FAQ: Program-level Learning Assessment

What is the goal of program-level learning assessment?

The goal is improved student learning and better programs. We rely on this definition of program assessment: “The systematic collection, review, and use of information about educational programs undertaken for the purpose of improving student learning and development.” (Palomba & Banta, 1999). The unit of interest is the program and the focus is on student learning.

It is not individual student, faculty, or course evaluation.

What’s the difference between program-level learning assessment and program review?

Program assessment is an ongoing process designed to monitor and improve student learning at the program (e.g., degree) level. Each year, programs describe their assessment-related activities in an assessment report. The reports are available on our website.

Program review is a comprehensive review of the programs in a college. It takes place every 5-7 years. Program assessment and programs’ annual reports are one part of program review. To learn more about program review, visit website of the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and click on program review.

Who has to do program-level learning assessment?

All academic degree programs, co-curricular programs, and student support units.

Does assessment require approval from the Committee on Human Studies/Institutional Review Board (IRB)?

No. Program-level learning assessment is excluded from Institutional Review Board (IRB) review because it does not meet the definition of research. The Code of Federal Regulations found at 45 CFR 46.102(d) defines research in part as, “a systematic investigation, including research development, testing and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge.” Program assessment per se does not meet this definition.

Important: If a person or program plans to disseminate or publish data beyond program improvement or accreditation purposes then IRB review is required.

Programs that collect student work for the purpose of program assessment do not need student consent provided all personally identifiable information is removed and the results are used for internal university purposes.

We ask students to complete surveys–do these count?

Self-reports are valuable. They provide tremendous insight into student learning when coupled with direct measures of learning such as an exam. However, self-report data (often collected through surveys and interviews) are not sufficient evidence of learning because they are perceptions of learning and not direct evidence of learning. Direct evidence of student learning is required for program-level learning assessment. See Choose a Method for more information about direct and indirect measures.

Can the Assessment and Curriculum Support Center do our assessment for us?

It really is in the best interest of the program if it completes its own program assessment. Program-level learning assessment, when driven by faculty members, is an opportunity for them to closely look at the alignment between courses and the program and the program’s effect on student learning. During the assessment process, faculty members speak with each other, students, and various program stakeholders about what they teach, their expectations, and how they teach. Faculty members are typically in the best position to figure out what to change and to implement that change, when needed, to improve student learning. These benefits would be lost if the Assessment and Curriculum Support Center took on program assessment for your program. Collaboration between the program and the Assessment and Curriculum Support Center is recommended. The Assessment and Curriculum Support Center can provide technical expertise on assessment and evaluation.

What can the Assessment and Curriculum Support Center do for programs?

The Assessment and Curriculum Support Center is here to support your program-level learning assessment endeavors. Think of us as your assessment consultants and technical experts.

  • We offer an array of assessment workshops throughout the school year. If you are unable to attend, we have the PowerPoint and handouts available on our website. Link to Workshop/Events
  • Our web site also contains general assessment information, “how to” guides, helpful resources and links, and templates.
  • We are also available by appointment for individual program consultation; we can provide advice on how to assess your program, what to assess, and how to act on the assessment results.

Is the Assessment and Curriculum Support Center in charge of course evaluations?

No. The Office of Faculty Development and Academic Support (OFDAS) offers both mid-semester and end-of-course evaluations (eCAFE). Although OFDAS and the Assessment Office work together, OFDAS focuses on course-level support while the Assessment and Curriculum Support Center focuses on program- and institutional-level support.

What’s done with the learning assessment reports?

The Assessment and Curriculum Support Center uses the information from the reports in several ways. The Assessment and Curriculum Support Center:

  • locates examples of exemplary assessment practices that it can share with the faculty-at-large (a program’s permission is sought before the Assessment and Curriculum Support Center uses it as an example);
  • identifies issues and concerns that need attention and uses those to guide Assessment and Curriculum Support Center program development (e.g., when an analysis of reports reveals the need for more attention to curriculum mapping, the Assessment and Curriculum Support Center offers workshops on that topic);
  • summarizes the reports and conveys that summary to the Faculty Senate, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). The summary serves as primary support in Mānoa’s case for re-accreditation and meets reporting requirements set by WASC.
  • conveys the reports to the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for use as part of Program Review.

How can I get help with my report?