Overview of Assessment Strategy. During the 2003-2004 academic year, four departments cooperated with the General Studies Director and consented to collect data concerning student learning outcomes from a sample of their GS offerings. These departments were Mathematics and Statistics, English, Chemistry, and Psychology. Summaries of the data are described below.
Other assessment data were collected opportunistically as other programs had collected data relevant to the GSP. These data are also included in this report.
Finally, the deliberations of the General Studies Council resulted in several questions being raised that lead to data collection concerning program offerings. These data are also presented.
Department Student Outcomes Assessment
The GSP objectives are designed to develop and demonstrate the following abilities within the students: (a) the ability to locate and gather information, (b) the capacity for critical thinking, reasoning, and analyzing, (c) effective communication skills including the ability to read, speak, and write effectively, using the materials, ideas, and discourse modes of specific academic areas, and (d) an understanding of the experiences and values of groups and cultures which have been historically under-represented. In addition to the four general objectives noted above, there are specific objectives that are relevant to each of the major categories within the General Studies Program.
The planned strategy for the student outcomes assessment in General Studies is "divide and conquer." Since the General Studies Program is designed via distribution requirements, there are few courses that every student is required to take, so it is not possible, at this time, to tap into a capstone or other single course to recruit students for outcome assessment. The General Studies Council has mandated that every GS course will be assessed in a five-year cycle, if not more frequently. Part of the plan is to incorporate the assessment of GS courses into the departmental academic program reviews, which are on a five-year cycle. In addition, the General Studies Director will assist departments in assessing their General Studies courses.
The manner by which student outcomes were assessed was determined by individual departments. The specific tests and test questions, the timing of the administration of the tests, and the specific course sections were determined by the department. The Director asked that the departments link each test question to an objective in the GS Program and provide a summary of the raw data. The student outcome assessments are summarized in the following sections.
Other Forms of Assessment
The data collection and analysis would not have been possible without the capable assistance and hard work of the General Studies Graduate Assistant, Tanis Saldivar. Indeed, it was through her efforts that most of the data was even possible. It must be noted that the investment of money into her position has benefited the assessment of the General Studies Program, but also has provided many learning opportunities for her in the area of program evaluation and assessment.
Conclusions, Recommendations and Use of Results.
The department data from Mathematics and Chemistry Departments provide evidence that the General Studies student outcomes are being achieved in their General Studies courses. However, it was somewhat difficult to match the General Studies student outcomes to the results of the ACS standardized test. A clearer picture emerged from Mathematics wherein the specific test questions were linked to the General Studies objectives. In one case, the availability of national norms provide a strong argument, in the other, the strong linkage between the test items and the objectives provide the strong argument.
The results from the writing assessment indicated that the majority of ENG 101 students were not meeting standards (as described by the rubric) in Mechanics and Usage. However, the majority were meeting or exceeding the standard for content and organization. The English Department has argued that these results are consistent with national trends in the discipline that writing mechanics and usage are deemphasized in college-level composition courses. The discussion will continue.
The results from the Psychology Department assessment are very curious. Data from other assessments of the Psychology Department indicate that their students perform exceedingly well on other measures of achievement. (The department is a past winner of the University Outstanding Teaching Department Award.) However, performance on the 13th and 14th percentile does not seem indicative. Concerns were raised when the Psychology faculty looked over the test and found the questions to somewhat dated and picayune. The Department will review its data collection procedures and present a revised plan next year.
The most obvious conclusions about UNK from the NSSE and CSEQ support the observation that UNK students are generally from working class backgrounds that are relatively homogeneous. College presents a few surprises for these students, including the expectation that College is a full-time endeavor, which might infringe on their work schedule.
Assessment of Process.
The three-pronged approach to assessment has been valuable in getting assessment data from a variety of sources. (a) The student outcomes evaluation is a delicate matter for the departments to handle. It is essential that each department play a significant role in the determination of how these data are collected. The relative obtrusiveness of the General Studies Council should remain small, but guide the process via clearly written learning outcome objectives. (b) The institutional questionnaire data though useful are somewhat redundant. The newly-formed Council on Undergraduate Education (CUE) will play a significant role in coordinating such data collection. It would help to also have the cooperation of the Division of Student Life. (c) The seemingly unending series of questions that the GSC generates provides an opportunity to collect program data important for decision making. However, the assessment process is not as tightly organized as it should be and needs to conform to NCA standards for assessment. As a result of this assessment report, comments from our North Central visit, and discussions on campus, the following recommendations are made concerning assessment.
- Departmental assessment of student outcomes for General Studies courses should be accelerated to include an annual assessment of GS courses. Departments with General Studies offerings should include this assessment in their annual assessment report and forward that subsection of the report to the General Studies office for inclusion in the annual General Studies Assessment report.
- The Director of General Studies, the Director of Assessment, and the Coordinator of Assessment should assist department chairs in the development of these assessment activities.
- Centralized assessment of the overall General Studies student outcomes, though difficult to do, should be attempted. Models for the collection of both direct and indirect measures of student outcomes should be explored. In most cases, this will require financial support from the institution.
- The assessment of student writing by reading writing samples from ENG 101 classes was a procedural success. Assessment of writing and formal speaking in this manner should be continued. It is suggested that the assessment of writing and speaking occur on alternating years.
- A clearer plan for the assessment of Writing Intensive and Cultural Diversity courses needs to be developed.
- Other opportunistic research projects should continue to be done as long as they do not infringe on the time and energy necessary to complete other goals of the assessment plan.
- The assessment plan for the General Studies Program should be rewritten to incorporate the above suggestions and to bring assessment goals into a clearer focus.
As a result of these recommendations, the following revised assessment plan was approved on October 7, 2004 by the General Studies Council.