Planning and assessment at CalSouthern might best be described as a learner-centered approach to education that focuses on gathering and analyzing data to ensure that students are developing the knowledge and skills they need to succeed. It is a totally transparent process; at CalSouthern, students participate in the assessment process and the university shares all findings and results.
While some may associate planning and assessment solely with academic programs, at CalSouthern, assessment occurs across three components: academic programs (educational effectiveness), support services (administrative effectiveness) and co-curricular activities (co-curricular effectiveness). Results provide data-driven findings necessary to plan for the growth and improvement of the educational programs, services and related operations and for CalSouthern’s co-curricular activities.
The following are five of the most fundamental goals of assessment at CalSouthern:
- Use assessment results for institutional decision-making and continuous improvement throughout the university.
- Provide evidence of a high-quality and supportive academic and co-curricular experience for all learners.
- Provide a conduit to collect evidence of effective student learning, administrative support and co-curricular services.
- Implement assessment activities that comply with accountability goals established by accrediting bodies and regulatory agencies.
- Share valid and reliable data and data-driven findings with all institutional stakeholders.
University Assessment Committee
The University Assessment Committee leads the continued advancement of assessment policies and practices. The committee monitors assessment activity at the institutional and program level. They also recommend changes in assessment processes; review the usefulness of assessment strategies, reporting strategies, and feedback processes; and ensure that assessment data are used to inform decision-making at all levels. Membership on the committee includes faculty and staff from all schools and departments, reflecting the institutional-wide scope of assessment.
The assessment of educational effectiveness is intended to provide reliable evidence of student success and achievement. Processes focus on gathering learner performance data in order to enhance understanding of what CalSouthern graduates know, understand, and can do as a result of their educational experience. Results are utilized for curricular design aimed at improving achievement.
The assessment of educational effectiveness is designed to ensure that all assessment activities stem directly from the ILOs. This is demonstrated through the articulation of PLOs for all degree programs. The assessment of PLOs includes Faculty Mentor participation in evaluating learning outcomes. This evaluation is completed using assessment of signature assignments throughout the curriculum. The university uses LiveText software for capturing, evaluating, and tracking Learner work products for direct assessment of PLOs. Curriculum maps specify signature assignments tied to specific PLOs. Learners upload signature assignments into the LiveText system and Faculty Mentors use specific assessment rubrics (distinct from grading rubrics) to evaluate outcome achievement. Baseline data are collected early in a Learner’s program to establish a benchmark against which to measure the effectiveness of the program in achievement of learning outcomes.
Deans of each school are responsible for maintaining program assessment plans that identify the program learning outcomes they will assess each year. This focused assessment allows deans and faculty to narrow in on specific learning outcomes each year. These plans are to include:
- How each outcome will be assessed
- What direct and indirect assessment evidence will be collected
- When and how often each outcome will be assessed
- How the evidence will be collected
- How the evidence will be assessed
- Who will reflect on the results and decide if and how to close the loop
- How the results and closing the loop actions will be documented
All new programs are required to undergo annual assessment leading up to the first scheduled academic program review. These annual reviews must include assessment of student enrollment, retention, staffing, grade distribution, learner satisfaction, faculty feedback, external reviewer feedback and assessment of PLOs using assessment rubrics and embedded signature assignments. Summary assessment reports (SARS) including analysis of this data and recommendations are completed each year and included in the Academic Department Annual Plan and budget.
The process for assessment of administrative effectiveness is designed so that the collective efforts of each university department are assessed to determine achievement of the strategic goals. Throughout the year, each department completes a comprehensive assessment of their department or unit within their department. These are reported using a summary assessment report (SAR) which includes the following:
- Description of unit being assessed and how the unit supports the university mission and strategic goals
- Description of the process of assessment and participants
- Description of the means of assessment
- Discussion of other information reviewed as part of the assessment
- Summary of data analysis
- Report of findings
Based on the SARs, each department submits an annual department plan aligning the departmental goals with the five university strategic goals. In accordance with the department plan, each department collects data in order to demonstrate progress toward the strategic goals. Data collection is ongoing. Department plans are submitted to the Steering Committee for prioritization and incorporation into the Strategic Plan. This is done annually as part of the strategic planning cycle.
Co-curricular activities at CalSouthern are those activities, which are not a part of the formal curricula that complement the development of student skills. Results are utilized to improve the student experience through enriched opportunities for engagement and learning outside the formal classroom.
Data collection for co-curricular activities occurs in accordance with the delivery of each activity. Summary Assessment Reports for each activity are developed each year by the respective activity coordinator. A Co-Curricular Summary Assessment Report presents findings from the immediate activity, as well as provides comparative data of offerings across time. The report describes the use or intended use of findings in the form of recommendations and action steps.