Excellence in student learning assessment earns Kansas State University national designation
Friday, Sept. 9, 2016
Kansas State University is one of 10 exemplary college and universities to be named in the inaugural class of Excellence in Assessment designees, the first national designation of its kind to showcase institutions at the leading edge of integrated student learning outcomes. | Download this photo.
MANHATTAN — Kansas State University is one of 10 exemplary colleges and universities recently recognized for a commitment to the comprehensive assessment of student learning outcomes.
The Excellence in Assessment program, which offers the first national designation of its kind, spotlights institutions successfully integrating assessment practices across campus, providing evidence of student learning outcomes, and using assessment results to guide institutional decision-making and improve student performance.
Kansas State University was selected because its approach to assessment emphasizes faculty ownership — the foundation on which internal improvement and student achievement are built, according to Brian Niehoff, associate provost for institutional effectiveness.
"At many research universities, faculty focus most of their attention on their research and place less priority on their classroom efforts," Niehoff said. "But at Kansas State, we look for faculty who are truly scholars in their respective fields, and who also have a passion for students and learning. It is a very unique blend of research and teaching that we have here."
Kansas State University's assessment culture is focused on improved learning within disciplines. The university's assessment systems have led to many substantial changes, including instructional and curricular adjustments, clarification of expected learning, and deeper analysis of the universitywide experience.
"The value of this intentional commitment to assessing student learning can also be measured in our job placement rates, professional school acceptances, record freshman-to-sophomore retention rates and the tremendous affinity for our school," said Pat Bosco, vice president for student life and dean of students. "Our faculty and scholars work extra hard to make the connection from the classroom and labs to the real world and to provide proof of that learning through thoughtful assessment."
The Office of Assessment has assisted in the process of gathering and evaluating data on improving student learning by developing an online reporting system that program directors and faculty can access to better analyze and understand their assessment data. The university assesses student learning based on six outcomes: knowledge, critical thinking, written communication, oral communication, diversity and professional integrity.
The office created the annual Student Learning Assessment Institute, in which Kansas State University programs and others throughout the state and region can share best practices. Niehoff said this process is a model for other universities.
"Kansas State University's student learning assessment process is focused on students' application of learning within authentic contexts, enabling ownership by programs, units, faculty and staff," said Fred Burrack, director of the Office of Assessment. "All programs clearly define the specific ways students must demonstrate having learned program-specific outcomes, some of which are aligned with the university outcomes. These outcomes are assessed on an annual cycle to guide programmatic discussions for improvement."
Several associations sponsor the Excellence in Assessment program, including the Voluntary System of Accountability, a public college and university transparency initiative led by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities; and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities in partnership with the Association of American Colleges & Universities and the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment.
The evaluation process for the designation included a rigorous and systematic self-study and peer review by faculty members who are assessment experts. The process also includes feedback that enables campuses to improve their effectiveness and sharing of best practices.