Colorado Mesa University’s work with the DQP

By Suzanne Lay, Associate Professor and Faculty Assessment Coordinator, and Bette Schans, Director of Assessment.

Colorado Mesa University’s work with the DQP began with a two-day faculty development session with one of the authors of the DQP in January 2012. During that session, the faculty discussed which components of the DQP most closely fit the institution. Following the session, faculty were further surveyed to determine on which areas CMU would focus. Four areas of the student learning outcomes (SLOs) most widely shared across all programs at CMU and WCCC were chosen from the Intellectual Skills (communication, quantitative fluency, and critical thinking) as well as Applied Learning and Specialized Knowledge of the DQP. Since 2012, institutional SLOs have been developed for the certificate levels.

The Director of Assessment works closely with the Assessment Committee and the Faculty Coordinator of Assessment to ensure that best practices in assessment are encouraged and to promote a culture that emphasizes continuous improvement of quality education at CMU. The Committee has embraced the theme of manageable and meaningful assessment. In January 2013, the Assessment Committee participated in a teleconference with a Senior Scholar to the Higher Learning Commission whose expertise is in assessment.   The same consultant came to campus in March of 2013 and met with each academic program to assist in developing program- level SLOs that align with institutional SLOs. She met separately with the Assessment Committee to discuss ways in which the Committee could further a campus culture that values the assessment of student learning.


  • The Assessment Committee members are now working more actively as assessment advisors within their departments.
  • In 2013, programs developed curriculum maps to align each course in the program with the SLOs. Work began on new assessment plans to measure student performance and identify areas of strength and weakness.
  • The Assessment Committee assigned sub-groups for each academic program to review assessment plans and reports and provide constructive feedback to the program faculty at individual program meetings. The purpose was to improve the quality of the feedback and to encourage two-way communication between faculty and the Assessment Committee.
  • All baccalaureate programs provided assessment plans to the Assessment Committee in fall 2013 followed by all associate and certificate programs in the spring 2014.
  • Program assessment has been aligned with the program review process to make both more meaningful and manageable.
  • In fall 2014, programs implemented the assessment plans and have been working on closing the assessment loop by using the assessment data collected to make continuous improvements.
  • The general education goals were transformed into Essential Learning SLOs following the DQP in the areas of communication, quantitative literacy, and critical thinking.
  • Buy-in from faculty, the President of CMU and the Board of Trustees has been very positive.


  • Prioritizing potential institution-wide SLOs based on the DQP was difficult. Ultimately the four areas of communication, quantitative fluency, critical thinking, and specialized knowledge/applied learning were found common across the disciplines.
  • Assessment methods were piloted in the summer and fall of 2014 to measure achievement of the Essential Learning SLOs. Determining the appropriate artifacts of student work and a reliable rubric with actionable performance indicators continues to be a challenge.


  • Additional SLOs may be considered in the future in areas such as ethical reasoning and information literacy.
  • Incorporating student learning outcomes into the courses designated as part of the Essential Learning curriculum and determining the best means to assess them will be an ongoing process

CMU has continued to use the DQP to improve SLOs at every level within the institution to provide meaningful information upon which to make decisions to curriculum.   Nearly every semester since 2012, faculty development sessions have been held to assist faculty in writing and improving SLOs and making assessment more meaningful and manageable.