committee which developed student learning outcomes for general education courses is also comprised of faculty. Finally, SAAC is comprised,primarily of faculty and administrators with faculty rank, and is chaired by a faculty member from the College of Arts and Sciences. Each collegiate unit within the University has established an assessment committee made up of faculty with responsibility for coordinating assessment activities at the collegiate level. In the first implementation phase of the assessment plan, all six stages of the plan (appendix E) are being conducted by faculty in academic departments or programs. Finally, as discussed in the Executive Summary above, faculty groups including Undergraduate Council, Graduate Council, and the Faculty Senate Committee on Academic Affairs have endorsed the statement of Commitment to Assessment developed by SAAC, and the Faculty Senate will take action on it in January.
The institution-wide nature of the assessment plan is evident from the fact that it incorporates all academic levels of the University. Its first phase involves faculty conducting assessment of student learning outcomes at the academic program level. This initial phase involves degree granting (i.e., academic departments and colleges) and non-degree granting academic programs (Libraries and Learning Resources; Continuing Education, International and Summer Programs; the General Education Program; Honors; Cooperative Education; and Academic Enhancement). The plan incorporates coordination by a faculty committee at the college level with administrative oversight at this level by deans. At the institutional level it involves coordination by a faculty committee (SAAC) with administrative oversight in the Office of Academic Affairs. In a later phase the plan will extend vertically within the academic sphere to include classroom level assessment and institutional level assessment. Institution-wide snipe is further demonstrated by the inclusion of Student Affairs representatives on SAAC extending the assessment plan horizontally across all divisions of the University which affect the student learning environment.
3. How does the plan demonstrate the likelihood that the assessment program will lead to institutional improvement when it is implemented?
The key to institutional improvement is the relationship between Stage VI and Stages I, II, and III of the assessment plan (see Appendix E). At these interface points, information gleaned from the assessment process will be used to provide feedback to faculty and students regarding assessment results. Moreover, information derived from assessment activities will be used to modify or validate each program's key student learning outcomes, improve the structure of specific learning environments (e.g., curricula, courses, and teaching strategies in the academic sphere, or residence life programming in the student life sphere), and refine assessment methods. This later stage is where the assessment process itself will be assessed. Reports will also be produced for purposes of institutional oversight and for external purposes (e.g., accreditation). These reports will document results of assessment activities and how they were used to improve student academic achievement.
4. Is the time line for the assessment program appropriate? Realistic?
The time line for implementing the assessment plan is tenable. Deadlines have been established for each stage of the plan (see Appendix F'), and the plan is currently on schedule. Each academic program will complete the design of its assessment activities during the current academic year. The first formal round of assessment activities will be conducted during academic year 1996‑97. Reports including documentation of feedback to faculty and students as well as how the assessment information has been used to modify learning outcomes and improve the structure of learning environments will be available at the end of the next academic year. Incorporation of Student Affairs is currently underway with the expectation that these programs will complete the full six stages of the assessment plan and complete the first formal round of assessment activities during the next four academic semesters. Since the plan represents an iterative process, on going assessment activities will be conducted on an annual cycle.
5. What is the evidence that the plan provides for appropriate administration of the assessment program?
The plan incorporates appropriate administration and institutional oversight at several levels. The six stages of the plan are conducted at the academic program level by faculty and program heads (department chairs in the academic departments or directors in areas such as Cooperative Education, Honors, and Academic Enhancement). College assessment committees coordinate activities within the colleges and deans provide administrative oversight at the college level. SAAC develops and coordinates assessment activities at the institutional level with administrative oversight in the Office of Academic Affairs. Administrative oversight in the Student Affairs domain will be conducted at the Dean of Students level with assistance from the Research and Evaluation Office. Finally, a new Director of Institutional Research is currently being hired at BGSU. Expertise in the area of assessment is expected of candidates in order to assist in the process of data collection and evaluation for academic programs.
Bowling Green State University has developed and is implementing its institution-wide plan for assessing student academic achievement. The plan emanates from the mission of the institution, colleges, and departments, and it includes all segments of the institution in which student learning is an expected outcome. It has been developed with widespread input and participation by faculty. Learning outcomes have been developed for all academic programs (see several representative samples of student learning outcomes in various departments in Appendix I and the general education learning outcomes in Appendix C). Assessment activities are already being conducted in many areas (see list of assessment activities presented at BGSU's Assessment Fair as examples in Appendix H) which will be used as models in other areas as appropriate. The institution has committed to the assessment process through approval of an assessment commitment statement and through commitment of financial resources for faculty and staff development. The six stages of the plan will be fully designed and formulated by all academic programs at the end of the current academic year, with the first formal round of assessment activities completed and documented by the end of academic year 1996-97.