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Assessment of Student Learning in General Education at Western Illinois University

Approved by the General Education Review Committee February 15, 2007

Underlying Assumptions

  1. The assessment of student learning in regard to Western’s General Education Goals should take place at the level of the department. This is in contrast to methods of assessment that evaluate every student individually or that are conducted on a university wide level. There are several reasons for this conclusion.
    1. Assessment results are of the most use to the departments that deliver courses within the General Education Curriculum.
    2. Western’s large student body makes individual student level assessment untenable.
    3. Conversely, the flexibility offered by a cafeteria style General Education Curriculum makes any university level assessment activities difficult.
  2. General Education assessment should be as unobtrusive to faculty and departments as possible, yet should provide useful information regarding student achievement of Western’s General Education Goals.
  3. Other entities in the university need the information departments will generate by doing General Education assessment. These include the Council on General Education, the Faculty Senate, deans, and the Office of Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. As such, a regular mechanism for communicating information regarding General Education assessment is necessary.
  4. As a cross-college activity, the office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs is ultimately responsible for seeing that General Education assessment is carried out in a timely and effective manner.
  5. Consistent with the faculty contract [Article 20.4.c.(1).(c)] , assessment results cannot be used in the evaluation of individual faculty for personnel decisions.

I. Preliminary Activities

Departments are responsible for developing a plan to assess student mastery of the WIU General Education goals in the department’s courses that are included in the General Education Curriculum. The Assistant Provost for Undergraduate Education may serve as a resource to departments in developing appropriate plans for General Education assessment. However, the following activities are required of each department offering courses in the General Education Curriculum.

  1. Departments offering General Education courses must have an Assessment Committee as one of their regular department committees. Department assessment committees already in existence are sufficient. Another committee may assume these duties.
  2. For departments offering courses in the General Education Curriculum, the department assessment committee, in conjunction with the faculty teaching General Education courses, will identify at least three of the General Education goals that are appropriate to the discipline(s) represented by that department. The three goals selected may be the same for all General Education courses offered by a department or may vary by course.
  3. The three goals selected by the department assessment committee will be submitted to the Council on General Education.
  4. After reviewing the departments’ submissions, the Council on General Education will recommend to departments which goals they will use for their General Education assessment.
  5. The Council on General Education will verify that each of the General Education Goals is being used for assessment by a sufficient number of departments (or courses) to reasonably assure that a student at Western would be exposed to each of the goals.
  6. The Council on General Education will develop a format for departments to use in reporting their General Education assessment results.

II. General Education Assessment Plan

Once the goals for each department offering General Education courses have been identified, departments need to develop a plan of assessing student learning of those goals. These plans may vary by course within a department, or department assessment plans may be consistent across courses. Each plan must include the following.

  1. Learning Outcomes: While the General Education Goals provide the basic outline for student learning in General Education, departments must develop measurable learning outcomes that are specific to the department’s discipline(s). Measurable learning outcomes will be developed for each of the department’s General Education goals. Learning outcomes are from a student’s point of view: “students will demonstrate…”
    1. The measurable learning outcome is a narrower objective relevant to a broader goal. Measurable learning outcomes should be developed in the context of what faculty members teaching General Education courses are currently teaching.
    2. Departments may choose to assess student learning in a sample of the General Education courses and sections offered by the department, rather than in every section of every course. Every General Education course must regularly be included in the assessment process. Departments using a sample of sections should rotate the responsibility of assessment among its faculty teaching General Education courses.
  2. Measurement: Departments will develop forms of measurement that provide clear evidence of student learning relative to the learning objectives. Measures stem directly from the learning outcomes identified for each of the two goals being assessed by a department. Examples of possible measures include standardized tests, imbedded assessment, and portfolios.
  3. Results: Through their assessment committees, departments are responsible for the following activities.
    1. Departments will carry out the measurement in their General Education courses.
    2. Departments will compile the results of the measurement.
    3. Departments will analyze the findings in relation to the learning outcomes and the department’s expectations of student learning.
    4. Departments will report General Education assessment activities and results to their deans in annual assessment reports.
  4. Feedback: The results of General Education Assessment can be used by a variety of actors.
    1. Faculty can use assessment results to adjust teaching methods or course content if students are not meeting faculty members’ expectations for student learning.
    2. Departments can use assessment results to initiate adjustments in the departmental curriculum. Results can also foster discussion of teaching methods among departmental faculty.
    3. Deans will receive General Education assessment results from the departments in each college that offers General Education courses. These reports will be transmitted to the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.
    4. The Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs will compile department assessment information for institutional purposes. The Provost’s office will provide General Education assessment results annually to the Council on General Education, as they are submitted by departments, unless CGE requests otherwise. The Council on General Education will report on General Education assessment to the Faculty Senate.
    5. The Council on General Education will use assessment results as part of its ongoing review of General Education. Any actions taken as a result of General Education assessment will be reported annually to the Faculty Senate.
    6. The Faculty Senate will be kept informed of assessment activities by the Council on General Education and Assistant Provost for Undergraduate Education. Additional information may be requested.