Program Assessment

There are some similarities to course-level assessment when considering entire programs, most notably the centrality of objectives and the urgent need for intentional alignment between those objectives, the individual course activities, and measurements within the courses (in other words, with standard backward design elements).

However, there are also crucial differences. The distributed nature of a program involves more moving parts, such as multiple instructors, and not everyone may be well versed on the objectives of the program. Instructors should be encouraged to visit the Academic Learning Compacts (ALCs) that have been written for each major; these specify learning outcomes for entire programs: http://www.acad.usf.edu/alc/alcusers/alclisting.aspx.

Keeping objectives, activities, and assessments aligned is difficult enough inside the parameters of a single course with one instructor; with an entire program, the task becomes more difficult still. Periodic meetings on the very nature of ALCs, program-level checks, and the outcomes of individual courses should be held at a departmental level to ensure continued alignment, and in fact to flesh out even more how each step in the process should be articulated across multiple classes and multiple instructors. ATLE is happy to help facilitate such articulation meetings with departments.

It can also be tricky to evaluate program effectiveness. Measuring the outcomes of a program is easiest when there are capstone experiences or projects; those programs without such outcomes may have to explore alternative program-level assessments. One common idea to use course-level assessments, and have them be captured and combined at a program level to be representative of the program. Such assessments end up doing "double duty" as both counting for the course grade and measuring the success of the wider program. ATLE can assist with program-level assessments; simply schedule a consultation or request that ATLE visit your department.