This summary outlines how assessment of student learning outcomes (SLO’s) is organized and implemented at Johnson & Wales University; the university’s plan for outcomes and assessment through the end of FOCUS 2011; and faculty development initiatives related to the plan. For more information, view the university’s plans for improvement of its academic program.
The university’s approach to managing outcomes and assessment has been faculty driven and supported by academic administration for more than a decade. The Deans Steering Committee on Outcomes Assessment (DSCOA) and Faculty Outcomes Assessment Committee (FOAC) work collaboratively to assure that improvements to outcomes and assessment are organized and ongoing.
FOAC consists of faculty members from each school, college and campus at the university. The committee operates under the authority of the University Provost’s Office, functions according to an approved set of bylaws, and in liaison with the DSCOA. DSCOA is composed of the membership of the University Deans Committee under the guidance of committee co-chairs appointed by the university provost. The co-chairs also represent the Deans Committee as members of FOAC. This organizational structure has proven effective at streamlining communication, achieving institution-wide consistency in policy and practice and efficient targeting of resources to advance outcomes and assessment improvement initiatives, including faculty training and reassigned time directed toward improvement. To further guide their work, both committees have adopted a shared set of Outcomes & Assessment terms.
The institutional approach to outcomes and assessment has been heavily influenced by the tenets of FOCUS 2011. Under the category of strengthening the student experience, FOCUS 2011 states “Johnson & Wales University will create an exciting learning community offering programs that are distinguished by their relevance, excellence and rigor as well as high quality of instruction.” The two committees mentioned above work to fulfill the quality-oriented strategies noted in FOCUS 2011 that relate to academic improvement. Refer to the Outcomes & Assessment Project Timeline and Progress Report for more information.
Early in its progress the DSCOA adopted a tiered approach to outcomes based on the definitions of outcomes and assessment proposed by CHEA1. Outcomes exist at the university, college/school and the program level. They are tiered in the sense that each level of outcomes feeds into the other. Program outcomes are tied to college or school outcomes, and college or school outcomes are tied to university outcomes. University outcomes, in turn, are linked directly to the university mission. Co-curricular outcomes are being written for Career Development and Student Affairs following a similar format. This approach was intentional to assure that strong linkages were in place from individual courses through to the university mission.
There are four university outcomes that reflect the mission, purposes and core values of the institution. The university outcomes are:Professional Competency Graduates are expected to demonstrate professional competency and skill within their academic discipline.
Career Development Graduates are expected to demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to obtain best fit employment in their chosen profession.
General Education Graduates are expected to demonstrate competence in general education skills including written and oral language competency, critical thinking, ethical awareness, aesthetic sensibility, environmental awareness, quantitative literacy and community leadership to enhance their specialized knowledge, skills and abilities.
Global Diversity Graduates are expected to apply knowledge of diverse perspectives pertinent to workplace settings and the global environment.
The university is unusual in the sense that it has achieved balance within academic programs between teaching professional skills and the liberal arts as noted in the outcomes listed above. Paired with the experiential nature of its curricula and courses within professional disciplines, the university has achieved a model of integrated undergraduate education that national experts in higher education, such as the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching2, have recently proposed as desirable.
Outcomes related to professional skills and knowledge exists for every undergraduate school and college. Nearly every undergraduate degree program has a well-established set of outcomes. Some disciplines have outcomes that are mature and assessment methodologies that are advanced compared to others. The university continues to improve outcomes and assessment as noted on the Outcomes & Assessment Progress Report.
1 Ewell, P.T., (2001). Accreditation and Student Learning Outcomes: A Proposed Point of Departure, Council on Higher Education Accreditation Washington D.C.
2 Sullivan, W.M., Rosin, M.S., (2008). A New Agenda for Higher Education: Shaping a Life of the Mind for Practice. Jossey Bass, San Francisco, CA