How Assessment Foundations Can Help Community Colleges

March 23, 2022 Watermark Insights

How Assessment Foundations Can Help Community Colleges

Assessment is how your higher learning institution improves the student experience. Because keeping engagement, enrollment, and retention high is a top priority, it's critical to understand the value of assessment in educational planning. Collecting and analyzing student data in one place is the basis that enables you to take action and improve efforts across your institution, from teaching methods to resource allocation.

Higher education students, faculty, administrators, and staff can benefit from valuable information through assessment data to prompt positive outcomes. Understanding assessment foundations can also help your institution shape better learning experiences and effectively inform curricula.

How Does Data Support Institutional Assessment?

Collecting and measuring student data equips your institution to understand the effectiveness of your curriculum. Centralized data provides a comprehensive view, highlighting areas for improvement and success. This transparency throughout all departments can enable more meaningful assessment across your college.

Assessment data gives us insights into the student learning experience, including answers to age-old questions such as:

  • Did my students achieve the intended outcomes?
  • Can I improve the curriculum plan?
  • Did I reach my course or program goals?
  • Are we able to make data-driven decisions based on our current reports?

As a higher education professional, these crucial insights make it easier for you and your educators to adjust courses and programs to meet learning outcomes. When you have a more cohesive understanding of academic gaps and redundancies, the more proactive you can be in addressing issues that directly impact your students. Student success software lets you use data for immediate, accessible results.

The Foundational Elements of Assessment Strategy

Building a solid assessment strategy is key to understanding your student and institution's success. With these four essential assessment foundations, your administration can elevate the academic experience for students, simplify complex processes, and turn data into action.

1. Developing Quality Outcomes and Objectives

Generating clear objectives and defining themes for outcomes is the starting point for any assessment strategy, and it’s important to differentiate between outcomes and objectives as you design them. Objectives are the projected goals you want your students to achieve, while outcomes are the results of their course or program. By comparing the original objective to the outcomes, you can improve teaching methods and identify students who need support for improved retention and a better student experience.

Developing Quality Outcomes and Objectives

By relying on key student data points, educators can collaborate more effectively to determine the resources students need to effectively meet teaching outcomes.

2. Implementing Curriculum Mapping

Understanding the purpose of curriculum mapping and troubleshooting common problems can often be a challenging second step in your assessment strategy. However, there are ways to simplify the curriculum mapping process to develop a rich curriculum that will deepen learning in your classroom. In particular, community colleges and certification programs need to think strategically to interlace course outcomes and objectives with overall program-based outcomes.

Curriculum maps enable this goal by helping instructors ensure every student accomplishes what they need to advance up the education ladder. In other words, everyone across your institution will have a better idea of what students learn and when they learn it. As a result, collaboration and engagement may improve.

3. Creating Direct and Indirect Measures

The next step involves exploring the properties and benefits of both direct and indirect measures. There are multiple ways to make incorporating assessment measurements into your curriculum strategy simpler. For instance, instructors might use quizzes, presentations, or reports to directly measure academic proficiency. Alternatively, course enrollment numbers, student retention statistics, and course evaluations are ideal indirect measurement methods. 

Educators can use direct and indirect measurements and student data to demonstrate their ability to help students meet expectations or adjust teaching approaches as needed. 

While there are pros and cons of specific assessment measuring tools, there are some that are particularly helpful for community colleges and two-year schools that may have more “nontraditional” programs and a greater need for implementing a consistent and approachable assessment process.

4. Making Data-Informed Decisions

Once you’ve gathered assessment data, focus on using best practices for organizing data for impactful reporting so stakeholders can have productive data-informed discussions. By effectively collaborating and engaging with colleagues, you can close the loop with data-informed insights.

Using assessment data in this way can ensure that your administration makes decisions with every student in mind going forward. With centralized data at your fingertips, you can quickly identify trends across your campus that help you more effectively understand your students. Additionally, making data-informed decisions enables more agility within your institution, letting you adjust your improvements and initiatives to evolving student needs.

Discover How Watermark Improves Assessment Data Collection and Management

At a community college or technical program level, effective assessment can feel time-consuming, especially when you have limited resources. You can easily learn how to make assessment foundations part of your overall planning process to enhance the teaching and learning experience for students and faculty in this four-part assessment webinar series

At Watermark, we're committed to helping you drive institutional improvement efforts using critical student data. We've tailored our solutions to enable student success and enhanced learning outcomes. If you'd like to learn more about improving your assessment strategy, request a demo today.

Discover How Watermark Improves Assessment Data Collection and Management

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