Introduction to Learning Assessment at Laney College
Overview of the Assessment Process
There are three main reasons for assessing student learning:
- Accountability (are our students really learning what we’re teaching?)
- Accreditation (the ACCJC requires us to assess our courses and programs)
- Improvement (how can we change or adjust what we’re doing so that students learn better/more deeply?)
The Assessment Cycle
1. Define intended Student Learning Outcomes.
2. Develop means of assessment and decide on criteria for success.
3. Check for alignment between the curriculum and the outcomes.
4. Give students opportunities to learn and get feedback.
5. Assess: collect evidence and indicators of student learning.
6. Compile results.
7. Analyze and reflect on the results.
8. Plan and implement changes for improvement.
Assessment Requirements at Laney
- Every course must have a set of approved student learning outcomes (SLOs)
- These SLOs should be the same for all sections of the course.
- SLOs should appear on course syllabi, and students should demonstrate awareness of those SLOs.
- Every degree or certificate program must have a set of approved program learning outcomes (PLOs).
- Student services programs should have a set of approved outcomes.
- Every class, program, and student services program should have at least one outcome “mapped” to at least one of the Institutional Learning Outcomes (ILOs). The mapping is done in TaskStream. This will ensure that everything we do is related to the ILOs, and that the ILOs relate to everything we do at Laney.
- Every course SLO and program outcome (PLO) must be assessed at least once every three years. It’s best to assess something in every course or program at least every year, as this shows evidence of “ongoing” assessment.
- Assessment should be a collaborative process within the department/program. All instructors teaching the same course should discuss what and how to assess, and then decide on a common assessment/assignment/test questions/project to assess. Assessment information/results from all sections of the same class should be combined for the reporting process.
- The process should include dialogue and discussion with your colleagues about the meaning of the assessment results, including weak points, common mistakes, strong points, or issues revealed in student learning.
- The results of assessment should be used to plan and implement changes and improvements to the course, the curriculum, the assignment, department policies, etc.
- Assessment results must be documented in TaskStream (this includes assessment plans, assessment findings, action plans, and status reports).
- After the changes have been implemented, the department should assess the SLO again to see if there was an improvement in student learning as a result of the changes.
- Assessment results should be used to support budget requests for the department and should be used in planning processes.
Assessing your SLOs: Important points to keep in mind
1. The assessment method/measure should fit the SLO. For example,
2. When you assess SLOs, you’ll need to create something to collect information on how well your students performed. A rubric or a set of scoring guidelines will be needed. As part of the scoring guidelines, you need to define what it is you’re looking for. What constitutes “excellent” performance? Define it. (Define other levels too: good, average, needs work, etc.) This helps students to understand what you’re looking for, and it helps you to be consistent, fair, and efficient in your grading.
3. To report on assessment information, you’ll need to tally how students performed on each part of the assignment. In this way, you can identify any weak points or strong points for the entire class. This information can then be used to plan improvements to the class or program. Report the results in the “Assessment Findings” section of TaskStream.
4. After you tally your assessment results, reflect on them. Talk about them with other instructors. What did you learn? What are some ideas for ways to help students perform better? Report any ideas and plans for improvements in the “Action Plan” section of TaskStream.
5. In your department, discuss and implement any changes you proposed in the action plan. You might change the assignment, increase the amount of scaffolding for a complicated assignment, clarify course and assignment expectations, revise textbook choices, increase the use of technology, provide support with tutors or instructional assistants, change policies in the department, change the curriculum, change the course outline, etc. Most of these changes/improvements will take some time and effort.
6. Complete a “Status Report” for each “Action Plan” in TaskStream about a year after the action plan is developed. Report on the status of any improvement plans.
How to Assess SLOs in Your Department – Step by Step
Key Ideas: Evidence, Dialogue, and Improvement
Keep in mind: the purpose of assessing SLOs is to use evidence of student learning as a basis for dialogue with your colleagues, and then to use what you learn to improve teaching practices and curriculum.
We are to be continually assessing SLOs, reflecting on the results, and implementing changes and improvements.
- Decide which courses to assess.
- Focus on important core courses first.
- Set up a meeting of all (or most) instructors who teach that course.
- Make sure to have a sign-in list and request professional development credit for all meetings.
- At the meeting, decide which SLOs to assess.
- Develop an assessment tool (or rubric) together, so that all instructors will be evaluating the assignment in the same way.
- Discuss the rubric and its use. Consider having a “norming” session so that all instructors will be scoring the assignments in the same way.
- Decide what constitutes “successful” attainment of the outcome and what percentage of students you’d like to see successfully meeting the standards.
- Assign someone to enter this information into the “Assessment Plan” in TaskStream.
- All instructors use the assessment tool to assess their students’ performance on the selected assignment. Tally the number of students in each category.
- Keep copies of the completed rubrics or surveys.
- One of the instructors should collect the information from the other instructors and combine it to come up with the overall results.
- Have another meeting. At this meeting (or before), have the results of the assessment available for all participants. (It’s good to include each instructor’s results and the compiled results.)
- Strive for an attitude of honest curiosity. Approach your assessment as a research project – you’re finding out what your students can do and what they can’t do. Everyone must feel safe in order for this process to have its intended effect. (It’s not about judging individual teachers.)
- Discuss these results. What do these results mean? What are the problem areas overall?
- Plan changes that you think would improve student performance. See if there are tips or techniques you can learn from each other.
- Decide how to follow through with these changes and assign a responsible person to make sure it happens.
- Enter this information in the “Assessment Findings” and “Action Plan” in TaskStream.
- Implement the changes, and then later assess this outcome again.
- Note if there was an improvement in student learning.
- Enter this information in the “Status Report” in TaskStream.
- Meanwhile, plan other assessments for this course and other courses in your department.
- Plan the assessment of program outcomes, if your department has any.
- Make the assessment of SLOs a normal part of your routine each semester.
- Discuss assessment plans, results, and action plans at department meetings.
- Repeat. Forever.
More information on rubrics can be found here.