Case Study

Using Aqua to Assess Competencies with Pine Manor College

About Pine Manor

Originally established in 1911 as a post-secondary division of the Dana Hall School in Wellesley, Pine Manor College is now a private, co-educational four-year liberal arts college situated in Brookline, Massachusetts, providing nearly 400 undergraduate students with a student-focused education and tailored mentoring grounded in the liberal arts tradition. Pine Manor serves a majority of first-generation and low-income students with a mission to prepare all graduates to engage in new jobs and careers, continue to learn, and positively contribute to their communities.

The challenge

Before Dr. Diane Mello-Goldner, Dean of the College, moved into her role as a dean, she led Pine Manor’s assessment process, including student learning and faculty evaluations. This involved a lot of tedious manual work with scantrons, entering data into spreadsheets, and making manual calculations. When she took on the deanship, the existing manual processes would have required a full-time employee. Mello-Goldner knew she needed something to simplify the work and make outcomes easier to calculate and report on.

The solution

Mello-Goldner began looking for assessment software in Summer 2015. She wanted a solution that could manage assessment and reduce the time burden of Pine Manor’s homegrown solution. After evaluating a range of options, Pine Manor chose Aqua by Watermark to easily collect artifacts for assessment as well as gain the reporting they needed.

Because Pine Manor assesses different courses and outcomes each year, Mello-Goldner set up new projects in the system each semester. Faculty quickly learned how to use the application and shared with Mello-Goldner that the system was simple to use. Each semester, a small number of faculty now assesses student work in Aqua.

The win

Since implementing Aqua, Pine Manor has used the system to assess different courses and outcomes each year, beginning with general education. In Fall 2016, Pine Manor fully implemented a revision in its general education courses that incorporated new College learning outcomes or competencies. In the previous Spring 2016 semester, Mello-Goldner used the new outcomes to pilot test Aqua. Based on the ease of the process along with positive faculty feedback, she made the decision to continue with Aqua as the College’s assessment application.

Now, each semester students in select general education courses are assessed on five learning competencies. The easy reporting in Aqua allows Mello-Goldner to gain insights not only on general education, but also disaggregate data at the program and course level.

Looking ahead

Mello-Goldner is pleased with how Aqua has streamlined Pine Manor’s General Education assessment processes and how quickly she can access data and gain meaningful insights into student competencies. She is working with faculty to expand their use of Aqua to include programmatic and individual course assessment, especially for the arts, as the next assessment project.

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