Philosophy and Rationale
Each academic year, the following questions are examined to effectively inform and guide assessment of the general education curriculum:
- What are the overall abilities of students taking the courses that address various general education student learning outcomes (SLO)?
- Where are students excelling and where do their performance reflect challenges regarding acquisition of knowledge and skills embedded in performance indicators in each SLO?
- What are the strengths and areas of opportunities for the general education assessment process itself?
The University of Oklahoma has adopted an approach to assessing its general education student learning outcomes via assignments that are a regular part of the course content. A strength of this approach is that the student work products or artifacts are an authentic part of the curriculum, and hence there is a natural/organic alignment often missing in standardized assessments. Students are motivated to perform at their best because the assignments are part of the course content and end of course grade. The assessment activities require little additional effort on the part of course faculty because the assignments used are a regular part of the coursework. An additional benefit of this method is faculty collaboration and their liberty in selection of the assignments or projects intended to be used as the venue for addressing various performance indicators in each SLO.
Though the sampled student work products are scored independently by each faculty member and, where applicable, graduate teaching assistants in their courses using well-developed rubrics, results of the process are then systematically aligned with performance indicators (as criteria) for the SLO that is being addressed, and the following simple scale (Exceeds Expectations, Meets Expectations, Partially Meets Expectations and Did Not Expectations). The results of this uniform scoring strategy provide, for each course, quantitative estimates of students' performance and qualitative descriptions of what each performance level looks like, which provides valuable information for the process of improvement. The normal disadvantage to this type of approach when compared to standardized tests is that results cannot be compared to other institutions
The six general education student learning outcomes (SLOs) are assessed on a 3-semester recurring cycle. Though the schedule reflects assessment of two SLOs per semester with two to three courses addressing each SLO, there is flexibility to allow for assessment of more than one SLO in a course. For instance, the assessment projects used for assessing Quantitative and Numerical Analysis SLO in a course could also be used to assess Critical Analysis and Scientific Reasoning Skills SLO in that same course. This provides opportunities for a learning outcome or outcomes to be assessed more than once in a single cycle.
In addition to emphasizing the use of already existing “signature” assignments embedded in general education courses, sampling methods are recommended as that lays the foundation for the generalizability of the results. Part of the rationale for this is that all academic departments/schools play key roles in helping students achieve the general education learning outcomes. Thus no one section of the University is single-handedly responsible for helping students to communicate effectively, conduct accurate quantitative and numerical analysis accurately, or apply technology and information literacy skills appropriately. These skills are practiced in numerous general education courses. Therefore, a matrix approach to sampling is adopted, so that, over time, assessment of student work products take place every semester, in a variety of general education courses offered in different disciplines and aligned with each SLO. The OU General Education Curriculum Map illustrates this alignment.
As courses are selected for assessment of the general education SLOs, we ensure a representative mix of course offerings, for example, by discipline to promote diversity of courses addressing the same SLO. Also, for general education assessment purposes, courses are selected that not only meet the SLOs, but are also among those that reflect large enrollment, for the purpose of representing as much as possible, the work of "typical" OU students.
The course selection process begins with discussions among members of the General Education Assessment Subcommittee regarding the SLO to be addressed the following semester as well as courses that would assess each SLO. The Director of Academic Assessment then meets with faculty members of the selected courses to provide additional information and discuss details regarding the assessment process (e.g., assessment templates for reporting results of direct assessments, dates for deploying general education surveys). Faculty are then asked to review their course content and assignments, and to select one “signature” assignment, an exam, a combination of assignments or a mix of both assignments and an exam that they believe best addresses or fits the performance indicators of the SLOs they are meant to assess.
Review of Student Work/Artifacts
Sampling of Student Work/Artifacts
Given that our process relies heavily on the use of already existing “signature” assignments embedded in general education courses, scoring of student work or artifacts is usually done by faculty as discipline experts. In some cases, especially in large-enrollment courses featuring multiple sections, faculty invite graduate teaching assistants to assist with scoring of student work/artifacts.
As indicated before, sampled student work products are scored independently by each faculty member and, where applicable, graduate teaching assistants using well-developed rubrics. Results of the process are then systematically aligned with performance indicators (as criteria) for the SLO that is being addressed, and the following simple scale (Exceeds Expectations, Meets Expectations, Partially Meets Expectations and Did Not Expectations). The results of this uniform scoring strategy provide, for each course, quantitative estimates of students' performance and qualitative descriptions of what each performance level looks like, which provides valuable information for the process of improvement.
Analysis of Student Performance Data and Dissemination of Results
At the end of every semester, faculty in charge of assessing various general education SLOs submit completed General Education Assessment Templates to the Office of Academic Assessment. The data is analyzed along with responses from both General Education Student Surveys and General Education Faculty Surveys.
The Office of Academic Assessment prepares the institutional General Education Assessment Report. This report is first reviewed by the General Education Assessment Subcommittee before it is presented to the Provost’s Advisory Committee for General Education Oversight (PACGEO) to review and make recommendations for continuous improvement.
While faculty are responsible for making ongoing course-level curriculum modifications based on student achievement, Provost’s Advisory Committee for General Education Oversight (PACGEO) is responsible for making broad, institutional recommendations and for implementing general education program improvements based on general education assessment results.