Institutional Mission and Assessing Student Learning Outcomes
Emporia State University's mission is to prepare students for lifelong learning, rewarding careers, and adaptive leadership. The 2015-2025 strategic plan The Adaptive University includes four goals 1) Pursue distinctive initiatives in curricula and programs that will foster vibrant communities; 2) Enrich the student experience with opportunities for leadership development and practice; 3) Enhance the competitive role of Kansas by achieving the State's goals for public higher education; and 4) Create a culture of adaptive change as the foundation for innovation and growth. The university is a complex organization with many operational units contributing directly and indirectly to ensure that students meet their higher education learning goals. Measuring the effectiveness of fulfilling these goals by assessing the quality of student learning experiences provides the decision-making data necessary to achieving success.
Assessing student learning with the goal of continuously improving the quality of their learning experiences is essential in effecting an institution-wide culture of adaptive change. These learning experiences occur systematically in a multi-contextual learning environment (classroom, online, co-curricular, etc.). Intentionally adapting students' learning experiences is necessary to adequately prepare them for success in an innovative and dynamic world. This requires strategic decision-making informed by quality assessment of student learning effectiveness. The Office of Institutional Research and Assessment uses the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) Transparency Framework as its guide for evaluating the extent to which Emporia State University makes evidence of student learning readily accessible and potentially useful and meaningful to various audiences.
Student Learning Outcomes (SLO) Statements exist for all learning environments.
Those SLO's relevant to Academic degree programs are designed and articulated for each separate degree program and an example is provided for each. The curriculum map lists student learning outcomes and the required courses that contribute to students' competently learning the content knowledge, skills, competencies, and practices specific to the degree program. Course level student learning outcomes are listed on every syllabus. An example for the Recreation and Leisure Studies program is shown (course syllabus). The syllabus serves to inform students of the course expectations and identifies how each course serves to educate the student towards having the knowledge, skills, and values required for their degree program of study. Each academic unit uses this mapping structure to ensure that students are prepared in their degree programs and use this system to continuously confirm that academic programs are current. Faculty are available to visit about program specific student learning outcomes and students are encouraged to proactively engage in their knowing and understanding of how academic programming is designed and improved upon.
Student Affairs Learning Outcomes are integrated into all Student Affairs co-curricular programming and consistent with academic programs are aligned with institution-wide learning goals. Co-curricular learning experiences are powerful and often provide students with the ability to hone and practice knowledge learned within the classroom. Keen on integrating learning experiences to engage students in making those connections between the world in which they live and how they can provide leadership for the common good is a by-product of co-curricular and academic programming. Student Affairs assesses the effectiveness of these student learning experiences and collaborates with academic leaders to make these learning experiences seamless.
The General Education program learning goals are mapped to those courses contributing to student learning of foundations, core, transition, and transformation skills. The General Education assessment program is grounded in looking at student successes through multiple lenses. Using both direct and indirect data gathering provides measurement of actual learning, meanwhile gaining understanding of students perspectives on their educational experiences.
Assessment Plans are integrated into the university's operations at multiple levels.
The Adaptive University consists of four goals with twelve supporting objectives and represents a ten-year timeline ranging from July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2025. The plan also incorporates the Kansas Board of Regents Foresight 2020 Strategic Plan and the ESU Campus Master Plan. Plan accountability is structured through the three functional tiers of the institution (Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, and Administration and Finance). The plan is operationalized through objective strategies and measured by performance indicators illustrated and reported through the Campus Labs Platform.
Assessment is used as a tool to measure strategic plan goal achievement. Broad conceptual plan goals are succinctly defined by each operational unit and assessed related to the quality and effectiveness of the student learning experience, student services and support, and the learning environment. Assessment is designed and implemented based upon the function of the unit owning the goal and the level within the organization where the goal is operationalized. Assessment outcomes are used to confirm institutional effectiveness, inform decision-making, and to verify strategic planning successes and mission fulfillment. Mission fulfillment is substantiated through the measurement of and accountability for goal achievement.
Assessment informs decision-making at all operational levels. In Academic Affairs the structure is comprised of five colleges/schools and five supporting units. The colleges/schools are The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, The School of Business, The Teachers College, The School of Library and Information Management, and the Honors College. The units are Academic Success, Graduate Studies and Distance Education, Information Technologies, Institutional Research and Assessment, and University Libraries and Archives. Student Affairs includes operational units (International Education, Center for Student Involvement, Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and TRIO), auxiliaries (Memorial Union, Residential Life, Student Wellness, and Recreation Services), and support units (Financial Aid, Admissions, Registration, Career Services, and Veterans Services) which all contribute to co-curricular learning enhancing the educational experience while also providing services necessary for student success. This multiple-faceted consortium of professionals are tasked with measuring student learning outcomes, and also analyzing the quality of complex support systems where quality customer service is a key success ingredient. Administration and Finance provides the vital fiscal structures required for coordinating operations and make significant contributions to insuring that university functions are continuous and stable. Its operational units consisting of Human Resources, University Facilities, and Police and Safety are vital providers in a safe and effective integrative learning environment. All functional units use assessment strategies and practices to gather data to inform decisions that directly affect the student learning experience and the institution’s learning environments.
Academic Affairs integrates institution-wide assessment into its operations with the Student Learning Improvement Plan (SLIP). The SLIP is designed to provide academic units with an electronic interface and evidence repository to plan, implement, capture data, upload evidence files, and report assessment activities measuring the quality of student learning. The SLIP includes assessment at the department and program levels and includes unit assessments for the Honors College, the General Education Program, and the Intensive English Program. The Student Learning Assessment Council (SLAC) is the group charged with facilitating the SLIP. This group consists of both academic and student affairs appointments and meets monthly while reporting to the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. In addition to the leadership provided by the SLAC various other committees (Council on Teacher Education, General Education Council, and CAEP Committee) on campus are charged with ensuring coordinated assessment activities meet accountability standards for external accreditations, and state and federal requirements.
The Student Learning Assessment Council (SLAC) in collaborative leadership with the Assistant Provost for Institutional Research and Assessment is charged with articulating the student learning assessment plan while building assessment capacity and best practices within the campus community. The Council shares responsibilities for keeping the campus community informed of assessment best practices, and both internal and external accountability requirements. The Council provides the leadership to implement the student learning assessment plan for each representative campus entity. The Council also promotes an institution-wide culture of assessing student learning and makes assessment plan change recommendations to the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.
Student Affairs uses a Thematic Based Assessment Plan matching up student learning outcomes with learning experiences and using the information to confirm and inform co-curricular learning experiences and programming. Embracing the Kansas Leadership Center’s competencies and principles to frame learning experiences for the common good is integrated into strategic planning and student learning experiences include participation in high impact practices such as study abroad, service learning, volunteerism, student government and student organizations. These cross-curricular experiences often contain an academic research based experience as well. One of the strengths of the SLAC structure is to enable leaders from both Academic and Student Affairs to work collaboratively to bring together a truly integrative student learning experience. Assessing the effectiveness of services is dependent on the individual unit’s goals and strategies and utilize survey tools to gain student, faculty, and staff perspectives on program and service quality.
Assessment Resources are available in many different contexts and locations.
The Office of Institutional Research and Assessment (OIRA) shares and distributes assessment information across the institution through the operations of the Student Learning Assessment Council (meeting documents). The representative members of the council share information with their representative faculty and staff (department chair and faculty meetings). This network serves well for data shares and to coordinate learning opportunities across faculty and staff constituencies. It is common for workshops and council meetings to serve as assessment shares and provide individual and group assessment training opportunities. A variety of assessment literature and books are available for checkout through the OIRA as well as the WAW Libraries and Archives. Common titles available are Assessing General Education Programs (Allen, M.J., 2006), Assessing Academic Programs in Higher Education (Allen, M.J., 2004), Assessing and Improving Student Organizations (Nolfi, T. and Ruben, B.D., 2010), Assessment in Practice (Banta, T.W., Lund, J.P., Black, K.E., and Oblander, F.W., 1996, Assessment Essentials (Banta, T.W. and Palomba, C.A., 2015), Assessment Clear and Simple (Walvoord, B.E., 2010), Assessment Reconsidered (Keeling, R.P., Wall, A.F., Underhile, R., and Dungy G.J., 2008), Assessing Student Learning (Suskie, L., 2009), Classroom Assessment Techniques (Angelo, T.A. and Cross, K.P., 1993), Assessment Reconsidered 2 (Keeling R.P., Editor, 2006), Assessment in Student Affairs: A Guide for Practitioners (Upcraft, L.M, and Schuh, J.H., 1996), and Designing & Assessing Courses & Curricula (Diamond, R.M., 1998) to list a few.
Workshops dedicated to Curriculum Mapping and Assessing General Education have been a popular way to advance assessment knowledge and skills. Special topic professional development opportunities are also available for individual and group consultation with the Assistant Provost. Assessment workshop topics include Coding Quantitative and Qualitative Data, Implementing Your Assessment, Selecting and Designing Assessment Instruments, and Assessing Qualitative Data. The workshop topics often are identified through consultation of the faculty at the discipline and program levels. Some academic programs seek direct assistance wit faculty development opportunities while a need for department level consultations are better suited to share assessment practices and knowledge. Individual faculty members are encouraged to engage in individual consultations and professional development opportunities. It is common for the Assistant Provost to meet one-on-one to ensure that faculty are comfortable with assessing their courses. In addition, faculty are supported in attending assessment workshops and conferences at other venues and institutions.
The campus community engages in assessment activities on a continuous basis and at all operational levels. The assessment of the institution's effectiveness in meeting its mission is confirmed through the strategies aligned with objectives identified in the strategic plan, all of which are aligned with student learning and success. Assessments reporting generally occurs at the end of each of the fall and spring terms or annually at the end of June. Course embedded assessments are dedicated to improving learning at the formative levels and collectively contribute to improving both program and general education curricula. Faculty are engaged in these assessment activities for assigned courses. Department level assessments are directed toward coordinating the faculty in ways which inform the disciplines. These activities involve assessing the effectiveness of groups or clusters of courses, to adapt and develop existing or new majors and programs, to align with external accrediting requirements, and to ensure that existing curricula are current with the discipline and the external operating environment. In assessing general education, the focus is at the course level and goal levels. At the goal level, courses contributing (i.e., critical thinking skills) are identified across the disciplines and the interdisciplinary contributions are measured using a common rubric. These assessments are currently focused on the core skills for written and verbal communication, analytical reasoning, and critical thinking. Together these multiple level assessment activities inform the improvement of student learning at many different levels concurrently.
Evidence of student learning is captured and shared transparently across the institution and in many situations presented transparently on the Emporia State University and Kansas Board of Regents websites. The evidence is representative of both internal and external data gathering techniques and is contextualized in a variety of written and graphical formats depending on the instruments and assessments being used to measure student learning. The audience receiving the information is taken into consideration and often there are many levels of data share depending on how the information can best be used to inform student learning improvement efforts. For example, a report of findings for general education courses Critical Thinking Assessments in the spring of 2015 is shared with those departments and disciplines participating as well as with those faculty who participated in the assessments. Senior Survey results are shared campus-wide allowing for the various entities to review the information and develop strategies for improving the student learning experience.
There are multiple ways that assessment informs change to improve the student learning experience. Oftentimes, strategies that impact learning effectiveness are employed on a day-to-day basis by faculty as they instruct courses. These adjustments are made as faculty analyze and implement changes throughout the semester based on formative assessments of student learning as it is occurring. These improvements in the learning experiences are driven by individual faculty members who are expert in the craft of teaching. Faculty articulation and reflection on these improvement strategies are collected through course assessment reporting at the end of a term. By far, this is the most frequently employed practice in improving student learning experiences. And, this form of assessment activity is the most underreported type of strategic change directed toward the improvement of student learning at the course level.
The Annual Assessment Report is an accumulation of academic assessment efforts over the academic year and is produce and distributed transparently. This document serves to inform stakeholders of the enormity of work that is done on an annual basis and also serves as an evidence repository for affiliated documentation of assessment efforts.