Blog: Idea Exchange

Advancing Assessment at California Baptist University, Part 2: Envisioning Change

Dirk Davis & Kathryn Norwood May 5, 2017

Welcome back for part two in this four-part series that explores the journey of adopting new technology for the collection of assessment data on student achievement in the Division of Online and Professional Studies (OPS) at California Baptist University (CBU).

In part one on automating assessment, we examined our initial steps of: 1) Developing a sense of urgency around the need for change and 2) Forming a powerful coalition along the way. In this second installment on envisioning change, we’ll move on to the next steps of our journey: 3) Creating a vision for change and 4) Communicating the newly-formed vision.

Step 3: Creating a Vision for Change

In creating a vision for change while automating our assessment within OPS at CBU, we recognized that in addition to assessing student learning outcomes (SLOs) for each degree program, we also needed to determine how to measure our central values.

Our central values comprise the following Core 4, or University Student Outcomes (USOs), which set our university apart from others with unique degree programs:

  1. Academically Prepared
  2. Biblically Rooted
  3. Globally Minded
  4. Equipped to Serve

The Academically Prepared USO assesses critical thinking skills related to literacy such as listening, speaking, writing, reading, viewing, and visual representation. This USO also measures student competence in mathematical, scientific, technological, and specific discipline-related outcomes. We addressed the following questions to determine assessment for our students:

  • Should grades help to determine if course level objectives are being met?
  • How do we know that students are academically prepared unless we know what we are measuring?

Faith integration is in our DNA at CBU and, therefore, emphasized in every course.  To assess our Biblically Rooted USO, at least one dimension of the critical assignment strives to measure either a demonstration of spiritual literacy, biblical Christian faith and its practice, Baptist perspectives, or the Christian’s role in fulfilling the Great Commission.

Our Globally Minded USO seeks to prepare our students to make a positive contribution in a complex world with a diverse group of constituents.  At the core of this student outcome is an expectation that graduating students will respect diverse religious, cultural, philosophical, and aesthetic experiences and perspectives. To this end, a measure for this expectation is embedded throughout the assessment cycle.

The fourth USO, Equipped to Serve, is intended to prepare a graduate to implement a personal and social ethic that results in informed participation in multiple levels of community as they transfer academic studies to a profession and the workplace after graduation.

Using Taskstream, we were able to map not only the SLOs but also the USOs to the appropriate dimensions of each critical assignment which is assessed for every course every time it is taught.  Automating the collection of appropriate assessment data for all of our specific degree program objectives and our university student outcomes streamlined our processes campus-wide and provided keen insight into student achievement

To help our efforts of developing a concise vision, the administrative team shared their vision of change, which conveyed the importance of students, faculty, and programs growing through the assessment process in alignment with our core values.

As mentioned in part one, our strategy for fulfilling the vision was to start small with one program, pilot the project, and then roll it out across an entire division over an academic year with all discipline-specific courses. The following year, all Gen Ed course assessments would be incorporated into the automated process.

A lesson we learned in hindsight after transitioning to Taskstream: Have course leads assist with the creation of rubrics in Taskstream. Why? Because it is imperative that the rubric correctly assesses what the critical assignment measures.

This ensures all team members’ ability to effectively articulate the vision and validate its usefulness —while better understanding the work that goes into setting up an effective assessment system that begins with the end in mind.

We also learned that it’s critical to begin each new teaching session by asking course leads to validate critical assignment ribrics prior to any student submissions. Once student submissions are collected and evaluations begin, no further changes can be made to the rubric without impacting the integrity of the data.

Step 4: Communicating the Newly Formed Vision

All team members were encouraged to communicate the change vision at every opportunity — including all faculty meetings, department chair, dean meetings, and at each assessment meeting — using the phrase “Assessment for Learning” to address stakeholders’ concerns.

Our first round of assessing all courses brought some confusion, as students had to choose which degree program their course resided in before they could submit their critical assignment for a particular course. This was problematic for faculty as well, from an assessment perspective.

After restructuring our directed response folios in Taskstream from degree programs to discipline areas, very few challenges have been reported by students or faculty.

Throughout the second semester of implementation, the academic Dean led by example in communicating the vision with much help from the program change agent, the Dean of Assessment.  We utilized every opportunity — especially when faculty were present — to highlight the strengths of using Taskstream.

We continued to tie everything we were doing in the setup, development, and minor edits back to Taskstream, enabling the value-added component to assessment to become a reality.  The first gathering of all discipline leads together to divulge a report for their degree program with the new and additional data points, the ease by which it was acquired, and how it could be used much more effectively. The required annual report was ultimately shared as a “big reveal” meeting that tied back perfectly to our shared vision of “assessment for learning” for students, programs, and the university.

An example for CBU’s Performance by Standards Report

Stay tuned for part three of this series, where we’ll walk through our next steps 5) Removing obstacles and 6) Creating short-term wins.

 

ABOUT CALIFORNIA BAPTIST UNIVERSITY

California Baptist University (CBU) is a private, faith-based, liberal arts university located in Southern California with a current enrollment of approximately 9,157 students. The Division of Online and Professional Studies (OPS) began in 2010 to service non-traditional students seeking a distance learning environment. Initially, offering eight programs to approximately 500 students, OPS has since grown to offering 37 programs that serve approximately 4,000 students each semester.

Authors
Dirk Davis
California Baptist University
Kathryn Norwood
California Baptist University