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Frequently Asked Questions

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How long have Tarleton faculty been involved in assessment?
In January, 2005, a campus-wide assessment retreat was held for all academic administrators, department chairs, deans, and faculty leadership.  The morning session was dedicated to how’s and why’s of academic assessment, then afternoon breakout sessions focused on development of program objectives and measures.  Also, over the past decade, numerous Tarleton faculty have been sent to various off-campus assessment conferences (like the A&M conference attended each year).  Anyone interested in attending assessment training should contact the Academic Assessment Committee for training opportunities.

(updated fall 2009)
How is a good assessment plan developed?
This Website provides guidance for assessment planning.  Please refer to Essentials and Academic Programs for specifics.
Is getting jobs and performing well in jobs after graduation an SLO?

As described, this is a complex objective focusing on two outcomes: 1) getting jobs and 2) performing well in jobs after graduation. 

1)  The first portion of the statement (getting jobs) is not an SLO; it is an ADMINISTRATIVE OBJECTIVE and needs to stipulate what percentage of graduates will be employed in what kinds of jobs by what point in time, and the MEASURE section stipulates specifically how and when that objective will be measured.  The positive side of such a measure is that the results are confirmed by employers; the downside is that if graduates don't all get positions in the field, you don't know whether they are unemployable, are poor job hunters, or are not seeking employment (which is what they often claim when they've been unable to get a good job).  Hence, such an objective works best when coupled with STUDENT-LEARNING OBJECTIVES confirming knowledge/skills/values learned.  It also is important to remember that graduate surveys usually reap notoriously low response rates because 1) new-graduate addresses go out of date rapidly, 2) the surveys often are conducted too soon after graduation for many students to have been successfully employed, and 3) only those students who've gotten jobs of which they are proud tend to respond. 

2)  Measurement of this type works IF it’s clear that jobs performance actually is dependent on skills learned in the academic program (like a hospital nursing position, for instance).  The performance instrument employed should measure directly the knowledge, skills, and attitudes addressed in the program's SLO's--not focus on students' opinions and perceptions of what they learned or how well prepared they feel.  An acceptable direct MEASURE could be a survey asking graduates' employers about the job-related knowledge, skills, and attitudes students were expected to learn in the academic program, 

Consult the Guide to Developing a Quality Assessment Plan for guidance about writing effective objectives and measures.

(updated fall 2009)

Is there a formal statement from the TSU administration explaining the importance of assessment to the university as a way of constantly improving?

Yes; statements from TSU’s president and provost and from the Texas A&M System appear on the Academic Assessment home page.

(updated spring 2009)

Will assessment cause us to lose control of what happens in our courses?

When assessment is approached as intended, faculty have the control over their own programs and what occurs within them.  They determine the student-learning outcome objectives appropriate for their graduates, plan how best to measure those outcomes, and use the results to enhance their programs.  In other words, they apply the scientific method to their academic programs.  Academic assessment is most effective when approached as a "grass-roots" process, with faculty in each program controlling it.  For additional information about how assessment functions in your college, contact your representative to the Academic Assessment Committee.

(updated fall 2008)

Where in WEAVEonline® do we address the resources required to pay for assessment so that we can reach for the target?

Annually, the deans complete reviews of program ACTION PLAN and ANALYSIS sections in WEAVEonline®.  Those sections address each program’s progress toward performance targets for the preceding academic year.  In considering resources indicated as required for implementation of each ACTION PLAN, the deans designate whether college-level support is likely for the next academic year.  The deans’ reviews of ACTION PLAN and ANALYSIS reports then serve as guides to department heads and program faculty for finalization of their programs’ OUTCOMES/OBJECTIVES and MEASURES for the next academic year (information RE developing ACTION PLANS is available in Tarleton's Guide to Developing a Quality Assessment Plan).  In that process of finalizing student-outcome OUTCOMES/OBJECTIVES and MEASURES, resources are not addressed directly in the statement of an objective.  However, resources certainly must be considered when developing the statement and deciding what targets are realistic and what measurement approaches are affordable. 

If faculty in the program are not assured of the dean’s support for resources needed to reach an OUTCOME/OBJECTIVE at the original targeted level, that target needs to be lowered accordingly.  If they will not receive funding for new measurement instruments, they need a back-up plan.  Sometimes an objective needs to be suspended, or replaced by a different objective, until resources become available.  Faculty need to bear in mind that OUTCOME/OBJECTIVE statements should be challenging, but they also should be realistic.  When finalizing departmental/administrative OUTCOMES/OBJECTIVES, resources could be addressed directly in the statement of an objective.  For instance, an administrative objective might focus on securing resources to implement high-priority actions in the future.  Such an objective might relate to securing grants, alumni donations, corporate sponsorships, scholarship funding, etc., as well as university funding. 

Part of this question goes beyond the purview of academic assessment.  When you address the resources to pay for the objectives, you move out of the assessment realm and into the budgeting realm.  Tarleton’s budgeting process/format requires "Strategic Justification" for funds requested, allowing you to incorporate assessment gains that resulted from funds previously allotted, as well as requests to fund recommended ACTION PLANS in the next budget cycle.  So budget hearings provide the forum in which funding for assessment costs and planned actions can be addressed.  Each year’s budget forms should be added to your department’s WEAVEonline® DOCUMENT REPOSITORY for reference and archive purposes.  

(updated fall 2009)

What purpose does a course map serve?

Course mapping provides a clear picture of the who/what/when/where/how related to the program's process of moving students to the point where they are able to meet the program's established student-learning OUTCOMES/OBJECTIVES.  The course map visually and substantively reveals program gaps in student learning that could cause difficulty in meeting the program's student-learning OUTCOMES/OBJECTIVES.  It also could reveal that other program objectives are receiving excessive emphasis.  

(updated fall 2009)

What should be included in a course map?

Only, and all, required courses for a program (whether housed in or outside of the department) should be included in course mapping, since the program relies upon those courses to secure its desired program outcomes—objectives for which should focus only on those major, overriding OUTCOMES/OBJECTIVES essential for ALL graduates of the program, without consideration of whatever electives students might take.  So, in order to begin program course-mapping, you need to gather syllabi currently being used in required courses for each program. 

For instance, the Public Relations/Events Management program requires Technical Writing courses for skill development in professional writing and design software, so those courses are included in the program’s map to show where students gain the skills needed to meet some of the program’s OUTCOMES/OBJECTIVES RE technology and portfolio development.  Likewise, any required courses that are cross-listed and housed in another department should be included.  Also, if the program requires extra-curricular events/participation of all majors, separate from required courses, that information also should be included in the program's course map.  Activities included within a required course would not fall into this category, since they already are included in mapping of that course.  But if the program requires something in addition to required courses, fulfilled/submitted separate from any course, then that should be mapped (i.e., end-of-program portfolio, an exit exam, attendance at professional conferences, etc., if not completed as part of a required course).

Course mapping is addressed further in Tarleton's Guide to Developing a Quality Assessment Plan.

(updated fall 2009)

Why can’t grades be used for assessment findings?

As noted in Best Practices for Academic Assessment, “Faculty who are new to accountability mandates often protest that other kinds of assessment activity are unnecessary. They advocate course grades as a meaningful index of student learning. Grades that reflect classroom performance do constitute one important source of data about student learning. However, most accrediting agencies recognize that solely relying on grades is not adequate evidence of learning quality. Responsible assessment plans will include strategies that make developing evidence of quality dependent on measures of particular target behaviors, rather than on more global measures such as grades.”

Grades are general reflections of learning related to a specific course, not targeted, direct measures of learning related to a specific programmatic OUTCOME/OBJECTIVE.

To develop effective MEASURES, refer to Guide to Developing a Quality Assessment Plan.

(updated fall 2009)

How many measures do we need for each student-learning objective? (TRIANGULATION)

As noted in Best Practices for Academic Assessment, "the most effective way to measure student learning” is a combination of assessment approaches.  Hence, accreditation agencies now are pressing for triangulation of measure, requiring that results of at least two direct MEASURES point to the conclusion that an objective has been met before claiming that to be true.

For each student-learning outcome, the triangulated MEASURES must be "direct" indicators of learning—not "indirect" measures such as student-opinion surveys. For more information about direct indicators of learning, see Guide to Developing a Quality Assessment Plan.

(updated fall 2009)

How many evaluators need to be involved in reviewing embedded student outcomes that are subjective in nature, such as presentations, portfolios, or essay questions?

As noted in Best Practices for Academic Assessment,subject samples of student learning need to be "evaluated by two or more faculty [or other qualified reviewers, such as professionals in the field] to determine whether or not the students are achieving the prescribed educational goals and objectives of the department. This assessment is a separate process from that used by the course instructor to grade ...”

If you use qualified external evaluators (such as internship supervisors), no faculty reviews are required.  For more information about direct indicators of learning, see Guide to Developing a Quality Assessment Plan.

(updated fall 2009)

Who completes annual reports and what are the criteria for those reports?

Budgetary units each complete annual reports according to the published schedule.  The criteria are distributed by University Divisions annually.  The most recent criteria for annual reports in Academic Affairs units appear on the WEAVEonline® section of this Website.

(updated fall 2009)

What is a sustainability matrix?
The sustainability matrix is a chart indicating which objectives will be assessed in which years over a decade's time.  As exhibited on the sustainability matrix sample, at least one objective must be assessed each year and each objective must assessed at least one in each five-year period,

(updated fall 2009)
What is the difference between a mission, a goal, and an objective?

A mission statement concisely articulates a clear vision of the program's (or unit's) desired future.  It should correlate with the program's official catalog description and clearly be associated with the missions of units higher on the organizational chart.  The mission is long-term and provides stability, but also need to allow some flexibility in our rapidly changing world.

Goals are long-term in nature, program goals form the foundation for student-learning assessment.  Directly linked to the program's mission, goals stipulate the major principles the program serves (e.g., to develop student competence meeting employer demands in the field of practice).

Objectives are short-term in nature and directly linked to the program's goals, student-learning objectives encompass the specific knowledge, skills, and attitudes that students are expected to achieve through their college experience; expected or intended student-learning outcomes.

See Guide to Developing a Quality Assessment Plan for further information on this topic.

(updated fall 2009)