Program Learning Outcomes
At Fairleigh Dickinson University, all of our academic programs are actively engaged in the assessment of student learning outcomes. We believe that the most important role of assessment is to help faculty reveal and correct any areas of student learning that can be strengthened, and as such we ask programs to intentionally design assessment projects with improvement in mind. We also believe that the best assessment is done when programs are able to design and conduct assessments themselves. Faculty in academic programs are expected to:
- establish the knowledge, skills, abilities, and dispositions that their graduates should acquire while in the program (the “learning outcomes”);
- determine to what extent students learn what is required (“assessment”); and then
- make changes to the program to improve student learning.
Each program is expected to cycle in all of its learning outcomes for assessment within a five-year period, and some assessment activities should take place each academic year. However, how the cycle is established and how assessment is conducted varies considerably across the University. Programs are expected to conduct assessments that are both meaningful and useful to them, and the diversity of our academic programs is reflected in the diversity of the assessment strategies employed.
In many cases, work is collected that students have completed to fulfill specific course assignments, and this work is later scored using an assessment rubric. In other cases, programs have developed tests that have been intentionally designed to assess program learning outcomes, using a method called “test blueprinting.” Some programs have established portfolios of student work, which are assessed using rubrics, and some make use of nationally-normed tests if the data can be used to inform progress on program learning outcomes. Some small programs have found that it is most meaningful to describe student progress on each outcome in a structured narrative.
In all cases, results are reviewed and used to determine if changes are needed, whether in the curricula, student support, or other areas to help students reach the desired learning outcomes. The reviews can also indicate that changes need to be made to the assessment process itself (e.g., a review may determine that a current assessment assignment does not provide data that the program faculty find useful).
It is expected that all faculty members in a program are involved in this process, and are included in discussions of changes to be made to address the assessment results.