DEPARTMENTAL SELF-ASSESSMENT (DSA)
(Adopted by Committee on The Assessment of Student Academic Achievement, July, 2000)
- Why? The Purpose of Self-Assessment
The primary purpose of departmental self-assessment (DSA) is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your department. Knowledge of your strengths can be applied when seeking grant funding or accreditation as well as when recruiting students and new faculty. Awareness of areas that could be improved is essential for securing resources, maintaining excellence, and changing with the times.
Assessment is a dynamic process. Students change; their preparation and culture are never the same. Faculty change; new and different skills are infused into the community. Furthermore, the knowledge and skills associated with a particular discipline evolve. Thus, assessment is needed to keep even the most successful departments functioning at their best.
Faculty members may avoid DSA because they are already too busy. Sometimes, however, faculty do so because they find the find the process threatening (we've worked hard for the privilege of academic freedom and are wary of anything that may interfere with it). In reality, most of the data a departmental assessment turns up is less "personal" than routine student course evaluations. Think of this process as a "departmental evaluation." A departmental self-assessment should focus on the big picture--does the department as a whole meet the educational needs of its students? Particular faculty are rarely "targeted" by a departmental assessment. When and if particular courses are on the receiving end of negative feedback, keep in mind that certain materials or skills may be inherently more difficult or less amenable to interesting teaching methods than are others. In order to preserve the integrity of this process, it is vital to maintain a supportive and encouraging environment for all department members.
- What? Departmental Self-Assessment of Student Academic Achievement at Wittenberg has three primary components:
- To determine if students are meeting departmental and university learning goals.
- To determine if departmental and university curricula are effectively addressing these goals.
- To apply the information gathered in components #1 & 2 above towards revising departmental learning goals, curricula, and/or other aspects of a department that would continue to enhance student achievement.
- When? Ongoing, with a DSA Report and Plan submitted by August 1st of every 4th academic year (see section "G" below for a schedule).
- Who? All faculty members (including adjuncts and visiting professors) in the department should take an active role in DSA.
- The Process of Departmental Self-Assessment at Wittenberg:
- The very first step toward DSA is the identification of departmental learning goals. What skills, abilities, content areas, etc. does the departmental faculty as a whole consider most essential for their majors and for their minors? You must know what your goals are before you can determine if you are achieving them. Although you should be collecting assessment data continually, every fourth year your department must make a concerted effort to compile that data and determine if your majors and minors are achieving the goals you set for them. This is the time to re-evaluate the appropriateness of those goals and the effectiveness of the curriculum and pedagogy designed to attain them.
- In addition to assessing how your majors and minors are achieving your department's learning goals, you will need over time to develop a system for assessing non-majors as well. Specifically, as a minimum, try to assess the General Education Learning Goals in your general education courses. Although effective assessment mechanisms are already in place for three of the General Education Learning Goals (foreign language, writing, and math), there are four other foundational goals (i.e., computing, diversity, research, and speaking) that should be assessed by each department. While some departmental learning goals may overlap the general education goals, it is vital to determine whether the general education courses offered by your department address the general education learning goals. For complete descriptions of the General Education Learning Goals, see the appropriate section of the Faculty Manual and/or contact the General Education Committee.
- By August 1st (of your Reporting Year), you should report in writing to the Assessment Committee the following:
- Your learning goals for: majors, minors, and non majors;
- Your assessment methods (see section "F" below);
- A summary and interpretation of your findings;
- Changes (in learning goals, curriculum, teaching methods; pedagogy, etc.) you will implement because of your findings;
- Resource needs you have become aware of because of your findings;
- Your Plan for continued assessment for the next three (non-reporting) academic years (e.g., the methods will you devise or use, the data will you collect, etc.).
- During the three non-reporting years, department members should carry out the assessment plan as indicated in your DSA Report & Plan. If you modify your Plan, please submit appendices for your original Plan to the Committee on the Assessment of Student Academic Achievement.
- Assessment Methods:
The most efficient assessment methods are often those that can be integrated into departmental systems that are already in place. For example:
- Have a system for collecting, organizing, summarizing, and communicating the assessment data you are already collecting. For example, after you evaluate the final exam, paper, or project in one of your classes, take time to note how well students attained the various learning goals of your course. Make note of areas that need improvement, not only for yourself, but for your departmental colleagues. Consider questions such as: In which areas are majors/minors particularly strong or weak? Are curricular changes in order? If these questions are discussed in a department meeting, store the minutes of the meeting in your DSA file.
- At departmental meetings, place "assessment" on the agenda. Keep a log of ideas that occur to faculty members throughout the year. One professor may have spoken to an alum who had a particular suggestion regarding the curriculum; another faculty member may have realized that students in her 300-level course seem less prepared than students in previous years; another professor may want to summarize the article he just read that discussed the importance of certain laboratory skills for graduate- school-bound students. Take time to share such things with one another. Discuss them or even just report them, and make sure to record them.
- Have a volunteer calculate means for each of the subject sections on your senior comprehensive exam. Compare them to standardized or national means. Is there an area in which your majors excel? What might account for this excellence? Think about it and improve other areas based on it.
- If your seniors take oral or performance "comprehensive" exams (or senior seminars, theses, portfolios, etc.), have a volunteer collect a copy of all the evaluation/feedback sheets. Having one person evaluate your majors as a whole is exceptionally valuable. Is there an area where your majors excel? What might account for this excellence? Think about it and improve other areas based on it.
- If you conduct a survey of your graduating seniors, make sure to ask "assessment-type" questions such as:
What aspects of the ____________ department/major were most instrumental in ensuring your success at Wittenberg? Explain.
If you could change one thing about the requirements (or courses, logistics, etc.) of the __________ major, what would it be? Why?
- If you conduct a survey of your alums, make sure to ask "assessment-type" questions such as: Do you think that your Wittenberg education prepared you for the particular job or graduate program you were most interested in pursuing? If so, what skills and content areas were most essential to your success? If not, what prevented your success?
- If your department has been through an accreditation process or some other type of "self-study" (e.g., as is often the case with grant applications), submit your written materials to the Committee on the Assessment of Student Academic Achievement.
Some departments may find it helpful to implement new procedures to help them with assessment. Suggestions are:
- Create a "Learning Goals Matrix." Make a table with all departmental learning goals along the side (vertically). List all departmental courses along the top of the table (horizontally). Circulate this matrix to every faculty member. Ask each person to check off which learning goals are substantially addressed in each of the courses they regularly teach. (More ambitious departments may create a rating system instead -- Place a "4" in the box if your course is "very strongly" geared toward meeting that learning goal, "3" for "strongly", "2" for "somewhat", "1" for "minimally", and "0" for "not at all"). Study the Matrix to identify "holes" in your curriculum. Discuss the completed Matrix at a departmental meeting. Revise course objectives, curriculum, or learning goals as necessary. Examples of matrices are available in the Assessment of Student Academic Achievement binder in Thomas Library.
- Hold "focus groups" for small numbers of homogenous students [i.e., 4-6 minors, 4-6 seniors in the major, or 4-6 students from an under represented group (e.g., women, ethnic minority students, 1st generation college students)]. Invite as random a selection of said homogenous group as possible; have a structured conversation with them. Let the students know that you have invited them in order to hear their perspective as individuals as well as members of said group. Ask them about their thoughts and feelings about the major/minor as a whole. What do they see as the strengths and weaknesses of the department? Ask them if there are particular needs of their group that are not being addressed or are being addressed particularly well.
- Hold an annual Departmental Faculty Retreat and focus on "Assessment of Student Academic Achievement." Have conversations about your curriculum, your students, your alums, pedagogy, etc. Have a volunteer take notes; at the very least, make sure to review the notes during your Reporting year.
- Develop a Student Self-Assessment Procedure. Hold a mandatory group orientation for new majors and minors every year or semester. Review the departmental learning goals. Have students complete a form that gives them the opportunity to assess their current competencies/experience in relevant areas. The form should also give these new majors and minors an opportunity to prioritize learning goals based on their career interests, past experiences, competencies, knowledge, etc. During advising week of every subsequent year or semester, have students update the form and bring it to their advisor. This technique helps students to see how individual courses are tied to larger goals in their field. Advisors (especially those armed with the Learning Goals Matrix described in #1 above) can also help students to choose courses (and extracurricular experiences) that focus on learning goals which they have not yet attained.
- Create a form on which your departmental faculty can record summaries of student academic achievement for each of their courses (e.g., what percentage of students attained various departmental learning goals, etc.). Have a volunteer collect, summarize, and report on the data collected each semester. Place a written summary in the DSA file.
There are dozens of additional Assessment Methods you may choose to use. A bibliography and examples of assessment tools are available in the Assessment of Student Academic Achievement binder in Thomas Library. Books on Assessment are also readily available in Thomas Library and through OhioLINK. In addition, the chair and members of the Committee on the Assessment of Student Academic Achievement would be happy to assist you.
- "Departmental Self-Assessment Report & Plan" Schedule:
Every department should be collecting assessment data every year. Those data only need to be summarized, interpreted, and reported (by August 1st) every fourth year.
Group A: Report due on August 1st , 2005, 2009, 2013, etc.
- Health, Fitness, & Sport
Group B: Report due on August 1st , 2006, 2010, 2014, etc.
- Africana Studies
- American Studies
- East Asian Studies
- Environmental Studies
- Global Studies
- Russian Studies
- School of Community Education
- Urban Studies
- Women's Studies
Group C: Report due on August 1st 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, etc.
- Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Marine Science ( to coincide with Biology, which is already a member of this group.
- Mathematics & Computer Science
- Statistics and Computational Science (Math and Computer Science, which is already a member of this group.
- Political Science
Group D: Report due on August 1st 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016, etc.
- Theatre& Dance