Washington, D.C.— Seven exemplary colleges and universities today were named Excellence in Assessment designees. They join three prior classes of designees for a total of 27 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 an institution, providing evidence of student learning, and using assessment results to guide institutional decision-making and improve student performance.
The sponsors of the EIA program are the Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA), a public college and university transparency initiative led by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), in partnership with the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) and the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA).
The 2019 Excellence in Assessment designees include one Sustained Excellence Designee, an exemplary institution that has sustained their assessment efforts over a five-year period, and six Excellence in Assessment designees.
· Finger Lakes Community College
Excellence in Assessment
· Auburn University
· Bucknell University
· Lindenwood University
· Missouri State University
· Sam Houston State University
· University of Northern Iowa
“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 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 including students, employers, and student affairs.” 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 ability of an institution to clearly and convincingly communicate the learning outcomes of 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 as preferred. 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 institution-wide assessment processes and practices that provide evidence of the learning of 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 their students subsequently attend for additional study. Building intentionally integrated, layered systems that rest on the foundational work of faculty in the classroom, institutions 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 questioning the value and worth of higher education. 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 assessing student learning.
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 2020 class of designees will open in December 2019. More information on the designation can be found on the EIA Designation web page.
2019 Excellence in Assessment Designees
The only college designated Sustained Excellence this year, Finger Lakes Community College’s application exemplifies the focus of the EIA designation. Through its various visuals and reporting formats, FLCC works to put as much energy into meaning-making of assessment results and attractive, clear, and candid assessment communications as it does in generating assessment results to communicate what they’re doing, how well, and why. While supported by administration, assessment of student learning at FLCC is grounded in shared governance and faculty-led—including the use of faculty assessment coaches who help guide their peers in teaching and learning dialogues, the hallmark of its process. Impressively engaging and thoughtfully conceived, FLCC’s assessment process encompasses external expectations as well as the core internal/programmatic expectations—a balancing act that often does not happen at institutions.
Excellence in Assessment Designees
Bucknell University’s comprehensive assessment process centers on a team of people who deeply care about student learning. Through their guidance and growth, along with elevating student voice in its assessment activities, Bucknell continues to creatively use resources and incentives in its approach to engage stakeholders and reward partnerships. An exemplar practice of transparency, the “Statistics on Our Assessment Practice” and “Evidence of Student Learning” dashboards, are two examples of Bucknell’s commitment to usefulness of student learning data.
Auburn University’s faculty-led assessment process is quite impressive, especially for an institution of its size. Wide stakeholder engagement was necessary for the creation and further implementation of its Quality of Assessment Rubric, along with its centralized general education efforts (known as the SCORE). Auburn’s collaborative and integrated approach to assessment was built upon its guiding philosophy as a faculty support resource on campus. Auburn’s compelling institutional research questions, intentional process of involved decision-making with faculty and staff in order to support and shift the culture of assessment, responsive nature of the assessment personnel, and the infusion of literature into practice are noteworthy in approach.
Lindenwood University’s assessment approach centers on multiple forms of outreach for faculty and staff to participate and learn from one another to allow for engagement, connection, and support of its assessment activities. The Assessment Summit, an effective setting to share and use results, and the Assessment Tips weekly newsletter, a medium to share common practices within the institution, are just two examples of outreach in sharing results. Connecting its plentiful indirect measures and standardized scores to more direct measures of student learning across general education, Lindenwood is leveraging resources and opportunities for engagement to gather useful results to provide a more complete picture of student learning.
Missouri State University’s thoughtful assessment process centers on a commitment to relationship-building and trust. Part of this is the effective use of college-wide meetings and workshops to communicate assessment results. A particular standout is the workshop series planned to execute strategies needed to provide useful assessment results, make meaning of such results, and brainstorm ways to effectively communicate information back to key stakeholders. The review of over 10,000 student artifacts in MSU assessment history is not only impressive, it also allows Missouri State to tell an intricate, contextual story of student experience and learning.
As Sam Houston State University continues to build on a robust and comprehensive assessment approach, with a narrative that beautifully weaves state accountability demands with relevant questions about student learning. Using a wide variety of direct and indirect measures, SHSU is able to tell a story of students’ learning and experiences at the University and to highlight examples of how SHSU uses robust evidence of student learning and success to implement improvements ranging from policy to curricular revisions. It is clear that meaning-making of assessment results is not only important but central to SHSU’s assessment efforts.
University of Northern Iowa’s intentional, integrated, and transparent assessment approach involves an extensive, layered assessment plan allowing for multiple points of involvement and collaborative opportunities for discussion among faculty and staff—an important part of assessment’s value for learning. The annual set of data-based “Vitality Metrics,” produced to complement information from student learning outcomes assessment, along with a heavy emphasis in recent years on direct assessment of learning, equips faculty and staff with the knowledge of data on which decisions are made as well as the ability to use evidence of student learning to improve their own teaching and learning practice.