Assessment of student learning is central to teaching and learning at multiple levels: the individual courses that faculty teach, the compendium of courses and experiences that comprise academic programs, the Foundational Studies Program that reflects the general education, and the complementary experiences that students have outside the classroom. Assessment is a recursive tool, the primary aim of which is the improvement of teaching and learning at these many levels.
Boise State University will assess student learning and experiences across the university, including University Learning Outcomes (ULOs), Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs), and outcomes of students’ co-curricular learning and experiences. The principles and process outlined in this document pertain specifically to PLOs, that is, the intended learning in students’ specific programs of study.
Responsibility for PLO Assessment
Responsibility for assessing student learning in the undergraduate and graduate academic programs lies within the departments/units (heretofore referred to as “departments”) in which the programs reside. Assessment of learning is intended to be a formative, faculty-led process focused on the collection, interpretation, and use of information to guide curricular and instructional decisions, improve programs and policies, and ultimately contribute to student success through the achievement of intended learning outcomes.
Assessment of student learning is part of Boise State’s commitment to learning, a component of our ongoing regional accreditation (NWCCU), and a component of our ongoing planning and continuous improvement processes. The Office of the Provost is responsible for the administration and management of assessment planning, processes, and reporting to meet all of these needs.
Key Principles Guiding PLO Assessment
1. Assessment produces meaningful and actionable information that programs can use to improve teaching and student learning.
2. Assessment lives closest to the programs in which the learning occurs (i.e., it is a tool to be used by programs rather than an event/occurrence that happens to programs).
3. Assessment-based change is favored by a collaborative, collegial process in which the community of educators engages with evidence of student learning.
4. Assessment efforts are transparent and explicit rather than known only to insiders of the program or to the individual faculty members teaching a given course or set of courses.
5. Assessment reporting is frequent enough to ensure reasonable assurance of learning and continuous improvement yet not so frequent so as to detract from meaningful and action- oriented efforts.
6. Assessment is a regular, ongoing effort rather than an episodic event designed solely to satisfy reporting or external regulators.
Departments and programs will determine the measures best suited to assessing the PLOs. These measures must provide information that can be used to identify curricular and instructional strengths and weaknesses. Direct measures must be used and can be supplemented with indirect measures, such as student surveys, focus groups, etc.