Rewarding Assessment with Student Pride

Apparel Product Design & Merchandising

-Approximately 40 graduates each year
-130 declared majors
-6 faculty members

Marcia Morgado of Apparel Product Design and Merchandising (APDM) is a professor with a serious love of learning, so when she volunteered to take a series of workshops on assessment back in 2001, it wasn’t just the award money or the release from instruction time that drew her in. “I’m a studious sort of person,” Marcia revealed. “I liked the idea of learning something new.” This quality served her well because the initial assessment plan was difficult to write. “I was fortunate to have at hand a comprehensive list of student learning outcomes that had been initiated by our professional association,” Marcia said. “The difficulty lay in identifying which of those outcomes we could reasonably address given existing program resources; determining which courses and instructors would carry responsibility for facilitating learning with regard to each outcome; and finding ways to encourage program faculty to buy into the assessment plan once procedures for carrying it out were established. It took almost 6 months to develop the initial plan,” Marcia said. “After that, it became a matter of refinement, just refining and refining.”

To help choose a method for assessing student learning outcomes, Marcia thought back to her own time as an undergraduate student when she sat for her final comprehensive examinations. “I realized that much of the material I reviewed for the exams simply went into short-term memory, and that the learning experiences that served me best over the long haul occurred through my active involvement in completing course assignments and projects. This led me to ask: Is there something we can do that instead of just generating data for us, is something that would be of benefit to the students?” Marcia became drawn to the idea of asking graduating students to develop a final portfolio of projects, assignments, and examinations that provide evidence of their mastery of 7 of the program’s 10 learning outcomes. “If the students could develop this portfolio that spoke to us about the skills and the competencies they had developed,” she said, “then that portfolio could also speak to the students’ perspective employers. Graduating seniors could take their portfolios into the job market and use them as competitive tools in their search for career positions in the fashion industry.” After a rocky and time-consuming start, the portfolios took on a life of their own. “You cannot believe how beautiful the portfolios have become,” she said. “At the time we started it was very typical for students to get their course assignments back . . . and throw them into the garbage. Nobody does that any more. . . . They’re extremely proud of their work. This is new [and it began] with assessment.”

Graduating seniors of APDM deliver a final oral presentation that is used to assess both their oral presentation skills and mastery of presentation software. Marcia details APDM program improvements through meticulous notes critiquing each semester’s assessment activities and looked back to the beginning of her time as assessment coordinator to jog her memory. “What I read when I went back to 2002 was how awful the oral presentations were,” she said. “They were off the cuff, they were unprepared, they were unfocused, they touched on subjects but they had no depth.” Given these results, the faculty created a series of comprehensive questions that would guide students and give their presentations structure, and developed a grading rubric that enable faculty to assess students with consistency. “Now we are so excited listening to those student presentations,” she said. “[Students] have gotten so good, these presentations are so exciting, so mature, and they are so professional.” As the APDM program’s assessment plans developed and matured, so has the output of their students.     Because APDM’s program assessment is led by one person it is a big work load. Accordingly, Marcia has received a modest stipend and course release time. “I’ve had tremendous support from the college and from the program and from the chair,” she noted. “Even at the present time when resources are very scarce our Associate Dean provided an honorarium of $200 to the assessment coordinators. Well, you know $200 is no big deal, but the fact of the matter is I can buy $200 worth of videos for class, for the program, and have lots of good stuff that ordinarily I wouldn’t have been able to buy.” Marcia noted that carrying out an assessment plan that involves portfolios and public presentations is time consuming and “wouldn’t be possible without the release time from instruction.” Marcia explained that “an exit examination can be administered . . . but would likely be far less meaningful in terms of student learning.” For someone dedicated to student learning and a keen learner herself, Marcia is pleased with the end result of her time coordinating assessment in APDM: the program has strengthened along with increased pride and improved quality of output from students.

Keys to Success

  • Resources and release time for an assessment coordinator.
  • An assessment process that has long-term benefits for students.
  • Giving the students explicit guidance on what is expected.
  • A grading rubric to maintain consistency across faculty. APDM Oral Presentation Grading Rubric

Methods to Collect Evidence

  • Portfolio of creative work.
  • Oral presentation.

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