McKendree University Assessment 2.0: A Systematic, Comprehensive, and Sustainable Model Combining Assessment and Faculty Development

McKendree University is currently engaged in a seven-year assessment revision initiative entitled “Assessment 2.0.” In the past, we engaged in a variety of assessment activities, but our model lacked cohesiveness, transparency, and usefulness; we now refer to those initial assessment activities as “Assessment 1.0.”  The purpose of “Assessment 2.0” is to build a new systematic, comprehensive, and sustainable undergraduate student learning outcomes assessment system and to link the system to faculty development activities.

The first step in the initiative was to adopt a revised set of seven student learning outcomes for undergraduate students (e.g., engagement, effective communication, inquiry and problem solving).  The faculty derived the new outcomes directly from the university mission statement.  Each year since then, one of the seven outcomes is targeted, during which a volunteer committee of faculty and staff determine performance indicators and identify assessment tools to be used. This first year of work is called the “development year.” During the following year, the “implementation year,” the same committee educates the campus community about the outcome and the performance indicators, and implements the assessment tools for the first time.  During the implementation year, faculty engage in professional development programs, including workshops, Lunch and Learn sessions, a book study group, and a “Closing the Loop” presentation sharing the assessment data collected that year. In addition, University guest speakers and special events focus on that particular outcome throughout the entire year.  For example, during 2011-12, the “year of engagement,” teaching workshops emphasized engaging teaching activities, the book study group read “Student Engagement Techniques” (Barkley, 2010) and the “Closing the Loop” workshop focused on data from the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE).

To ensure integration among outcomes, assessments, and program improvements, we recently combined our assessment, general education, and faculty development committees into one large committee called the Student Learning, Assessment, and Teaching Effectiveness (SLATE) committee.  The SLATE committee members include faculty, administrators, staff, and students.  The SLATE committee has two primary responsibilities: overseeing assessment activities and planning teaching workshops.

In 2011-12, the SLATE committee cross-walked the Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP) with the McKendree University student learning outcomes as well as the Association of American Colleges and Universities LEAP essential learning outcomes and the NCAA key attributes.  Completing this crosswalk with the DQP helped to provide construct validity for our student learning outcomes and valuable language that we adopted for some of our outcomes.  For example, we include “appreciation of diversity” as a learning outcome, but this is a particularly difficult outcome to define and measure.  The DQP provided some guidance. In addition, specific gaps in our academic programs were illustrated as we conducted the crosswalk.  Notably, the DQP construct of “broad, integrative knowledge” informed our need to identify a capstone experience in all of our disciplines. We are now creating faculty professional development programs related to capstone experiences. As the seven-year Assessment 2.0 model proceeds, targeting one learning outcome per year, we anticipate that we will continue to identify gaps in student learning and use this information to guide our professional development efforts. The model is systematic (development year followed by implementation year), comprehensive (one outcome targeted each year), sustainable (supported by volunteer faculty/staff committees focused on a single outcome), and linked directly to specific professional development activities. As such, it may serve as a model for other institutions.

We have used many resources to inform our assessment efforts; The Higher Learning Commission’s (HLC) Assessment Workshop, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) initiative, and the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) Assessment Institute provided us with significant information, direction, and inspiration. We have also used many resources from the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA). In particular, we revised our assessment website based on the NILOA transparency model.  In addition, McKendree University is a proud member of the New Leadership Alliance for Student Learning and Accountability and the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) Lumina Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP) Consortium.