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Why do we need to measure the effectiveness of our instruction methods?

In May of 2011, The Report of the Academic Senate Task Force on Distance and Online Instruction provided a summary of UCSD’s policy on providing quality education. “To insure quality, UCSD has developed an integrated checks-and-balances system, which involves department chairs, students, Academic Senate committees, and Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).”

To provide a national perspective, similar interests and goals are supported by the American Association of Colleges & Universities publication in 2007, Assessment in Cycles of Improvement. Ross Miller summarizes efforts being made by universities across the US: “Over the last two decades, colleges and universities have increasingly focused on student learning, moving gradually from teacher-centered cultures dominated by the traditional lecture toward learning-centered priorities. For instance, a learning-centered campus

  • holds expectations for all students to achieve at high levels;
  • creates clear goals for learning and provides appropriate and sufficient experiences to ensure that students reliably reach the goals;
  • provides resources to engage and coach students having difficulties;
  • uses data from assessments, both formative and summative, to improve learning and teaching.

“…a learning-centered campus strives for more effective levels of learning based upon clear goals, aligned experiences, multiple assessments, and improvements suggested by data from assessment. Learning suffers when any part of this cycle is neglected: students who might have otherwise succeeded may fail as a result. At many campuses, the most difficult (and sometimes contentious) part of the cycle is assessment. Policy leaders have gradually increased their demands for assessment, asking institutions to establish clear goals for learning and provide evidence to confirm that learning goals are being reached. These demands for evidence of learning have led to requests for data at the course and individual student levels that can be aggregated for program and institutional purposes.” (AAC&U, 2007)

Regionally, some of the ways in which our accrediting body, WASC, insures institutional effectiveness preparedness is to observe for the following: “How has the institution organized itself to address student learning and educational effectiveness for distance learners? What are the quality and nature of institutional data analysis systems, quality improvement systems and systems to evaluate student learning in distance learning courses and programs.” (WASC Distance Education Summary, Criteria For Review 4.6, 4.7)

At the UC level, assessment is addressed in the 2009, UC Way to Educational Effectiveness. It was written by a task force comprised of faculty representing all of the UC campuses. The Undergraduate Educational Effectiveness Task Force (UEETF) asserted the following: “The Undergraduate Educational Effectiveness Task Force strongly believes in assessment of student learning (1) as a means of improving the quality of undergraduate education, and (2) as the basis for communicating to the public the learning outcomes of UC undergraduates. UEETF believes that responsibility for assessing student learning resides with the faculty; should be discipline specific and locally (campus) defined, with Senate oversight and participation; and supported by the required administrative resources and infrastructure for effective implementation. UEETF, after careful study of assessment and accountability philosophies and practices, presents for the University community consideration a series of specific recommendations for assessment and accountability. Overall, we recommend that each campus have department/program-level undergraduate learning goals assessments to guide program improvements in undergraduate education, and each campus use the department/program-level assessments of student learning to communicate achievement of student learning outcomes to the public” (Click here to visit this resource.)

At our own campus, the Academic Affairs Department at UCSD holds that “Students, parents, educators, accrediting agencies, and the public now require evidence of successful learning. In response, the campus has asked the faculty of each department and program to identify the essential aspects of the curriculum that each student should achieve. Using a Cycle of Instructional Improvement that promotes institutional transparency, “These goals and measures will be publicly available on campus and program websites and will be regularly evaluated as part of periodic program reviews. As research approaches and methodology improve and basic knowledge expands, the associated student-learning objectives and measures will be revised accordingly. Ongoing, critical analyses of programs and student learning are necessary to maintaining superior educational quality throughout the campus. By these efforts, UC San Diego will show prospective and current students, their parents, other universities, accrediting agencies, and potential employers that its graduates have achieved competence in their chosen fields” (Click here to visit this resource.)