The AIR Professional File
Summer 2017, Article 141 

Needle in a Haystack: Finding Learning Improvement in Assessment Reports

Keston H. Fulcher, Kristen L. Smith, Elizabeth R. H. Sanchez, Courtney B. Sanders

DOI: http://doi.org/10.34315/apf1412017 

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Abstract

Abstract: Higher education insiders trumpet the use of results for improvement as the most important part of the assessment cycle. Yet, at the same time, we acknowledge the rarity of improvement, especially at a program level. What are some reasons the most important phase of assessment occurs so infrequently? To seek answers, we investigated the “Use of Results” sections in 54 program-level assessment reports. In some respects, our findings were positive. On average, programs reported making approximately three curricular or pedagogical changes annually. A closer inspection, however, revealed concerns: (1) the curricular or pedagogical changes were not explicitly linked to learning outcomes, (2) programs rarely reported making changes that affect several classes, (3) many of the reported changes were unclear, (4) and few programs reassessed to determine if changes actually led to learning improvement. Our research concludes by providing suggestions for how programs can more effectively use results to inform changes, reassess students to determine if changes led to learning improvement, and report on improvement processes.

Keywords: Student learning improvement, use of results, student learning outcomes assessment, higher education assessment, assessment reporting

Additional Information

Authors 

Keston H. Fulcher, Center for Assessment and Research Studies at James Madison University

Kristen L. Smith, Center for Assessment and Research Studies at James Madison University

Elizabeth R. H. Sanchez, Center for Assessment and Research Studies at James Madison University

Courtney B. Sanders, Center for Assessment and Research Studies at James Madison University 

 

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