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Provost's Update

Sept. 2016


Assessment at EMU

Established by the Provost in August 2012, members of the University Assessment Committee (UAC) have worked together to coordinate and implement systematic approaches to assess student learning from programmatic perspectives. An important body contributing to the preparation of EMU’s accreditation report to the Higher Learning Commission (September 2017), the UAC is comprised of representatives from the five academic colleges, the University Library, Student Affairs and Student Services, the General Education Program, IRIM, and the Faculty Development Center. The Committee works closely with the EMU’s Accreditation Planning Committee that is preparing for its next accreditation visit by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) in October of 2017. Committee members submitted annual reports in June to highlight progress and to reflect on achievements during the past academic year, and each report was read and responded to by at least three committee members.

Three projects provide a glimpse at the quality of activities the UAC coordinated or supported during the past year. First, a critical aspect of assessing student learning includes demonstrating how data and information gathered is used to improve programs and to enhance opportunities for students to learn, a process called "closing the loop." In November 2015 the UAC hosted a mini-retreat to generate a common understanding for what it means to "close the loop" of the assessment cycle and why it is critical to institutional effectiveness. Participants developed approaches to guide others to "close the loop" and generated examples and resources.

Next, assessing student learning across the General Education Program became the focus of another successful University Assessment Institute (May 2016), an annual event supported by IRIM and the Faculty Development Center. Nearly 40 faculty, lecturers, and administrators contributed to a two-day program that demonstrated assessment practices and encouraged innovative approaches to evaluating students’ learning. The third representative project and achievement served to demonstrate the possibilities of assessing student learning across a General Education Program category (Quantitative Reasoning) by using Canvas, EMU’s learning management system. Creating and improving electronic assessment systems is another step toward designing an effective and sustainable system.

For the 2016-17 academic year, the UAC will focus on strengthening all areas of assessing student learning, particularly in three main areas: how efforts to evaluate students might better link with efforts to raise retention and completion levels; how the UAC and Graduate School can increase communication about the value of assessing final projects; and how the university can better assess students across time (e.g., from General Education courses to degree programs). Compiling and analyzing annual assessment reports will provide pivotal evidence to support the argument made in EMU’s institutional accreditation report, particularly for Criterion 4, and UAC plans to not only accomplish the task but also generate a vision for improving all components of the assessment system.

For more information about the work and other resources in assessment, please visit EMU’s assessment website.