Washington, D.C.— Five exemplary colleges and universities today were named Excellence in Assessment designees, joining two prior classes for a total of 20 institutions recognized for their commitment to the comprehensive assessment of student learning outcomes as a means to drive internal improvement and advance student success at the institution-level. The Excellence in Assessment (EIA) designation is the first national designation of its kind, spotlighting institutions that successfully integrate assessment practices across campus, providing evidence of student learning, and using assessment results to guide institutional decision-making and improve student performance.
The 2018 Excellence in Assessment designees are:
The ability of a campus to clearly and convincingly communicate the learning outcomes of all their graduates, regardless of program of study, is paramount to the success of our students, institutions, and larger national economic and competitive priorities. Policymakers and external stakeholders are increasingly questioning the value of higher education experiences as a whole, focusing on labor market outcomes to hold certain types of programs or majors up. Institutions and higher education have struggled to push back on these claims, citing the complexity of evaluating student learning across varied and disparate programs in easily comparable ways.
Despite these challenges, the EIA designees are successfully designing and implementing campus-wide assessment systems that provide evidence of the learning for all students. These systems are horizontally and vertically integrated to encompass learning both in and outside of the classroom and are validated by participation and evaluation of external stakeholders, including alumni, employers, and schools that their students subsequently attend for additional study. Building intentionally integrated, layered systems that rest on the foundational work of faculty in the classroom, campuses are able to provide deep and rich evidence of students’ knowledge, skills, and abilities.
EIA designees reinforce that there is not one “right way” to undertake assessment of student learning. The EIA provides a nationally recognized and respected means to rebut the claims that we are disorganized and muddled. While still respecting the diversity of what good assessment looks like in practice, the EIA designations provide a signal for external audiences to look to. As part of the application process, colleges and universities were asked not just to detail the specific assessment activities they’ve undertaken, but also the reason why such efforts are a priority for them. The designees needed to demonstrate how aligned processes, building from classroom-based assessment, foster a coherent, collaborative approach to student learning.
“The Excellence in Assessment Designation is the first national, jointly sponsored designation to recognize institutions moving assessment of student learning from a compliance exercise to one of meaningful engagement. It highlights the use of evidence of student learning across the entirety of the university setting, involving a variety of stakeholders.” said Natasha Jankowski, NILOA Director.
“Congratulations to each of the designees. By integrating assessment into the fabric of their institutions, they have demonstrated an on-going commitment to fostering student success both inside and outside of the classroom,” said AAC&U President Lynn Pasquerella.
“The EIA designees have a demonstrated commitment to measuring the impact of their student success efforts and are working to improve that impact through evidence-based methods,” said APLU President Peter McPherson. “Their work is rightly being nationally recognized with a designation that not only profiles their work, but provides a platform from which other institutions can learn and better track their own progress to drive improvement.”
The EIA Designations are directly linked to NILOA’s Transparency Framework. The application process for the designation includes a rigorous and systematic self-study. Accredited, degree-granting institutions working to implement and sustain comprehensive use of assessment of student learning outcomes are eligible to receive the designations. The application period for the 2019 class of designees will open in November 2018. More information on the designation can be found on the EIA Designation web page.
2018 Excellence in Assessment Designees
Bowie State University
The first Historically Black College and University (HBCU) EIA designee, Bowie State University’s strength lies in the widespread collection of assessment data and analysis, as well as participation in assessment activities on its campus. Assessment information and faculty development resources are readily available on its Center for Academic Programs Assessment (CAPA) and Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) websites. With Bowie State University’s ability to foster strong partnerships, engagement of internal and external stakeholders will continue to be an asset.
Harper College’s strength of its assessment process is its focus on inclusion of a wide variety of stakeholders in substantive ways. Particularly, its engagement of advisory boards is not only practical but also a process to be replicated. Using its assessment management system to assist with the integration of multiple data sources as evidence to improve student learning on its campus is just one example of integration at Harper. Harper College’s Community of Practice is an especially compelling example of faculty engagement and support, alongside recognition of this work within the promotion and tenure process.
Mississippi State University
Mississippi State University continues to implement effective evidence-based practices into its current assessment process. Using a bottom-up approach to improve teaching practices and administrative services, Mississippi State University has done considerable work to embed assessment throughout the campus. Extensive committee engagement, integration of its learning outcomes (institution-, program/unit-, and course-level), comprehensive assessment templates, and one of its most robust practices—distributing and sharing campus-level results of student assessment—are key to its success.
Northern Arizona University
Northern Arizona University’s intentional, reflective culture of assessment allows for clear, student-motivated, quality-driven curriculum, instruction and assessment for all key stakeholders. Northern Arizona University has found success by engaging faculty and staff in integrating multiple data sources and assessment measures in its efforts to use campus-level evidence of student learning. By putting appropriate assessment mechanisms in place, Northern Arizona University is able to attend to its diverse stakeholders and articulate meaningfulness of its assessment process, thus bringing attention to the ‘why’ of assessment.
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s thoughtful approach to its assessment infrastructure to make its assessment efforts meaningful is quite impressive, especially for an institution of its size. Appropriately reflecting on its strengths and weaknesses, UNC Charlotte is well-served in terms of support and staffing for its assessment work. UNC Charlotte’s Assessment Fellows and recognition awards to committed faculty and staff promotes good assessment practice throughout the campus. Organized around the Transparency Framework, UNC Charlotte’s well-implemented assessment process assists not only in providing and using evidence to improve student learning on its campus but also in its transparency efforts.