I. Program Assessment in the School of Continuing Studies
II. Defining Assessment
III. Assessment, Mission, and Learning Goals
IV. Learning Goals and the School of Continuing Studies
V. Incorporating Assessment and Learning Goals into the Classroom
VI. Assessment Resources and Links
The Constitution of the School of Continuing Studies (SCS), Georgetown University, Middle States (the University’s primary accrediting body), and best practices require all degree-offering academic units to be assessed on a regular basis. We embrace this opportunity to find ways of improving the educational experience we provide to our students. Academic program reviews allow for quantitative and qualitative assessments while encouraging genuine reflection to provide a clearer understanding of each program.
Please review our Program Review Guidelines and Timeline to learn more about this important process.
Assessment in higher education involves using defined evaluative measures to make improvements. Assessment can be used to evaluate and improve a variety of areas, from admissions and retention of students to budget and resource allocations. Assessment can also be a valuable tool in helping us better define what we want our students to learn (our learning goals) and to determine if they are, in fact, achieving those outcomes.
In terms of student learning, assessment involves the ongoing process of:
- Establishing clear, measurable objectives (expected outcomes) of student learning;
- Ensuring that students have sufficient opportunities to achieve outcomes;
- Systematically gathering, analyzing, and interpreting evidence to determine how well student learning matches our expectations; and
- Using the resulting information to understand and to improve student learning.
(Linda Suskie, Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide, 2009, Jossey-Bass)
Assessment of student learning is one of the Characteristics of Excellence defined by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) under which Georgetown University is accredited. MSCHE recommends that statements of expected learning outcomes be clearly articulated at all levels and that these statements are:
- Appropriately integrated with one another;
- Consonant with the institution’s mission;
- Consonant with the standards of higher education and of the relevant discipline.
In order to ensure student learning, we (the University, the School, and every Program) use multiple quantitative and qualitative measures that relate directly relate to student learning. These measures are, in turn, to be assessed regularly and must include both direct and indirect evidence:
All assessment tools and strategies should clearly relate to the goals they are assessing and should be developed with care; they should not be merely anecdotal information nor collections of information that happen to be on hand. Strategies to assess student learning should include direct—clear,visible, and convincing—evidence, rather than solely indirect evidence of student learning such as surveys and focus groups (MSCHE, The Characteristics of Excellence, March 2009, pp. 26-27).
Direct Evidence of Student Learning
- Completed tests;
- Assignments,projects, portfolios with clear evaluation criteria;
- Licensure examinations; and
- Field experience evaluations
Indirect Evidence of Student Learning
- Retention, graduation, and placement rates and
- Surveys of students and alumni;
- Grades alone
(MSCHE, The Characteristics of Excellence, March 2009,p. 65)
The mission statement for each SCS program builds upon the School of Continuing Studies’ mission statement which, in turn, builds upon the mission statement of Georgetown University. Each academic program has been charged with developing its own mission statements and with evaluating learning goals and outcomes appropriate to its field:
- The Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies
- Emergency & Disaster Management
- Hospitality Management
- Human Resources Management
- Public Relations and Corporate Communications
- Real Estate
- Sports Industry Management
- Technology Management
- Urban & Regional Planning
We have completed our 2011-2012 Learning Goals and Assessment Report for the Office of the Provost. This report includes a summary of learning goals and assessment practices in SCS as well as examples of syllabi from our academic departments.
We trust and value the expertise and background of our faculty. The learning goals they establish for their classes should represent the outcomes they hope to see in (a) the work produced and (b) knowledge/skills gained by their students over the course of the semester. What ultimately defines a “successful” student in each class? The more clearly “success” can be defined for the students in a course, the more clearly appropriate learning objectives can be defined as well.
For example, a faculty member developing learning objectives might start with a general objective: Students will learn to write well and produce thoughtful, insightful papers. From this objective, the faculty member could then define further what it means “to write well” and to produce “thoughtful” work by asking a series of questions:
Do they want students to learn:
- How to use outside materials and research;
- How to vet these sources and determine their relevance and appropriateness;
- How to cite such sources according to the MLA, APA, or another style guide;
- How to cite certain facts, dates, historic moments and other ideas in support of their argument?
The Center for New Designs and Learning at Georgetown has established an Assessment Portal that includes specific guidance on developing Course Learning Goals. Additional helpful sites from universities across the country include:
Books on Assessment and Student Learning
Angelo, Thomas and K. Patricia Cross. (1993). Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Banta, Trudy W. Building a Scholarship of Assessment. (2002). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Brescani, Marilee. (2006). Outcomes-Based Academic and Co-Curricular Program Review: A Compilation of Institutional Good Practices. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
Driscoll, Amy and Swarup Wood. (2007). Developing Outcomes-Based Assessment for Learner-Centered Education: A Faculty Introduction. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
Levi, Antonia and Dannelle D. Stevens. (2004). Introduction to Rubrics: An Assessment Tool to Save Grading Time, Convey Effective Feedback and Promote Student Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
Maki, Peggy L. Assessing for Learning: Building a Sustainable Commitment Across the Institution. (2010). Sterling, VA: Stylus.
Suskie, Linda. (2009). Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Walvoord, Barbara (2010). Assessment Clear and Simple: A Practical Guide for Institutions, Departments, and General Education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.