History of Assessment
In 1992 San Juan College created its first Assessment Committee. The task of the Assessment Committee is to coordinate and facilitate an Outcomes Assessment Plan at San Juan College that can be used to ensure students are receiving a quality education at SJC. Originally a subcommittee of the Presidents Advisory Committee, the Assessment Committee has become a part of the Instructional Affairs Committee, which reviews all items affecting curricular and program changes.
Both the Assessment Committee and the Assessment Plan have matured through the years. During the first year the Assessment Committee looked at transfer rates and the satisfaction of students going on to other institutions. While this was useful information, it did not necessarily measure student learning. However the committee did recommend identifying and tracking potential transfer students early in their education at San Juan College. Because of numerous technical difficulties, including the fact that many students may not plan to transfer when they initially register at SJC, this has not proven to be a very effective ploy.
Believing that attrition is an important indicator of our success as instructors, the Assessment Committee provided all instructors with attrition rates of their classes. However, because there are many reasons students drop classes and withdraw from college, many of which have nothing to do with instruction, the committee soon realized there are better ways to assess student success.
Recognizing the lack of depth in the Assessment Plan, the committee expanded it to address many other areas of student learning. The committee collected data to determine the success rate of career education students who tested for licensure, and also recommended a portfolio system be developed for career or vocational students.
The Assessment Committee also explored the extent to which the college was upholding its philosophy statement that “every individual has inherent worth and potential, regardless of race, sex, age, socioeconomic group, and the college pledges itself to provide a variety of programs and activities to develop that potential.” (Planning Progress, 1997). The Assessment Committee examined the ability of the basic skills courses to show appropriate gains and the amount of academic assistance provided to those requiring remediation courses. The committee found a strong program existed for low level and at-risk students and a stable peer tutoring program is available for others.
Another venue the Committee addressed was personal development. An outside polling service conducted a survey to study whether students were accomplishing their personal development goals, were contributing to the local community, and were participating in community cultural and artistic events at the college. Since the Assessment committee had difficulty defining and measuring personal development, the survey results were vague, and failed to indicate a specific direction for improvement.
In 1994 the Assessment Committee began assessing student learning outcomes by comparing students and graduates on a national basis. The vocational programs were easiest to examine, because they participate yearly at the state and national level in Vocational Industrial Clubs of America (VICA) and Distributed Education Clubs of America (DECA) competitions. Some San Juan College students ranked the highest in the country, thus earning their programs national awards. Even though this is a representation by only a select few, the Assessment Committee considered these national assessments good indicators of quality learning at San Juan College.
Student job placement was also examined by the Assessment Committee. While selected programs touted very high job placement rates, few programs could, in fact, track their placements. The best results were posted by technical training programs, in which students were sent to training by their current employers, which tended to skew the placement results.
Also as a result of assessment efforts in 1994, English classes changed their curriculum to include a portfolio system, and the Mathematics Department began a study of curriculum change to better meet the needs of students.
Because of the varying quality of the incoming data, The Assessment Committee clarified it's expectations in terms of learning outcomes. Syllabi, course descriptions, means of classroom assessments, classroom research, capstone projects, and program curriculum, were all addressed by the committee. The committee developed a matrix to determine how student learning outcomes of a particular course course or an entire program were measured.
The Assessment Committee conducted a survey by division to determine the implementation of components that build toward assessing student learning outcomes. There was clearly a spread in levels of implementation, from very advanced to barely under way. One of the Assessment Committee’s greatest successes came as a result of calling for information by division. One division included in its data all of the changes made as a result of assessment, which included course and curriculum changes, the inclusion of more critical thinking, and leadership/ management skills assessment.
In September 1998 SJC started the year off with an in-service to involve all departments in the development and implementation of assessment programs. The core of this in-service was group discussions of case studies, using independent facilitators and involving everybody from division Deans to the newest instructors. Discussion groups were formed across functional areas using external facilitators, and each group had a Assessment committee member. After examining the case studies, the groups were reformed along divisional lines and continued the discussion of Outcomes Assessment. The result of this in-service was the faculty buy-in and involvement in the development of assessment plans for their departments and divisions.
Current Assessment Plan.
The current Assessment Plan is a culmination of all the Assessment efforts to date, both successful and unsuccessful. The Plan is to be reviewed yearly to verify that the data being obtained is in fact useful, and with an eye to making improvements in all aspects of the curriculum. It should never be considered a fixed, unchanging document. Assessment activities that provide useful information should be retained, and others should be modified so that the data provided is useful in determining if students are learning at San Juan College. The current Assessment plan is available on the web at ____________.
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