Dickinson College has established basic principles to assess student learning and to enhance structures supporting it. During the spring semester of 2013, a special “Provost’s Resource Group” of faculty that had been established to review our academic program at a time of presidential transition took up the question of assessment. The Group identified central principles, including particularly:
- The primary purpose of assessment is to maintain/improve the high quality of the academic program
- The results of assessment should be useful
- The results of assessment must be coordinated with all-college committees to inform decision-making.
- Embedding assessment in current assignments/activities of courses/academic program should always be the first approach, not “adding on”
- The kind of specific support needed will vary across academic programs
- Assessment of student learning is a piece of institutional assessment.
These principles were approved by the All-College Committee on Academic Program & Standards (APSC) and reported to the faculty as a whole at its October 2013 meeting.
In order to provide overall guidance and coordination for the effort, the Provost replaced our previous Assessment Committee with a much more robust Learning Outcomes Working Group. The group’s charge includes:
- Coordinate the multiple activities (departments, divisions, Writing Program, the Center for Global Study & Engagement, the Center for Sustainability Education, etc.) in assessment of student learning, ensuring a flexible, consistent, and sustainable approach,
- Communicate the College’s philosophy of assessment to the Dickinson community,
- Oversee professional development activities for faculty and staff regarding assessment, including consultants, workshops, and study groups,
- Review findings of assessment activities and report them to APSC and other relevant committees for deliberation and needed actions; this to include an annual assessment summary. And
- Share findings and resultant changes with the broader College community.
Where the previous Assessment Committee had four members (three faculty and an associate provost), the working group has nine. These include: six administrators with most extensive responsibility for the assessment of student learning (the Provost, two Senior Associate Provosts, the Associate Provost/Director of the Writing Program, the Director of Library Services, and the Director of Institutional Research) and three faculty. Faculty members are volunteers, serving on the working group for staggered three-year terms. They represent each of the College’s academic divisions. While members, the faculty are exempt from service on all other committees and Presidential commissions. In order to guarantee integration of assessment of student learning into the College’s governance system, the Working Group is a subcommittee of APSC and is responsible for making recommendations and periodic reports on assessment activities to the parent committee.
The College moves forward with assessment on three different levels simultaneously, according to this schedule:
All-college requirements assessment
Special category assessment