Engaging Faculty in a Peer Review of Outcomes and Assessment

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Title of Abstract: Engaging Faculty in a Peer Review of Outcomes and Assessment

Name of Author: Sharon Gusky
Author Company or Institution: Northwestern Connecticut Community College
Author Title: Professor
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: All Biological Sciences Courses
Course Levels: Across the Curriculum, Faculty Development
Approaches: Assessment, Outcomes
Keywords: outcomes, assessments, student-centered learning

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: The Vision and Change Report states that undergraduate biology courses need to be outcome oriented and that assessments should be aligned with outcomes. According to the report “learning outcomes should include the competencies to be developed, the concepts to be understood, and the factual knowledge to be acquired.” The goal of this project was make sure that all the courses at the college had clearly defined and measurable outcomes, that these outcomes were included in the course syllabi, and that assessments were clearly aligned with outcomes. This project has helped us meet the Vision and Change report’s recommendations to “provide faculty and students alike with measurable outcomes that can be tracked within individual courses and throughout the curriculum.” We felt that this was one of the first steps that needed to be taken as we began to address the recommendations of the Vision and Change report and to focus on student-centered learning.

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: All full-time faculty members at the college were asked to redesign their courses syllabi so that the course outcomes were clearly stated and measurable. They were also asked to provide examples of the assessments that they used to determine if students were meeting those outcomes. In redesigning their course syllabi, faculty members were asked to address the same three questions that appear in the Vision and Change report: 1. What knowledge and skills are relevant to the subject area? What should students know and be able to do at the end of the unit or course? 2. What do proficiency and mastery in the subject area at this level in the curriculum (e.g., an introductory course or capstone seminar) look like? 3. What evidence would I accept that a student has achieved proficiency or mastery across the relevant content and skills identified in item 1? What evidence would convince my colleagues? The Center for Teaching and Learning (CFT) chairs and steering committee members held a series of workshops to assist faculty members with this process. The first set of workshops was focused on Bloom’s taxonomy and writing measurable outcomes, and the second set of workshops were focused on assessments. Both sets of workshops included time for faculty members to share their best practices. A Blackboard Outcomes and Assessments course shell was set up and all instructors, both full and part-time, were enrolled in the shell. This course platform was used to conduct peer reviews of syllabi and assessments. During the peer review process, faculty members were asked to review the syllabi and assessments from at least three other faculty members in order to determine if the questions above were being addressed. The peer review process was especially useful for assessing the question: “What evidence would convince my colleagues?” Instructors then used the feedback from their peers to revise their course outcomes, assessments, and syllabi.

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: To assess this project, we looked at the number of course syllabi that were redesigned to include measurable goals and outcomes and the number of faculty members that participated in the project. We also asked faculty members to share their experiences and the impact the project had on them during a CFT meeting and with the accreditation visiting team. We are now looking at ways to evaluate the impact on students.

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: All of the biology faculty participated in the project and all of the science course syllabi have been revised to include clear and measurable outcomes. On an institution level, 100 % of the full-time faculty participated in the project and 80% of the course syllabi have been revised to include clear and measurable outcomes. This project has also helped to clarify some of the issues we were having with course transfer and with students ending up in the wrong courses for their programs. For example, we offer three courses that deal with the human body. We offer a non-majors course called Principles of the Human Body, an introductory course for allied health and veterinary technology majors called Human Biology, and a 200’s level majors course called Anatomy and Physiology. Initially the course outcomes for all three courses were nearly identical and did not reflect proper levels of mastery or proficiency. As a result of this project, the outcomes for all three courses were revised to reflect the appropriate levels, and the assessments were revised to include rubrics and or grading forms that also reflected the appropriate levels of assessment. The name of the introductory course for allied health majors was also changed from Human Biology to Cell Biology and Organ Systems which better reflects the course outcomes and content. The revision of the outcomes, addition of clear grading standards and the name change, has resulted in better course articulations with the area 4-year institutions and fewer students being placed into the wrong courses.

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: Two challenges we encountered were finding ways to give adjuncts a voice in the process, and finding ways to distinguish between courses that addressed similar content at different levels. Full-time faculty members were encouraged to work with the adjuncts who taught other sections of the same course and division directors were asked to work with the adjuncts on the courses that are only taught by adjunct faculty members. The use of the online Blackboard course platform allowed adjuncts to participate in the peer-review process. Tutorials on Blooms taxonomy and assessment techniques were also placed in Blackboard so that adjuncts who could not attend the workshops would have access to them. Finding ways to distinguish between courses that addressed similar content at different levels required the instructors teaching those courses to work together to determine the appropriate level of outcomes. This involved a careful review of course assessments as well as course outcomes.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: We have not participated in any dissemination activities.

Acknowledgements: I'd like to acknowledge Alison Jassen, Biology and Chemistry Professor and chair of our NEASC committee, for organizing and leading the project and for sharing her course material, and Tara Jo Holmberg, Professor of Biology and Environmental Science, for assisting with the project and sharing her course material