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Frequently Asked Questions

Why do we assess student learning?

Assessment is a reflective process by which a department or unit reviews and considers the effectiveness of instructional methods, class activities, curriculum, and student engagement by measuring student learning. This process should be informative and meaningful to the faculty and staff engaged in providing instruction in the course or program and should lead to improvements to student learning based on data-informed decision-making.
While we recognize that assessment is a component of institutional compliance with state and regional policies, Georgia Southern values assessment as a critical activity to ensure continuous improvement in the
experience of our students.

The goal of your assessment process should be to gain a greater understanding of student learning in your course or program. Keep this focus in mind as you draft student learning outcomes, design assignments for assessment purposes, decide what data are critical to collect and how you will collect it, interpret those data in alignment with
student learning outcomes, and use that interpretation to drive action plans to improve student learning.

Your assessment should provide meaningful insights into student learning that can be used to guide future developments of the course or program. As disciplines, pedagogy, and student characteristics change and evolve, you may need to adapt your assessment framework and processes to address those changes and ensure that your process
remains meaningful and useful.

The systematic examination of outcomes that define achievement in our courses and degree programs plays a significant role in student success. Your efforts contribute to the intellectual, personal, and professional development of students as we work together to ensure excellence in teaching and learning at Georgia Southern.

How does assessment impact me?

When assessment is done in a meaningful way, it is beneficial to students, faculty and staff, Georgia Southern, and our community. The assessment process allows us to continuously seek improvement and make informed decisions for achieving our desired outcomes, goals, and strategic plan.

What is Core Course Student Learning Outcomes Assessment and who is involved?

The general education curriculum at Georgia Southern is made up of a collection of core courses, organized into specific core areas. Each core area has an Area Learning Outcome, and the core courses are used to annually assess student learning aligned with those Area Learning Outcomes. The department chair selects a core course coordinator for each core course who leads the process of aligning core course content and direct measurement tools (e.g., objective tests, analytic rubrics) with the Area Learning Outcome for the purpose of collecting data to determine strengths and weaknesses in student learning so that faculty can develop action plans to improve student learning. This process is summarized in a Core Course Assessment Document that is submitted to IAA and peer-reviewed by members of the General Education and Core Curriculum (GECC) committee using the university approved rubric to provide feedback to the course faculty.

What is Academic Program Student Learning Outcomes Assessment and who is involved?

Every Academic Program at Georgia Southern has student learning outcome (SLO) statements aligned with the university mission. These program SLOs are assessed annually using direct measurement tools (e.g., objective tests, analytic rubrics) selected by the faculty in the program. The assessment process is led by a designated program coordinator selected by the department chair with the expectation of collaboration of program faculty across all campus locations. A document summarizing the assessment process, results, and action plans for improvement is submitted to IAA. Annual academic program student learning outcomes assessment documents undergo a peer-review by the members of the Academic Assessment Steering Committee (AASC) using the university approved rubric to provide feedback to the program.

What is Comprehensive Academic Program Review and who is involved?

All academic programs engage in Comprehensive Academic Program Review (CAPR) on a seven-year cycle. CAPR in an ongoing assessment process that leads to programmatic improvement and strategic planning consistent with the goals and objectives of the institution’s strategic plan. At the culmination of the seven-year cycle, programs complete a self-study document which is peer reviewed internally by the Comprehensive Academic Program Review Steering Committee (CAPRSC) using the university approved rubric. Programs that do not hold external programmatic accreditation are also reviewed by qualified external reviewers to ensure that programs are maintaining disciplinary standards. The CAPR self-study process is led by the department chair and designated program faculty, with contributions from the dean’s office, Institutional Research, Institutional Assessment and Accreditation, and other offices that collect relevant data.

What is Student Services Outcomes Assessment and who is involved?

Georgia Southern students benefit from a broad range of student and academic support units with intentional programming, services, and activities to promote the success of every student. Student Services Outcomes assessment is a reflective process that allows staff working in those areas to determine meaningful outcomes and methods for measuring the effectiveness of those services. If a unit has an educational component, it may adopt student learning outcomes like those used for academic programs or core courses but tailored to the mission and purposes of the specific unit. Other types of metrics may be used to measure effectiveness for units who do not have a focused educational component. Units follow a regular process of collecting data and assessing their chosen outcomes using multiple measures. This data is analyzed, summarized, and used in the development of action plans for future improvement. Student Services Outcomes assessment documents are reviewed in interactive charrettes to generate actionable feedback for the units.

What’s the difference between an Academic Program Student Learning Outcomes Assessment document and a Comprehensive Academic Program Review document?

An academic program student learning outcomes assessment document focuses on student learning outcomes with an emphasis on strengths and weaknesses in student learning to make evidence-based decisions about curriculum and instruction. A comprehensive academic program review document is more encompassing than a student learning outcome assessment document and includes program outcomes related to indicators of student quality, curricular alignment and currency to the discipline, indicators of faculty quality and productivity, and programmatic productivity, and program viability.

When is the core course or academic program student learning outcomes assessment document due?

Assessment documents for both academic programs and core courses are always due on October 1st, unless that date is adjusted because it falls on a weekend. The person responsible for submitting the assessment document will receive an email from IAA that includes a link to upload the assessment document. Those emails usually go out within the first two weeks of the fall semester. Please note that the email for submission can only go to ONE designated person. The person responsible is verified by the department chair prior to the email notification going out. Once the submission request has been sent, only the department chair can request a change to the recipient.

How do we submit a core course or academic program student learning outcomes assessment document?

Department chairs designate a specific person to serve as the coordinator for each academic program or core course assessment document. That individual will receive an email that contains instructions, links to important documents for your reference, and a button to click when you are ready to submit your assessment document. Clicking the button will open a form that will allow you to upload your assessment document and submit it to IAA. You can only submit your assessment document once. If you attach the wrong document in error, you will need to contact IAA directly to correct the issue.

When is our comprehensive academic program review document due?

Given that Comprehensive Academic Program Review documents include separate memoranda from the department chair and college dean, IAA recommends the completed document be to the department chair by November 1 and submitted to the Dean’s office by November 15 such that documents can be submitted to IAA by December 1. Document submission occurs via the Dean’s Office.

How do we submit a comprehensive academic program review document?

The request to submit comprehensive academic review documents occurs via email sent to the dean’s office of the program undergoing review. The dean’s office relays this request to the department chair. Given that Comprehensive Academic Program Review documents include separate memoranda from the department chair and college dean, completed comprehensive academic program review documents are submitted by the department chair to the dean’s office, and the dean’s office submits the document to IAA. Document submission occurs via email.

How many academic program student learning outcomes do we need?

There is no required number of SLOs for an academic program, but IAA generally recommends 3-6 SLOs for an undergraduate or graduate program. Graduate certificate programs should have at least two SLOs. Most importantly, all degree programs must have at least one unique SLO that distinguishes the program from any similar programs. For example, a BA and BS cannot have all identical program SLOs. The BA must have one unique SLO and the BS must have one unique SLO even if all other SLOs are shared.

Do we have to assess every SLO every year?

It is important to consistently assess student learning for every SLO on an annual basis in order to track trends over time and to evaluate the effectiveness of any changes made to curriculum or instruction in order to improve student learning. In some instances, there may be a good reason to pause assessment for a short period if you are redeveloping a student learning outcome or an assessment measure, but these disruptions should be minimized as much as possible.

What is a curriculum map? How does it differ from a plan of study?

A curriculum map is a visual method to align instruction with student learning outcomes, reveal gaps in curriculum, and help design instruction and assessment cycles. A program/plan of study is a summary of course and credit hour requirements often organized by semester and year.

Do we have to include elective courses on our curriculum map?

Yes. Every course in your curriculum, whether required or elective, should align with your academic program student learning outcomes and with specific levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. All of these courses are part of the student learning experience so they should be included on your curriculum map. You may designate which courses are required or elective within the curriculum map or by listing the required courses first and the elective courses in a separate section of the map.

How many questions do we need to have on an objective test?

This depends in part on the number of SLOs you are assessing using the test, but, as a general rule, 20-25 test questions should be sufficient. You want students to have more than one opportunity to show their learning associated with each SLO, so there should be more than one question aligned to each SLO. Your test blueprint will help you to make sure that you are adequately measuring student learning associated with SLOs or course concepts at the appropriate levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Also keep in mind that you do not have to include all questions in a single test. You may choose to distribute the questions across quizzes throughout the course instead of placing them all in a single exam.

How many students do we need to include in our sample size?

There is no set rule for the number of students to include if you are using a sample instead of your entire student population for assessment. You should use the entire student population whenever possible to ensure the most accurate and representative assessment results. However, if you are using an analytic rubric to assess a large enrollment course, it may not be possible to assess the work of every student. In these cases, you want to make sure that you are selecting a sample that is representative of your entire student population. In other words, some students should be included from every section, instructor, campus, and mode of delivery. Additional guidelines on sampling strategies including suggested sample sizes can be found under Data Collection Additional Resources on the Student Learning Assessment Resources library guide.

Can we use grades from a test or course as our assessment measure?

The purpose of student learning outcome assessment is to identify strengths and weaknesses in student learning associated with specific student learning outcomes. The results need to be examined by each outcome for the entire population of students (or a representative sample). Grades, on the other hand, don’t isolate measurement of learning by student learning outcome but by student. Grades identify strong or weak students, but not necessarily strong or weak performance on specific student learning outcomes.

Last updated: 3/7/2022