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2006 Focused Visit Report: Assessment Concerns
Evidence that demonstrates that further organizational attention is required in the area of focus:
Although satisfied with the progress made and praising faculty levels of involvement, the Focused Visit Team expressed concerns about several aspects of the assessment system:
- The team noted that "the faculty has not yet come to full consensus on a common rubric for assessing the achievement of the [gen ed] competencies taught at the college" (2006, p. 8). Some increases in standardization have been gained as gen ed data collection has moved into a standardized database form. However, the faculty has not reached nor has it valued “consensus” in the kind of differentiated rubric the Team recommended. The distinctive, discussion-based system that has developed at Sauk benefits from some degree of ambiguity to fuel cross-curricular curiosity on the part of its small, multi-disciplinary faculty. Every year since the Focused Visit, the faculty has participated in review of general education data and discussion of what the results mean, both in cross-curricular groupings and within academic areas, even though sample sizes from classroom assessments are often too small to provide statistical reliability. The experience of the last five years has led to several significant system improvements, including institution-level gen ed assessment projects and professional development on gen ed topics. That experience has also led to cross-curricular discussions of how the gen ed competencies apply to various disciplines and programs. That said, changes made to various other aspects of the system have been in the direction of common rubrics:
The Sauk assessment system undergoes review annually, a mechanism that will allow the ramifications of the most recent change to area and program assessments on the general education competencies to be evaluated in FY12 (3A.6).
- Career program faculty have created a combined set of program outcomes that they value highly for employment readiness and are assessing them for the first time in the spring 2011 semester.
- Academic areas that address the General Education Core Curriculum (GECC) requirements have created the standardized rubrics called for by the team as they begin to assess objectives they have developed for those areas: Humanities/Fine Arts; Communications; Mathematics; Social Science; Physical Science.
- Periodic administration of the CAAP test provides statistically reliable results and external benchmarks against which the ongoing classroom findings can be evaluated.
- The Team pointed to “a lack of consistency in the measurement of the expected levels of achievement” and noted that “the Core Team has committed, in their planning document, to guide the faculty toward more common assessment tools as they become more comfortable with their assessment initiatives" (2006, p. 8). The FY10 revision to the assessment system, which established area projects as the fundamental assessment task for faculty, and the transition of the documentation method from spreadsheet to database have both honored this commitment in a context that works well for a small, multi-disciplinary faculty. Although instructors still have much latitude for drawing data from events that have intrinsic value in their particular courses, there is a much better understanding of both the levels of achievement and the definition of an appropriate tool as a result of the coordination of projects through the Area Facilitator. A similar improvement in career program assessment has been gained by the development of the common assessment objectives which are assessed and discussed across as well as within programs (3A.3).
- In regard to the commitment to “Link assessment data to instructional improvement plans and to planning and budgeting at SVCC,” the Visiting Team concluded "that SVCC has a strong commitment to linking assessment to strategic planning and budgeting" (2006, p. 9). However, Sauk itself had made a point of identifying the lack of long-term evidence that the system would work as designed. The evidence now exists that the system links work as intended: Various Operational Plans identify assessment data as the source for action plans; Institutional-level change has been discussed, proposed, and sometimes enacted as the result of assessment data. Although the system details have altered somewhat as experience with it has dictated the need for change, the concept of assessment as an essential data stream for strategic planning and budgeting is solidly embedded in the system (2C.1).