Use What You Have Learned
The goal of assessment is to discover actionable insights into how you might facilitate student learning and student success. Using assessment results in this way is often referred to as closing the loop, and there are three general ways to use what you have learned from assessment.
If you learn that students are generally not meeting your expectations, you will probably want to change some aspects of teaching or program organization or try something new to help students learn. Examples of things you might change in response to assessment results that do not meet your expectations might include the following:
- Change the assignment you used for assessment. It may not have given students the best opportunity to show what they have learned. Perhaps the directions were confusing, the assignment was not adequately linked to course material, or students did not have adequate examples to help them understand what good and poor work would look like.
- Change a course to include new content modules, move important content modules earlier, or remove modules that are not critical so that you have more time for what is important.
- Coordinate instruction across courses. For example, if you were not satisfied with the student’s ability to use proper citation conventions, you might include specific instruction in an introductory course and then ask all instructors to include citations in grading criteria for all written assignments.
- Make a change at the programmatic level - for example, changing the prerequisites for a given course, the number of required courses, or which specific courses can meet particular requirements.
Certainly there are other solutions you might try in response to evidence of weak student learning, but the most important purpose for engaging in assessment is to improve student learning. This means reflecting critically on places where courses, academic programs, or other elements of students’ educational journeys could be changed to facilitate student success.
When thinking about what kinds of changes to make, it is important to bear in mind the amount and quality of evidence with which you are working. It would probably not be advisable to completely rework a curriculum if you observe that students are not meeting expectations in one small sample; if you found evidence of weakness in student learning in this small sample, you might think about smaller changes such as fine-tuning the course, assignments, or assessment methods.
The other general outcome of assessment might be changing the way you conduct assessment.Particularly if this is one of the first few times you have done assessment work, you may need to improve your assessment process. Common examples here include revising the rubrics you used, fine-tuning survey questions, or deciding to assess the same outcome in a different course next year. You might also realize that your approach to assessment needs a more significant overhaul and that you want to try something different next time. Relatedly, you may want to revise your learning outcomes if you find that an outcome was too vague, too specific, or too similar to another outcome. (However, keep in mind that if you are trying to track student learning over time, changing outcomes means that you may have to “start the clock over” if the old and new outcomes are not similar enough to be comparable.)
If you learn that students are meeting your expectations, indicating that teaching is generally effective and that learning is proceeding as expected, this is good news. You should share your success and keep doing what helps students learn.
At UCR, undergraduate programs typically undergo an external review every five to seven years. Part of this process involves reporting on results of recent assessment efforts. (See Senate procedures.) If you have been conducting regular assessment activities, gathering this material to support the program review process should be relatively straightforward. Hopefully your program will have assessed all outcomes during the span since the last program review, so the self-study process for program review is also a good time to reflect on assessment results in a more holistic way.