WSU programs hailed for top assessment efforts

WSU faculty and staff from nine bachelor’s-degree programs from five colleges were recognized for outstanding assessment of student learning that helped guide changes to undergraduate curriculum or instruction on Nov. 8.

Nine Washington State University bachelor’s-degree programs from five colleges have been recognized for outstanding assessment of student learning that helped guide changes to undergraduate curriculum or instruction.

The programs were announced Nov. 8 at the Fall 2022 Celebration of Assessment Excellence. Hosts of the event were the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President, the Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement, and the Office of Assessment for Curriculum Effectiveness (ACE). 

“These nine degree programs represent diverse academic disciplines, and they are to be commended for sharing a commitment to providing high-quality education to our students,” said WSU Provost and Executive Vice President Elizabeth Chilton.

“Assessment of student learning is one of the ways we can fortify WSU’s strengths and position as a top research and land-grant university,” said Bill Davis, interim vice provost for academic engagement and student achievement. “It can provide vital evidence and data to guide programmatic evaluation and evolution to better meet the current and future needs of our students, our disciplines, and our state.”

Recognized programs and assessment leadership

ACE Director Kimberly Green said that recognition was based on programs using results from learning outcomes assessment of primarily senior majors, as reported in 2020 or 2021. During those years, programs navigated the COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts on teaching and learning, and used learning outcomes evidence to guide decisions about curriculum, instruction, assignments, or faculty or teaching assistant development. They also engaged program faculty in the decision-making process or implementation.

The programs and their faculty recognized for using assessment to advance undergraduate education, listed by college, are:

College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences

  • B.S. Agricultural and Food Systems, with the project led by faculty assessment coordinator Holly Henning. This program assessed senior papers to determine students’ ability to communicate specific principles, research, and findings to diverse audiences. It was found that students needed additional skill development to produce genre-specific narrative structures to summarize and synthesize scientific literature. Based on these findings, the program’s faculty learning community worked with the WSU Writing Program to design assignments that develop skills in scientific writing and information literacy, and designed supporting tools to guide students on common narrative structures.
  • B.A. Apparel, Merchandising, Design, and Textiles (AMDT), with faculty assessment coordinator Armine Ghalachyan. The program evaluated students’ ability to demonstrate proficiency with technology tools and industry-relevant software. Senior design collections were reviewed by program faculty and industry professionals, and AMDT reviewed assessment data from senior case studies as well as evidence from course evaluations, student interviews, and the program’s advisory board. Results indicated a need to strengthen student understanding of technology integration throughout the textile-apparel-retail supply chain, and to provide greater access to industry-relevant software. Based on this, AMDT obtained product life-cycle management software that integrates business operations in the fashion industry into one digital system, and faculty and graduate students completed trainings to implement this software with learning modules and activities in multiple classes.
  • B.S. Integrated Plant Sciences, led by faculty assessment coordinator Cameron Peace. Using capstone course final papers, the program evaluated students’ ability to effectively communicate scientific knowledge to diverse target audiences. It was found that students need to improve their professional writing skills. As a result, faculty reviewed how writing is taught in the program and developed a substantial new assignment to introduce writing in the discipline in the 100-level foundational course, with supporting videos created in collaboration with the WSU Writing Program. The program also provided a faculty-T-A workshop on assigning and grading writing.

College of Arts and Sciences

  • B.S. Physics, led by faculty assessment coordinator Michael Allen. Physics examined students’ ability to think independently and critically in acquiring, reproducing, and assessing information from a variety of sources. It evaluated research poster presentations in the senior-thesis course and found that students need to improve communication of research information from various sources. Based on this, faculty introduced a new prerequisite course where students create a thesis proposal to better prepare them to present their research in the course.

College of Education

  • B.S. Kinesiology, led by faculty assessment coordinator Anne Cox and past faculty assessment coordinator Judy Schultz. The program evaluated students’ abilities to identify the program’s central body of knowledge and use scientific literacy and disciplinary knowledge to analyze contemporary issues. Faculty and other stakeholders evaluated capstone posters presented at the department’s student conference, and considered indirect evidence from senior exit interviews. These indicated the need for more exercise-testing content, a central component of kinesiology knowledge. As a result, faculty added an exercise-testing course to the curriculum to relieve the capstone course of this content, allowing a focus on other learning outcomes.

College of Nursing

  • B.S. Nursing, led by faculty assessment coordinator Anne Mason and past faculty assessment coordinator Janessa Graves. The program looked at students’ abilities to formulate nursing-practice decisions using the foundation of a liberal education and knowledge from nursing science, the biological and behavioral sciences, and the humanities. The assessment measured student progress throughout the curriculum toward competency on the National Council Licensure Examination. The undergraduate curriculum committee evaluated data from all semesters and course-exam data. It was determined that students struggle with some pharmacology and medical-surgical content. Based on this, faculty provided remediation, extra practice, and learning support to students in the senior year for pharmacology and medical-surgical content. The findings also guided a curricular revision, where faculty decided to level this content across three semesters instead of one.

Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture

  • B.L.A. Landscape Architecture, led by faculty assessment coordinator Jolie Kaytes. The program examined students’ ability to explore and critically analyze alternative design or planning solutions to the identified problem or question by evaluating final design projects and other senior-level work. It was found that students need more support in exploring the design needs of their community-partner clients, and in contemplating and sharing the consequences of their design ideas. As a result, faculty added time for students to reflect upon and evaluate their work, and adjusted assignments and class discussions to encourage students to question the purpose and meaning of design, and to explore design programs.
  • B.S. Civil Engineering (WSU Pullman), led by faculty assessment coordinator Karl Olsen and past faculty assessment coordinator David Pollock. The program evaluated students’ ability to identify, formulate, and solve complex engineering problems by applying principles of engineering, science, and mathematics. To assess this learning outcome, student scores on the national Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam were considered as well as faculty assessments of capstone projects and other 400-level coursework, and supervisor/mentor assessments of student interns. It was found that while student achievement on this learning outcome met faculty expectations, students did not perform as well as expected on the FE exam, a trend also observed in recent years. Based on these findings, faculty changed the curriculum to require four fundamental, 300-level courses instead of students selecting three of the four courses. Faculty also eliminated a one-credit FE exam review course and instead will provide self-access materials and practice exams.
  • B.S. Civil Engineering (WSU Tri‑Cities), led by faculty assessment coordinator Yonas Demissie. The program evaluated students’ ability to apply engineering design in assignments in nine senior-level classes to produce solutions that meet specified needs with consideration of public health, safety, and welfare, as well as social, environmental, and economic factors. It was found that improvement was needed in the students’ ability to define a design problem. As a result, the undergraduate studies committee decided to emphasize the concept of design in all civil engineering courses with significant design content, with additional focus in the capstone design course.

Visit the ACE website more information on the recognitions and on undergraduate program assessment at WSU.

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