Performance-Based Assessment for Gen Ed
CSU Channel Islands (CI) is the newest CSU campus (started in 2002) and is located in southern California. CI is a student-centered, four-year, public university known for its interdisciplinary, multicultural, and international perspectives and its emphasis on experiential and service learning. CI’s strong academic programs focus on liberal studies, sciences, business, teaching credentials and innovative master’s degrees such as the M.S. in Bioinformatics. Students benefit from individual attention, up-to-date technology, and classroom instruction augmented by stellar faculty research in a small, rural setting.
In 2010, CI received funding through the Title V Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program of the United States Department of Education for Project ISLAS (Institutionalizing Student learning, Access and Success). Two components of the project are to increase the retention and educational success of CI students and to build an institutional culture of evidence and assessment. A central grant activity is to transform the General Education (GE) program from a check-off of requirements based on seat-time to a performance and competency-based model of assessment of GE outcomes. In the spring of 2011, CampusWide™ was selected as the system offering the most comprehensive solution for supporting a competency-based model of assessment of GE outcomes, including signature assignments and e-portfolios tied to specific GE outcomes. CI has been preparing to launch CampusWide for use in a pilot test of four newly designed First-Year Seminar courses this fall 2011.
A Case Study by Dr. Nelle Moffett, Director of Institutional Research, CSU Channel Islands
LIMITATIONS IN PROCESSES & STRUCTURES
CI is not unlike many higher education institutions when it comes to implementing student learning outcomes (SLO) assessment. CI has articulated and published SLOs for each course in the course syllabi. These outcomes go through an approval process in the curriculum committee and are subject to review in the program review cycle. However, assessment of SLOs is left to the individual classroom faculty and is unsystematically implemented. While classroom assessment of student learning is the purview of the faculty, there are not systematic processes in place to accomplish this task comparable to the way that grades are systematically recorded.
A further complexity in higher education is the nature of General Education outcomes. While program outcomes are articulated by program faculty and reviewed through program review cycles, GE outcomes span across programs and often do not have a separate identity or structure to support collaboration and review. This is the case at CI, making it even more difficult to assess student learning for GE outcomes.
STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES ASSESSMENT MADE EASY
CI was in need of a system to support the collection of student performance data linked to specific learning outcomes. The system needed to provide a common language and easy access for faculty across disciplines, link to individual students in classes, and provide a way for faculty to assess student work against explicit and shared criteria. The system needed to support both individual student grading as well as aggregate data analysis of GE outcomes by course, program, and institution. Following careful review of the electronic systems in use at other community colleges and universities, Tk20 CampusWide™ emerged as the preferred solution for the needs of the grant project as well as affording the institution many opportunities to enhance their processes in planning, grant management, program review, and student tracking.
The online e-portfolio evaluation tools offered CI exactly what they needed to transition away from a seat-based system of awarding GE credits. The ability to import course, student, and faculty data directly from their Student Information System provided the added benefit of integrating all data elements together in one central, electronic location. This structure created the most comprehensive and flexible approach for managing course-based SLO assessment using individual faculty, program, and GE criteria. At last, faculty will have a systematic way of recording student learning which is tied to specific performance objectives. The CampusWide reporting system will allow standard and customized reports that aggregate results at various levels as needed.
THE IMPOSSIBLE BECOMES POSSIBLE
In preparation for implementing CampusWide in the fall of 2011 in four pilot courses, faculty are developing signature assignments and rubrics to assess competence in the GE area of critical thinking. Through the five years of the grant, CI will work to develop the infrastructure necessary to transition other GE courses to performance based assessment in the CampusWide system. What once seemed like an impossible and overwhelming task, now seems manageable with the Tk20 CampusWide solution.
As a comprehensive assessment system, CampusWide offered CI more than a point solution for classroom assessment of SLOs. While preparing for implementing the grant project in the fall, CI experienced immediate benefit from CampusWide through features that support document archiving, recording and reporting outcomes of its strategic plan, surveying, and program review. CI is looking to expand use of the system to include tracking student retention milestones and preparing for their next accreditation self-study. They anticipate that CampusWide will help make improvements in centralizing and simplifying procedures for planning and institutional effectiveness.