Guidelines on Assessment during the COVID-19 Challenge
The coronavirus pandemic has transformed all aspects of higher education unlike any other event humans have ever encountered. With the abrupt move to online teaching and learning in spring 2020, the educational experience as we know it has certainly undergone significant changes. Given that assessment of student learning is a crucial and ongoing component of the teaching and learning process, the current challenges have ripple effects on how to effectively plan and implement assessment of student learning activities. While assessment reporting is an ongoing process for all departments/schools, we propose that the process be approached with a great deal of flexibility.
Why Assessment is Crucial
The express goal of assessment is continuous improvement of student learning and enhancement of instruction. Assessment process presents important opportunities for faculty to discuss various aspects of the curriculum in terms of what’s working, what’s not working, strengths, challenges, and opportunities. It gives faculty, in every department and school, a forum to reflect on and have conversations about what they do and can do to assist their students achieve the knowledge, skills/abilities and attitudes they, as faculty, have determined as vital for their degree and certificate programs. In light of this, assessment process is not meant to be about demonstrating perfection, evaluating faculty performance or a means to see who or what program to blame.
Why Faculty Conversations About Assessment is Critical
Given that the principal purpose of assessment is to foster improvement, conversations among faculty regarding student performance data (quantitative and qualitative) is extremely important as a step to determine and guide decisions for continuous improvement. This is partly because recommendations made and actions undertaken for continuous improvement of student learning and instruction is the most important and valuable part of the assessment process. Absence of discussions among faculty regarding student performance and practical action plans on improvement invalidates or diminishes the value of data and the assessment process. In light of the current challenges, we highly recommend that discussions around various aspects of assessment at course and program levels (including general education) be done at one or more of the planned regular online department/school faculty meetings. This can be done effectively using zoom or other online meeting programs.
2020 was an Unusual Year for the Whole World
As communicated previously, assessment reporting for 2019-20AY was suspended to give flexibility to departments/schools as a result of the abrupt shift to 100% online instruction due to COVID-19 disruptions and challenges. Despite this, departments that were ready to submit 2019-20AY reports were encouraged to do so. This was especially vital for disciplines with specialized accreditation whose assessment reports along with applicable evidence are scheduled to be reviewed by their respective accreditors within the next one to two years. Departments that elect to report assessment activities in September 2021 will be required to submit a two-year report (i.e., 2019-20AY and 2020-21AY). In sum, documentation of assessment activities is still a crucial process, but how we complete the process calls for flexibility as we continue to face challenges amid COVID-19 pandemic.
Documenting Assessment for 2020-21AY
Since spring of 2020, we've all been working together to respond to some of the most complex challenges faced by higher education in the U.S. These circumstances have impacted, and continue to impact instructional plans on every level, including assessment of student learning. As you may recall, that led to the recommendation to suspend submission of reports for 2019-20AY and, instead, request both 2019-20AY and 2020-21AY reports this coming fall.
In light of the above, the deadline for submission of assessment reports is Friday, September 24, 2021.
Below is additional important information to consider as you prepare to document and submit assessment reports on Sept. 24, 2021.
1. If you submitted assessment report for 2019-20AY in September 2020, then your 2020-21AY report should simply focus on assessment activities for 2020-21AY. However, if you opted to submit a single/consolidated report for both 2019-20 AY and 2020-21AY, then please select “2020-21AY” in TracDat as the cycle or period for which you are submitting the report.
2. Assessment reports are required for:
a) Each degree program (undergraduate, graduate and professional)
b) Each certificate program (undergraduate and graduate)
c) Each degree and certificate program offered 100% online. If any of your 100% online programs are also (traditionally) offered using the face-to-face and/or blended format, please ensure that a common set of student learning outcomes is documented as evidence of comparability.
3. Discuss Use of Results among Department/School Faculty.
a) Disseminate aggregated data via technology (email, dropbox, Microsoft Teams, Google drive, etc.).
b) “Meet” virtually, either synchronous or asynchronous, (e.g., Zoom, WebEx, Hangouts, email, Google sheet/doc, Microsoft Teams) and discuss what the data mean so you can determine practical recommendations for Using Assessment Results to improve student learning and aspects of the program’s curriculum.
c) Consider using a Facilitator and/or Note Taker. If your department has a Managerial Associate, you could request her or him to sit in and take notes. In addition, you could consider recording the meeting if you are using zoom then share the info with all participants. Documenting the conversation through meeting minutes is strong evidence to anyone who may review our assessment information during University-wide accreditation that faculty are engaged in the process.
d) In addition to (c) above, you may also consider gathering assessment information from faculty by using a simple survey. The survey can be sent to faculty whose courses are directly linked with and is or are scheduled to address one or more student learning outcomes (SLOs) for a degree program in your department/school. Items in the survey may seek information about (i) the SLO addressed in the course, (ii) the direct assessments used to address each SLO, (iii) description of the actual results of student performance in aggregate, and (iv) intended use of the assessment results to improve student learning and enhance instruction. Once the survey is completed by all courses aligned with each SLO, the Assessment Liaison would synthesize the information and complete the assessment reports for the degree or certificate program. Click here to see a sample program assessment survey.
4. Focus on Improvement
a) Impacts from COVID-19 on student learning are expected, so document how the data are influenced by it.
As you document various aspects of the use of assessment results for improvement, we encourage you to be transparent and honest about how the initial spring 2020 emergency transition to and continuation of remote teaching and learning affected you, your students, and your program’s assessment process. Please include details about changes to course curriculum and instruction, issues with student access and success, academic integrity concerns, adaptations of assessment methods, and gaps in data collected. Here are suggestions of statements that may be customized for the “Use of Assessment” section to reflect challenges of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to aspects of program assessment as well as conclusions or decisions made to address the challenges:
“In light of the emergency pivot to and subsequent protraction of remote instruction resulting from COVID-19 pandemic, we were not able to collect data from all sections of the required course(s) as we had planned. Moving forward, we have developed a plan to ensure that assessment processes are in place to accommodate emergency transitions in instruction.”
“In light of the emergency pivot to and subsequent protraction of remote instruction resulting from COVID-19 pandemic, we found it necessary to adjust our principal assessment methods to best capture student learning in learning outcomes for critical thinking and communication skills. We found this adjustment to be very helpful and effective in assessing student learning.”
“In light of the emergency pivot to and subsequent protraction of remote instruction resulting from COVID-19 pandemic, the department does not have full confidence that the student performance data presented is an accurate reflection of student learning. Concerns were raised about academic integrity, consistency in instruction and student access to course materials, and the effects of additional stress on faculty and student performance.”
b) Both our institutional accreditor (i.e., the Higher Learning Commission [HLC]) and discipline-based accreditors (e.g., ABET, AACSB, CAEP, ACEJMC, ALA) are aware and expect to see COVID-19 related discussions reflected in our discussions about assessment processes and outcomes.
c) Faculty and students faced multiple challenges related to COVID-19. Incorporate these challenges and how you overcame them in the discussion.
5. All assessment reports must be submitted via TracDat (OU’s official repository for program assessment documentation). To complete an assessment report, simply log into TracDat using the following link: https://oklahoma.tracdat.com/tracdat
Please note the following:
a) New Assessment Liaisons who do not have access to TracDat should contact Dr. Felix Wao at email@example.com asap to request “read and write” access.
b) Please request assessment information from faculty in your program/department in good time to avoid late submission of assessment reports and/or submission of incomplete reports.
c) Completing a report in TracDat is synonymous to submitting it. TracDat does not have a submit button. Please make sure you save all the information. I encourage you to submit assessment reports as soon as you have them ready since TracDat is accessible 24/7. Please do not wait till the last minute!
d) TracDat system will be locked down from 11:00pm on Friday, September 24th for four-five weeks to allow the Office of Academic Assessment to conduct reviews of all the reports, prepare and submit the State Regents’ Institutional Assessment Report by November 1, 2021 as well as send feedback to departments/schools. Therefore, it is extremely important that assessment information for your degree and certificate program(s) is entered into the system on or before the deadline. There will be no extensions.
e) TracDat Training Sessions/Consultations: We are happy to conduct virtual individual assessment sessions between now and September 24th for those new to TracDat as well as advanced users who may need a refresher. Please e-mail Dr. Felix Wao at firstname.lastname@example.org to request individual training.
6. Resources for Program Assessment
a) Assessment Sessions/workshops: As part of our efforts to improve the quality of assessment process and reporting we are happy to meet virtually between now and September 24th with Assessment Liaisons individually or with teams/groups of faculty to discuss assessment of degree programs. Please contact me at email@example.com for more information and to schedule a meeting.
b) Previous Assessment workshops:
(i) Assessing Certificate Programs: These workshops were held each day from September 21, 2020 to September 24, 2020 to provide information on how to document assessment activities for OU’s undergraduate and graduate certificate programs as required by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The session presentation can be accessed here.
(ii) Documenting Assessment Activities for Programs Offered 100% online: These workshops were held in early spring 2021 to provide information on how to document assessment activities for degree and certificate programs offered 100% online and to share techniques for ensuring comparability of learning outcomes and other assessment information for versions of similar programs offered traditionally using the face-to-face or blended format. The session presentation can be accessed here.
(iii) Effective Strategies for Assessing Student Learning Online in Response to COVID-19: Two workshops were held on September 29, 2020 and September 30, 2020. The workshops focused on how to effectively assess student learning in an online environment for courses that were traditionally previously taught in person. Strategies for articulating course learning outcomes, as well as systematically aligning course contents with instructional and assessment activities were discussed. The session presentation can be accessed here.
c) Guidelines for Documenting Program Assessment: Click here to access additional important guidelines for documenting assessment activities.
As always, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions and/or need clarifications on any of the above info. We appreciate the time, effort, and care that you contribute to equipping our students for success, and we are honored to partner with you towards this vital mission.
With sincere appreciation,