Assessment at WCU follows the expectations and principles of our institutional accreditor, SACSCOC and the National Institutue of Learning Outcomes Assessment. Our current assessment activities include a range of projects and activities that address student learning, continuous improvement, and dedication to our institutional mission and vision. We collect, analyze, and use data to drive improvements in educational experiences and enhance student learning at the program and institutional levels.
Assessment of learning in our academic programs is driven by faculty. In addition to the traditional way of assessing learning with course grades, faculty in each program work together to measure student learning outcomes at the program level. Faculty groups determine the knowledge or skills they will assess in the program; how they will measure learning; how well they expect students to perform; and how they will improve learning based on the information collected.
Course-embedded assessments in required courses are the most common way we measure and improve student learning at the program level. We measure program student learning outcomes with assignments, exams/quizzes, projects, presentations, performances, exhibits, case studies, similations, and portfolios. Programs assess their learning outcomes and report them in an annual Continuous Improvement Report (CIR). In addition to student learning outcomes, programs may also include operational outcomes on their CIR (e.g., retention, recruitment, enrollment, graduation rates, pass/fail licensure exam results, job placement, and student/alumni satisfaction).
Western Carolina’s Liberal Studies program consist of 42 hours divided into three segments: Core Courses (21 hours), Perspectives Courses (18 hours), and a First Year Seminar (3 hours). The Core includes courses on writing, mathematics, oral communication, wellness, and physical and biological sciences, while the Perspectives courses center on social sciences, history, humanities, fine and performing arts, and world cultures. Finally, First Year Seminars (FYS) are taught on a disciplinary basis, with individual faculty proposing course topics that fit their particular research interests.
The Liberal Studies program is guided by eight student learning outcomes (SLOs) centering on Inquiry, Information Literacy, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, Means of Expression, Awareness of Self, Awareness of Cultural Diversity, and Awareness of Impact. Measurement of student learning in Liberal Studies is overseen by a faculty member who serves as Liberal Studies assessment director. As with assessment of learning at the program level, assessment in Liberal Studies is also course-embedded, using artifacts of student learning from the approximately 250 general education courses. Each summer during the Liberal Studies Assessment Institute, assignments, projects, and writing samples from general education courses are rated by faculty using rubrics derived for each SLO. Information related to the schedule and rotation for SLO assessment can be found in the Liberal Studies Assessment Plan.
Our QEP, DegreePlus, is an experiential learning program that integrates curricular and co-curricular learning activities. DegreePlus aims to educate students on the value of their experiences through the use of an experiential transcript that logs their extracurricular activities and organizes them according to student learning outcomes associated with professional skills, including, leadership, cultural responsiveness, teamwork, and professionalism.
Information to assess learning in DegreePlus programs is collected via post-event surveys, reflection papers, and posters/presentations that are reviewed by a faculty/staff mentor.
The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) is administered to first-year and graduating students across the nation to assess their academic engagement and perceptions of their curricular and co-curricular educational experiences. The results provide an estimate of how undergraduates spend their time and what they gain from attending their college or university. Although the NSSE survey does not assess student learning directly, results point to areas where institutions perform well and areas that could be improved. WCU first administered the NSSE survey to students in 2008 and then adopted the survey to every three years beginning in 2009.
At WCU we use data from the NSSE survey to assess student perceptions of academic challenge, their experiences learning with peers, experiences with faculty, and the campus environment. We value high-impact practices and our NSSE results track student engagement in service learning, learning communities, research with faculty, study abroad, and culminating senior experiences.