Saint Martin’s University assessment plan

“Any genuine teaching will result, if successful, in someone's knowing how to bring about a better condition of things than existed earlier.” John Dewey

Purpose: The primary purpose of Saint Martin’s University program assessment is to improve student learning. Faculty members establish student learning outcomes for every course and major by articulating the knowledge, skills and values we expect our students to achieve upon completion of the prescribed curriculum. The assessment practices are used to measure the effectiveness of that curriculum in meeting the established student learning goals and objectives. Staff members establish program outcomes to articulate goals and objectives necessary to support student learning and departmental effectiveness. Assessment practices are then used to determine necessary changes to promote maximum success.

Assessment system: Our faculty/staff have developed an assessment system that includes a:

  • university-wide assessment of program goals and objectives for all academic and non-academic programs/departments at all site locations
  • comprehensive plan that uses data collection, analyses, discussion of implications, and changes based on evidence to strengthen the overall curriculum
  • unified assessment process that utilizes a common format to document program assessment throughout all disciplinary lines and institutional responsibility.

Academic program assessment system: SMU’s faculty members have gathered evidence to answer the question, “How well are students learning?” Our assessment activities are based upon the underlying principle of changes based on evidence and triangulation from multiple measures used to assess our courses and our overall curriculum. This assessment process is based upon a model of scholarly teaching and reflects the organic nature of teaching and learning. In short, the scholarly teacher identifies relevant questions about teaching and learning, seeks answers to those questions, and shares their observations for others to evaluate and expand upon.

Non-academic program assessment system: Non-academic (staff, administration) members gather evidence to answer the question, “How well is my office/department supporting the learning environment for our students?” Assessment activities are based on the assessment cycle and the triangulation also found in the academic program assessment system. Staff and administration identify important aspects of their department/office; obtain data to provide measures of success against those goals/objectives, reflect on the results, determine and implement necessary changes. Department directors and other staff members join faculty as they seek to make the boundaries between in-class and out-of-class learning more fluid and permeable.

Assumptions: underlying assumptions of the SMU institutional assessment plan and process:

  • Draw upon the knowledge and experience of a classroom or student service professional to decide what to assess, how to assess it, and how to respond to the information gained through assessment.
  • Encourage faculty and student services personnel to support each other in improving teaching to meet rigorous objectives that define the expected student learning outcomes.
  • Rely upon a formative process used continuously to improve the quality of instruction in and out of the classroom.
  • Develop into a mutually beneficial process for faculty, student services staff and students to create a campus climate conducive to learning.
  • Invite students to join a community of learning and help students change their behavior to increase their learning potential

Assessment components:

University measures:

  • In assessing university-wide goals and objectives, the University has periodically participated in the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), Student Satisfaction Inventory (SSI); and Cooperative Institutional Research Project – Freshmen and Senior Surveys (CIRP).
  • Prior to 2007 the University conducted these measures at the main campus in Lacey, Washington. Beginning fall 2008 the extension locations will also be included in the administration of the surveys. Results from those surveys will be available spring or summer 2009 and will be used to inform the University’s program assessment processes.

Program measures: Individual programs have completed program assessment for many years.

  • Outside accreditation reviews: Several departments conduct accreditation reviews on a regular basis (OSPI and TEAC for the College of Education; and ABET for the School of Engineering).
  • External review program evaluation: Responding to a 5-year program review schedule with external review - departments have prepared program evaluation documentation for review by an external evaluator beginning fall 2008.
  • Curricular reviews: Various academic departments have reviewed components of their programs and have brought resulting changes to the education policies and curriculum committee for curricular change.
  • Non-academic department/office reviews: non-academic departments and offices have conducted reviews and produced annual reports for internal and external purposes.

Individual measures: various measures are utilized for individual courses, students, and faculty

  • Individual courses have received student course evaluations for many years. Results are distributed to faculty, and appropriate dean, and the VPAA and used to improve course effectiveness.
  • Individual courses include both direct and indirect assessment of student learning. Measures are gathered in multiple ways over time to ensure reliable and valid assessment of student learning outcomes.
  • Individual faculty prepare an annual summary of professional activities which include: Teaching effectiveness, scholarly activity, and service. The area of teaching effectiveness includes reflection on course evaluations and often present plans for course change based on feedback data.
  • Individual faculty undergo an on-going pre-tenure and post-tenure review process as described in the faculty/staff handbook. Each process includes external feedback and internal reflection of course and program change based on data analyses.

Assessment process

  • A university wide assessment committee oversees the University assessment initiatives. The committee was formed as an ad-hoc committee in April 2007. The 11 members include representatives from each of the 6 academic divisions, library, graduate programs, dean of student services, director of extension programs, and director general education. The vice president academic affairs is an ex-officio member. A request to faculty affairs will be submitted fall 2008 for revision of the faculty/staff handbook to include the assessment committee as a permanent handbook committee. A budget to support the initiatives of the assessment committee has been established for 2008-2009. The budget supports funding of the assessment committee chair (.25 FTE), faculty representative stipends (summer and academic year), supplies, university-wide survey costs, and (limited) staff support.
  • University-wide, unified, comprehensive: all academic majors and non-academic departments/offices university-side (Lacey and all extension locations) are conducting program assessments that are unified and comprehensive. All assessments are utilizing the same components for a unified cyclic approach (mission, goals, objectives, alignment, demographics, timeline/responsibilities, competencies, methods of assessment, results, discussion/implications, changes based on assessment cycle). Assessments are completed by all stakeholders and in all locations for a comprehensive involvement.
  • All documents (draft and final) are available on the public drive to faculty / staff / administration / Abbey / Board of Trustees. Documents are revised on a regular basis and open for feedback and include assessment templates for academic majors; assessment templates for non-academic department/offices; program evaluations with external review documents; various assessment/evaluation instruments, and assessment documents/templates for NWCCU site visits.
  • Documents establishing a schedule of assessment activities is maintained and revised as needed. Schedules include: 25 year university-wide surveys (NSSE, CIRP, SSI); 2008 assessment template component due dates; 5 year external program review schedule.