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Assessment of Student Learning

Assessment of student learning is best described as an “ongoing process aimed at understanding and improving student learning.   Assessment involves:

  • Making our expectations explicit and public;
  • Setting appropriate criteria and high expectations for learning quality; systematically gathering, analyzing, and interpreting evidence to determine how well performance matches those expectations and standards;
  • And using the resulting information to document, explain, and improve performance.

Simply put, assessment (often called outcomes assessment) should be useful, and used to:  Evaluate your curriculum, Plan improvements when necessary, and Evaluate the effects of the changes. Assessment helps departments affirm those things in their curricula and courses that are going well.  Assessment also helps identify what is not going well, and often points to the specific changes that might be needed.  Assessment is not static; rather, it is an ongoing and continuous effort to improve the quality of instruction, student learning, and overall effectiveness of a department or unit” (Angelo, 1995).

Grand Rapids Community College is committed to assessing student learning in academic and student service programs, training programs, and courses.  The focus of assessment is on the use of valid direct and indirect measures to collect data and information that is used to drive formative curricular and instructional development for the purpose of improving student performance on the Institutional, Program, and Course Learning Outcomes. Faculty in departments, disciplines, and programs assess institutional, program,  and course learning outcomes annually.

The steps in the Assessment of Student Learning process are:

  1. Identify the outcome(s) to assess
  2. Decide how you will measure outcome(s):
         (a) develop/purchase instrument (if needed)
         (b) collect data
  3. Analyze data & draw inferences.  Decide whether changes/improvements to the curriculum and/or to teaching strategies are warranted in order to improve student learning.
  4. Make changes
  5. Collect data
  6. Analyze data & draw inferences.  Decide whether changes/improvements to the curriculum/teaching strategies improved student learning
  7. Repeat

The GRCC Institutional Learning Outcomes (ILOs) are measured in the context of courses and programs in order to understand how the curriculum and student experiences are preparing students in Communication, Critical Thinking, Personal Responsibility, and Social Responsibility.  Faculty are responsible for identifying or creating measurement instruments that reflect the contextual learning appropriate in the courses and programs in which they teach.  A general rubric has been created to help guide faculty in the development of such instruments (see ILO Rubric on right).

Faculty may measure multiple CLOs, PLOs and ILOs annually or may simply focus on a few of the competencies associated with a particular outcome.  This decision is made based on the data and information needed to best inform program and curricular development.  The decision about which outcomes are measured may be made for a variety of reasons:

  1. By examining evidence of student learning and determining where action is needed in order to improve student performance;
  2. Simply identifying an area of concern that you wish to study;
  3. Identifying data or information that you think would help you to better understand student learning;
  4. Identifying/using a new instructional strategy or process that you are planning to incorporate within the curriculum or service.

The progress and findings associated with the annual Assessment of Student Learning are documented and reported at the end of each academic year in an Annual Report.  GRCC recently subscribed to WEAVEonline to warehouse the Assessment of Student Learning information and findings and to generate reports.  The transition from reporting in Microsoft Word to using WEAVEonline will occur over the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 academic years.