Lewis and Clark’s learning assessment strategy supports our mission: to raise aspirations and foster achievement. Our implementation has two major themes: evidence-based action and continuous improvement. Assessment begins with a performance baseline of clearly defined learning outcomes; continues with outcomes assessments against predefined objectives; proceeds to evidence-based actions to improve learning; and concludes with an assessment of the impact of those actions. Evidence and continuous improvement are at the core of an ongoing cycle of assessments designed ultimately to improve or sustain student performance. Our chief goal is to document outcome improvements that result from evidence-based actions.
Philosophy of Education
In 2003, the College drafted a philosophy of education. This document affirms our belief that teaching is essentially a compassionate endeavor, and that the key to individual success is the empowerment of individuals.
Philosophy of Education: Major Themes
Assessment in the Context of Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI)
- Our responsibility as educators goes beyond giving individuals the information they need to complete a course of study. It involves equipping them with the foundational skills they need to continue to grow and succeed as individuals and members of society.
- Teaching in its highest form is grounded in a sense of compassion and empathy for the individual, a sense that strives to understand the individual’s needs and aspirations, and one that applies this understanding to optimize the learning experience for that individual.
- Teaching in its highest form, prepares individuals to achieve not only success, but great personal satisfaction. In this form, teaching extends beyond traditional academics to instill life skills that are self-perpetuating and promote continued growth and harmony with one’s environment.
Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) was formally adopted as an institutional initiative in 2002 and provides an underlying set of principles for effective assessment practices. In 2002, the responsibility to implement CQI principles and practices was assigned to every department of the College with a focus on four major areas: learning and academic achievement, programs and services, operations and management, and environment and infrastructure. While the scope of CQI and assessment is institutional, the primary emphasis initially has been on the assessment of learning and academic achievement.
Assessment of student learning is both internally-driven by our mission and externally mandated by our various accrediting agencies. Learning assessment efforts that began in 2003 have been institutionalized and engage all 101 of the full-time faculty, all academic student services providers, and a growing number of the College's adjunct faculty. Learning assessment at L&C is conducted at the level of the classroom, course, program, general education and academic student services programs.
The importance of the general education core skills in the academic and personal growth of our students made general education learning assessment an obvious, if challenging focus for curriculum-wide assessment. It should be noted that any distinction between course, program, and general education assessment becomes blurred when we consider how they often interconnect with one another. For example, when course level assessments serve as quality performance indicators in program assessment, when course-level assessment leads to course changes that require program changes, or when general education rubrics are applied to course-level writing assignments either as embedded assignments or in course-level assessments. Nonetheless, these distinctions allowed Lewis and Clark to organize its resources around fairly definable and logical areas of focus.
General Education Assessment
General education describes the curriculum core courses that are required for transfer degrees and as elements of career programs. For transfer students who are here to complete their IAI (Illinois Articulation Initiative) core curriculum, assessment of general education takes on added significance. General education is singular as a cross-curricular program in that it is an element of every degree program offered by L&C. In 2003, the full-timefaculty revised the ten general education outcomes that had been defined in 1995. New definitions provided more measurable characteristics that reflect the skills emphasized in the general education core. Individual faculty representing each of the outcome areas were appointed to the General Education Assessment Committee (GEAC) and tasked with leading the development of general education assessment methods for their assigned outcome areas. These ten faculty members, who is 2003 were called “general education outcome leads,” are in 2008 six faculty members referred to in shorthand as "gen ed leads."
Course Level Assessment
Course level assessment addresses learning assessment from the perspective of individual courses and sections. In the original organizational framework, a separate subcommittee representing course level assessment was assigned. This group represented a mix of transfer and career program courses, and was tasked with leading the effort to collaborate with individual faculty in the development of effective practices for assessment at the course level, as well as serving as the coordination point for course level assessment with the other subcommittees. The course syllabus serves as the unifying standard for course objectives (across sections and instructors) and other key curricular elements. It also includes a section on evaluation that communicates to both transfer institutions and students the performance criteria that will be factored into course grades. In 2003-2004, all course syllabi were reviewed, converted to electronic format, and posted on the College’s website for anyone to view. Faculty complete course outlines using a Lotus Notes web-based data entry tool that automatically transfers data from key syllabus fields to the outline form. The faculty member can then tailor the form to include all of the essential information, including assessment methods and rubrics which are either embedded into the form or included as an attachment. The form asks instructors to include “course assessment materials such as course assessment plans, rubrics, sample tests, study guides, case studies, examples of student work, and other assessment materials.” Course outlines can also be accessed and viewed by students, or anyone else, via the College website. In 2004 the College implemented a standard format for faculty performance objectives and reporting of accomplishments (including course, program, and general education assessment activities).
While the College was already conducting periodic (a five year cycle for each program) program reviews in compliance with ICCB requirements, the HLC accreditation team in early 2003 recommended that Lewis and Clark place more emphasis on program assessment. In September 2003, the program assessment subcommittee, working with academic affairs and institutional research, developed a model for the continuing assessment of career and transfer programs. The operating assumption was that “program assessment” would provide a more comprehensive and ongoing monitoring of performance than was the case with program review. Working from the program review model, the new assessment strategy addressed standards for quality, need, and cost-effectiveness, with the greatest emphasis on quality. A “data matrix” and set of data definitions were developed as assessment planning aids that program coordinators could tailor and adapt to their particular needs. The committee also developed an “executive summary” report template. This provides a standard synopsis-like format that helps program coordinators condense what were often lengthy and complex details down to the essentials. Program level assessment was then implemented in pilot stages that engaged only those program coordinators whose ICCB program reviews happened to be due that year. Program coordinators were encouraged to identify overlaps and possible redundancies that might occur between internal assessments and reporting required by the ICCB or groups that oversee accreditation, licensure, and certification. Over the course of three years beginning in fall 2003, fifteen program coordinators and faculty have completed program level assessment.
Assessment Goals (2007-2012)
The years 2000 to 2006 marked the formative development of assessment policies and practices that have achieved sustainability and in the process engaged one hundred percent of our faculty in assessment. Certainly challenges remain, but it would be remiss on our part not to acknowledge and perhaps even celebrate what we have accomplished. Looking to the future, we plan in the next six years (2007-2012) to consolidate our gains and advance to the next level of sustainability, a level that includes a higher degree of scholarship and expertise, further refinement of effective practices, and most importantly, many examples of measurable improvements in student learning.
As we look forward, our emphasis from a process standpoint will be on a number of things: maintaining the sustainability we have achieved, strengthening our effective practices, expanding the integration of assessment into other areas of the College, and implementation of a web-based assessment repository. In the process, we plan to implement more standardized reporting and formatting of assessment documents. We also plan to capitalize on the capabilities of our new student system (Datatel), primarily as a repository for assessment data that others can access, but also to perform queries, run custom reports, and extract cohort samples. From a results standpoint, the chief measure of success will be the number of documented improvements in learning obtained from learning assessment. To draw from the AAHE’s principle #8, we believe that we have in fact implemented the “conditions that promote change” and are confident that these conditions will lead to improvements in learning.
HLC Assessment Monitoring Report: September 2006
L&C in September 2006 completed an assessment monitoring report in response to a Higher Learning Commission requirement following the College’s ten-year reaccreditation in 2003. Completing this report was an especially worthwhile endeavor, not only because it was mandated, but more importantly because it compelled us to take a hard and thoughtful look at our goals for assessment, our accomplishments to date, and our goals for the future. This document has become an important primer for new faculty and a reference point for future growth and development of assessment. The following link will take you to an Adobe *.pdf version of this document that provides a much more detailed review of L&C’s assessment history between 2000 and 2006.