We all know that assessment is important. But, its importance means different things to different people. It is true that our regional accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) requires us to assess. It’s the only way we can prove that our faculty are teaching, and our students are learning, what we say we are delivering in each program. However, this assessment isn’t just for HLC accreditation. Faculty have their students’ best interests in mind, and they naturally want their courses to be the best they can be. That means looking at content and even pedagogy carefully. To answer the question “Are my students learning?” it is necessary to analyze the data over time. This is assessment.
The Office of Assessment and Accreditation Services (AAS) strives to practice what it preaches by assessing the effectiveness of our current assessment practices and tools. AAS’ goal is to obtain high quality assessment data in the most efficient way possible. AAS places a high value on limiting the amount of work required by faculty to provide assessment data.
What tools do we use currently?
We use two homegrown software solutions. One system, the Assessment Capture Tool (ACT), is used to collect a portion of the general education assessment data from the University-wide use of the L3 Rubrics for Critical Thinking, Speaking, and Writing. The other system, Blueprint (formerly OMAHA) is used to collect, organize, and map student learning outcomes at the course, program, and institutional levels. Over time, AAS has discovered that both of these systems, as well as our current assessment processes, have serious limitations.
AAS has obtained a commercial assessment management software solution to replace both ACT and Blueprint and to provide sustainable, expanded support for Cedarville University’s assessment efforts. This assessment management system, called AEFIS (Assessment, Evaluation, Feedback, and Intervention System), will not only maintain the University’s current assessment efforts, but it will improve upon the quantity and usefulness of the data collected. It will provide comprehensive longitudinal data to support continuous improvement for both academic and co-curricular programs and will demonstrate our compliance with federal and accreditor expectations.
What will AEFIS do for us?
The introduction of AEFIS will enhance our capabilities to more effectively assess general education. Dr. Randy McKinion is leading the way to revise our general education assessment, focusing on performance indicators, rubrics, and methods of assessing. General Education at Cedarville is considered a program for assessment purposes. While not as clear-cut as a major program, Gen Ed is still assessed early and then late using common rubrics (L3).
The initial set-up is intense, including the import of program and course objectives, accreditor standards, and mapping; but the results promise to be worth it. Since AEFIS is integrated with Canvas, the assessment data will be seamlessly pulled from assignments instead of manually entered into ACT. Reporting will also be improved so that data can be analyzed more efficiently and completely. Yes, this will make our accreditors happy, but ultimately, we hope to take some of the assessment burden off of faculty so that they can focus on using the data to continuously improve their courses for their students. We are shifting the focus from merely collecting the data to using the data to continuously improve.
Tom Betcher contributed to this post.
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- Course Objectives in Canvas - June 23, 2020
- Assessing Assessment: Practicing What We Preach with Enhancements for Fall 2020 - May 13, 2020