Assessment of the General Academic Experience and the Major
18 February 2002
The Faculty Senate Executive Committee moves that the following policies be implemented for the assessment of the general academic experience of Binghamton University students and each academic major.
General Academic Experience
††††††††††† The purpose of any assessment of a major must be to identify and then improve program quality.† All of this requires a willingness among faculty to involve themselves in the process.
††††††††††† Educational objectives within the major (each originating department or program) need to be explicitly defined.† Goals for student outcomes may involve knowledge in the field or mastery of content (such as the information that is key to a field); competencies (such as analytical, computing, performance, or laboratory skills) and/or critical evaluation and thinking about material in the field.† Each academic unit needs to undertake a self-examination of the major, including interaction with all constituents (such as students, alumni, prospective employers, as appropriate) to identify these goals.† Samples of statements of goals and objectives are available through the Educational Policy and Priorities Committee as developed by the Subcommittee on Assessment.
††††††††††† Assessment of each major will involve several additional steps.† The first will be development of criteria to examine the degree to which the major meets its goals, or how the curriculum and experiential opportunities within the major satisfy these goals.† Some programs may wish to assess whether students have mastered the knowledge base in the discipline; others may wish to see a progression in skills, depth of understanding, creativity, critical thinking about the field, etc.† Faculty need to develop ways to see how fully their efforts to achieve the objectives they have for their student majors are successful.† They might consider the effectiveness of the approaches being used, including curriculum design and delivery, mentoring, long-term projects, comprehensive examinations, theses, assignments in courses and seminars, use of visiting scholars, etc.
††††††††††† Criteria and methods of assessment may differ among programs.† One methodology for assessment might include construction of a matrix that identifies goals and how these are met in individual courses:† a curriculum map.† Another might be a systematic comparison of the major (curriculum, or types of courses; student performance; placement of graduates; etc.) with similar programs at a set of identified peer institutions, which may vary across campus.† The best criteria and method of assessment for each program will grow out of faculty consideration of the programís goals.
††††††††††† Another important step will be to create a formal way to identify and respond to needs for change in the majorĖto define how program revision will be undertaken in response to assessment, or how the information obtained will be used to improve the program.† In some programs, for example, an assessment and planning committee is charged to study assessment results and bring recommendations for improvement to program faculty.† Because assessment should naturally lead to consideration of improvement, each major program needs a mechanism to develop, recommend, and respond to calls for change.
††††††††††† Annual data collection provides the most effective means of establishing longitudinal trends; most departments already do this.† However, if these data are not carefully analyzed, and implications of assessment results are not acted upon, then it becomes simply a paper-pushing exercise.† A report every three years would summarize the assessment results and show how the department/program is addressing areas that need improvement.
External evaluation of departments is a standard mechanism for assessing the overall state of a departmentís range of academic and research missions.† This is currently done on a rotating basis at Binghamton, subject to availability of funding. †Part of all future evaluations should include review of the assessment results for the majors.