Assessing co curricular learning
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Assessing Co-curricular Learning. Robert Mundhenk Visiting Scholar The Higher Learning Commission. Rescheduled for Jan. 19 at 3:30 – 5:00 p.m. YU 204

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Assessing Co-curricular Learning

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Assessing Co-curricularLearning

Robert Mundhenk

Visiting Scholar

The Higher Learning Commission

Rescheduled for Jan. 19 at 3:30 – 5:00 p.m. YU 204

  • Co-curricular Assessment workshop presented by Bob Mundhenk                 Yellowjacket Union 203  While most institutions have devoted effort and resources to the effectiveness of the co-curricular services and programs they offer, only recently have they started to assess the learning these areas produce. This session will explore ways to assess the impact of co-curricular efforts on student learning and development.

    Targeted Audience:  Faculty and staff in non-academic units interested in assessment.     

  • Ask Institutional Research about graduation, retention, GPAs, and the like

  • Ask faculty about their teaching and the learning it produces—but not necessarily whether they know they’re producing learning

  • Ask faculty how they know they’re producing learning

Traditional Approaches to Assessment of Learning

  • Traditional wisdom: Learning outcomes need to be aligned at course, program, and institutional levels

  • But where are many general education goals, like “tolerance” and “teamwork” and “the ability to function in an increasingly diverse world” and “inclination” taught and assessed?

  • Or is “taught” the right word???

The Institutional Mismatch

  • What happens if we substitute the word “learned” for the word “taught”?

  • What are the implications of “Where are learning outcomes learned and assessed”?

    • Emphasis on student demonstration, not topic-covering

    • Ability to do or apply supersedes knowing

    • Responsibility for learning is shared

    • Site of learning becomes less specific, and boundaries become more fungible

Shifting Perspectives

  • “Learning” is not exclusively classroom-based

  • Many valued outcomes are not taught exclusively in the classroom

  • Many valued outcomes are the result of processes outside the classroom

  • “Learning” is a process based on three interdependent student experiences:

    • Understanding academic content and processes

    • Student development

    • Identity formation

After Learning Reconsidered

  • Responsibility for “learning” exists outside the classroom

  • Responsibility for “learning” doesn’t always take the same form; some entities on campus produce it, some facilitate it, some support it

  • Responsibility for assessing learning exists outside the classroom as well

After Learning Reconsidered

  • Civic Responsibility

    • AA: Service learning

    • SA: Student government, voter registration, student judicial boards

  • Think and Engage as a Global Citizen

    • AA: Language courses, Anthropology, Sociology

    • SA: International experiences, culture days, residence halls

  • Some Post-LR Examples of Learning

    • Ability and inclination to:

      • Think and make connections across disciplines

      • Express oneself in multiple forms

      • Analyze and reflect upon multiple perspectives to arrive at a perspective of one’s own

      • Think and engage as a global citizen

      • Engage in evidence-based problem-solving

    UW- Superior’s Five Institutional Goals

    • How is ability made evident?

    • Where and how is ability developed?

    • Where is ability assessed?

    • What is “inclination”?

    • How is it made evident?

    • Where and how is it developed?

    • Where is it assessed?

    Ability and Inclination

    • Campus Life learning outcomes:

      • Recognizing and enhancing leadership potential

      • Developing an appreciation of human differences

      • Seeking opportunities to engage in the campus community and beyond

      • Expanding desire for life-long learning

    How Do These Outcomes Connect with Undergraduate Learning Outcomes?

    • Campus Life learning outcomes:

      • Recognizing and enhancing leadership potential

      • Developing an appreciation of human differences

      • Seeking opportunities to engage in the campus community and beyond

      • Expanding desire for life-long learning

    What Ability or Inclination Do They Develop?

    • Campus Life learning outcomes:

      • Recognizing and enhancing leadership potential

      • Developing an appreciation of human differences

      • Seeking opportunities to engage in the campus community and beyond

      • Expanding desire for life-long learning

    How Do We Know They’re Achieved?

    • Need to be intentional

    • Need to be planned

    • Need to be part of the structure of a student’s experience

    • Need to be assessed

    Co-curricular Outcomes


    • Efficiency models:

      • Focus on process

      • How well is this office/service functioning?

      • Focus on numbers:

        • Clients served

        • Graduation rates

        • Tutorial visits

        • Attendance at activities

        • Student/staff ratios

    Traditional Co-curricular Assessment

    • Effectiveness Models: Indirect

      • Based on surveys and other indirect indicators, like NSSE

      • Often rely on student self-reporting

      • Tend to skew positively on outcomes, if not always on the processes that led to them

    Newer Co-curricular Assessment

    • Effectiveness Models: Direct

      • Focuses on student performance

      • Can be based on observation or objective measures

      • Require carefully designed and consistent measuring practices

    Newer Co-curricular Assessment

    • Apply external standards, like CAS

    • Use surveys and questionnaires

    • Develop direct measurement strategies

    • All of the above

    How to Assess Co-curricular Learning

    • Standards for 40 functional areas

    • Thirteen component parts:

      • Mission

      • Program

      • Leadership

      • Organization and management

      • Human resources

      • Financial resources

      • Facilities, technology, and equipment

      • Legal responsibilities

      • Equity and access

      • Campus and community relations

      • Diversity

      • Ethics

      • Assessment and evaluation

    CAS Standards

    • Knowledge acquisition, construction, integration, and application

    • Cognitive complexity

    • Intrapersonal Development

    • Interpersonal competence

    • Humanitarianism/Civic Engagement

    • Practical Competence

    CAS’s Six Outcome Domains

    • Can easily document the efficiency of processes and organization

    • Can be used as well (through an emphasis on the domains) to chart the effectiveness of outcome development efforts—depending on outcome definition and quality of evidence

    Using CAS Standards

    • Career Services: As a result of interactions with the Career Services Office, students and alumni will:

      • Identify their skills, abilities, and strengths in order to make knowledgeable career decisions

      • Have the necessary resources and skills to prepare for life-long post-graduate experiences

  • How are these outcomes connected to institutional learning outcomes?

  • What are “resources and skills”?

  • Outcome Definition

    • College Unions: As a result of experiences in the Yellowjacket Union, students will:

      • Identify and utilize the opportunities and services available to them

      • Demonstrate a sense of ownership for the campus community and civic involvement

      • Interact with and value individuals from diverse backgrounds and lifestyles

    • How do you know you’ve achieved the second and third outcomes?

    • How do they overlap with institutional outcomes?

    Outcome Definition

    • Clearly defined outcomes help determine the nature of evidence to be collected

    • Clearly defined outcomes focus on student performance and development, thus calling for both direct and indirect forms of evidence

    Outcome Definition and Evidence

    DIRECT: uses performance or product, created by students, that can be compared to expected outcomes

    --Capstone courses, projects, internships, clinical experiences, etc.

    INDIRECT: uses information that does not directly link the learning to the outcomes

    --graduation rates, grades, surveys, “usage” rates

    Direct and Indirect Measures

    • Is it relevant to the area’s stated mission and function?

    • Does it measure what we want it to measure?

    • Does it deal in some way with outcomes?

    • Is the information derived useful?

    • Can the information be used to improve either function or learning?

    Questions about Evidence

    • Did you accomplish what you hoped to accomplish in your meeting with your advisor?

    • How well did your experience at X prepare you for employment?

    • As a result of this First-Year program, do you feel better prepared for college?

    • Write a short essay in which you describe the ways in which your attitudes and values have changed as a result of your semester in Argentina.

    Surveys and Questionnaires: Some Sample Questions

    • Traditional, indirect source of information on effectiveness

    • Limitations:

      • Self-reporting

      • Unvalidated opinion

      • Response rates

      • Opportunistic data

      • Skewed samples

    Surveys and Questionnaires: Indirect Evidence

    • Kinds:

      • Satisfaction

      • Reflective

      • Post-experience experience (alumni and employers)

  • Value:

    • True “customer” response

    • Can indicate areas for improvement and ratification

    • Provides data for planning and review

  • Surveys and Questionnaires

    • Making them tools to assess learning:

      • Use learning outcomes as basis for at least some questions

      • Validate by cross-referencing outcomes with different populations (employers, alumni, graduate, current students)

      • Emphasize the learning outcomes in design and analysis of surveys and questionnaires

    Surveys and Questionnaires

    • If Learning Reconsidered made the case for cross-campus responsibility for learning, then assessment of learning outcomes is also a cross-campus responsibility

    • Adaptation of practices and devices already in use in academic settings

      • Standardized

      • Judgment-based

    Direct Effectiveness Measures

    • Intentional Planning:

      • Determine areas of responsibility: what office/function might be a logical place to contribute to particular learning outcomes?

      • Plan the outcome-based purpose of the activity

      • Aim at the appropriate level of Bloom’s taxonomy

      • Design non-passive activities (watching a film plus discussion; International Days as more than food, costumes, and dance)

      • Design outcome-focused opportunities for processing

    Developing Direct Measures of Effectiveness

    • What is “inclination” and how is it developed in co-curricular activities?

    • How does a student “express oneself in multiple forms”?

    • What is a “global citizen”?

    • What does it mean to “make connections across academic disciplines” and how might co-curricular activities have a role in developing this outcome?

    Understanding the Outcomes

    • Choose one of the outcomes below and determine how your co-curricular area might have some responsibility for developing it. Name specific activities that might help develop the outcome and specify what their effect on the student should be.

      • Think and make connections across academic disciplines

      • Express oneself in multiple forms

      • Analyze and reflect upon multiple perspectives to arrive at a perspective of one’s own

      • Think and engage as a global citizen

      • Engage in evidence-based problem-solving

    Being Intentional

    • Mapping:

      • If the learning outcome is important, single exposure isn’t enough

      • How do first-year experiences differ from last-year ones—or what difference is expected in student response?

      • How to assure student’s development of outcomes from first year to last?

    Planning for the Long Term

    • One-shot assessment produces haphazard results that are usually insufficient for planning improvement

    • Tie assessments to logical stages of development, based on an outcome map

    • Be consistent in approach to assessing

    • Options:

      • Standardized instruments

      • Self-generated tools

    Regular Assessment

    • Observations

    • Expert judgments

    • Student self-reflection

    • Employer/supervisor judgments

    Self-generated Tools

    • Consistency across observers is crucial, so a rubric of some kind is essential

    • Holistic rubrics: broad judgments (Acceptable/Not Acceptable/Needs Improvement)

    • Descriptive rubrics: defined criteria and measures

    Using Self-Generated Tools

    • First, determine the aspects of student performance that would indicate he/she has achieved an outcome (e.g., one aspect of a “social justice” outcome might be “the student’s writing demonstrates sensitivity to issues of class and power”)

    • Second, define the specific things a student would have to do to show he/she has mastered that aspect (e.g., “Clear understanding of the ways in which economic status affects behavior.” (Criteria)

    • Finally, describe degrees of achievement for each criterion (Measures)

    Descriptive Rubrics

    • Using the outcome and the functional area you chose earlier, develop a rubric to measure student achievement, defining one performative aspect of the outcome, one criterion for measuring that aspect, and a system (holistic, descriptive, whatever) for describing degrees of attainment

    Developing a Rubric

    • Assessments done across campus should ideally use the same rubrics or measures

    • When using the same tools is not possible, it is essential that there be a way to extract information that is usable at the institutional level while still serving the needs of the functional area

    Institutional Assessment

    • To conclude:

      • Understand the meaning of the desired outcomes and your role in developing them

      • Separate efficiency from effectiveness

      • Plan experiences and assessments carefully

      • Focus on using assessment information to improve learning, not to justify your existence

      • Collect information that is relevant, meaningful, and useful

      • Design systems that are reasonable and manageable


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