By Sandra Bailey, Director of Assessment.
From its beginnings following WW II, Oregon Institute of Technologyâ€™s focus has been preparing citizens for professional careers. The Pacific Northwestâ€™s only public institute of technology, Oregon Tech has grown from a vocational education institution into a baccalaureate and masters granting university that offers programs in engineering, allied health, social sciences, and management, and serves a student body in excess of four thousand.
Institutional academic assessment work at Oregon Tech began in earnest in 2007 when the longstanding faculty-led Assessment Commission received strong administrative support. The assessment plan was designed around signature assignments embedded in upper division courses within all degree programs across the institution. Seven years of assessment of eight Institutional Student Learning Outcomes (ISLOs) has not only produced data, but has generated a shared responsibility for student learning at Oregon Tech.
Assessment of the eight ISLOs has exposed missing links between expectations surrounding student learning and the curriculum. Recommendations were made for changes to both the ISLOs and current general education curriculum, and it soon became evident to faculty that it was time to review Oregon Techâ€™s general education program in its entirety. The Provost issued a charge to this end in 2013, calling upon a faculty-led task force to use the Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP) as a guide to review and strengthen Oregon Techâ€™s general education program to better prepare professionals and citizens for the twenty-first-century.
The Task Force began by studying external resources (including the DQP), reviewing our own assessment results, and seeking input from a wide variety of stakeholders. This review illustrated the need to make educational pathways more clear and concrete for students by revising both our general education program and Institutional Student Learning Outcomes (ISLOs) to bring them into alignment.
In order to better visualize what this may look like, the Task Force engaged the whole faculty in mapping every programâ€™s curriculum to six newly proposed ISLOs, and student affairs professionals in mapping co-curricular activities. Six subcommittees were then organized to define the new ISLOs, identify criteria for assessment, and describe increasing levels of achievement as students advance through the curricula. The subcommittees are now set to use the results of the mapping exercise and the DQP to identify cumulative learning experiences for Oregon Techâ€™s new integrated model of general education.
This new model will make it clear for Oregon Tech students and faculty the role of every course and general education requirement in support of our Institutional Student Learning Outcomes. Learning will be connected to prior knowledge, between general education courses, major courses and co-curricular activities encompassing the entire educational experience. Along the way, at graduation, and beyond, students will know what an Oregon Tech education is.
At Oregon Tech, the value of the DQP lies in the conversations it elicits. These conversations lead to collaborations. Collaborations increase curricular connections and intentional educational pathways for students.