Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes
Faculty evaluate student learning both formally and informally. The assessment process makes these practices more systematic and transparent so that they can better serve as tools to improve student learning. Assessment provides faculty with information they can use to inform decisions in the classroom and the curriculum. FIT’s assessment process also ensures documentation of these practices, which helps FIT demonstrate its effectiveness in meeting its educational goals to accreditors such FIT’s regional accreditor, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. At FIT, student learning is formally assessed and documented at the program level and at the institutional level, through assessment of general education learning outcomes.
About Assessment at FIT
Accreditors have defended the rights of faculty to determine what it is students in their classes and their programs should learn, which is why accreditors require learning outcomes, developed by faculty, that articulate the learning desired. Accreditors also defend the prerogative of faculty to answer the question, “How do we know whether or not students have learned what we’ve wanted to teach them?” For this reason, accreditors like Middle States require documentation of assessment, with particular focus on how results are used for improvement.
Assessment of student learning is a systematic process designed with the goal of ensuring student learning. First, faculty articulate desired learning outcomes for students. Next, they review the course or the curriculum to make sure there are adequate learning opportunities for students to achieve the outcomes. Assessment comes next -- do students as a whole meet faculty expectations for each outcome? Finally, faculty use information from assessment to inform teaching and the curriculum. This process is continuous, as new students continually enter programs and as faculty make evidence-based changes informed by assessment. In higher education, assessment practices grew out of developments in curriculum and pedagogy and research on student learning. It is beneficial when students have a clear conception of what they should learn, which is communicated through learning outcomes. FIT requires that individual courses develop course learning outcomes (PDF), which are important for course design (PDF), but individual courses are not formally assessed.
While students are graded in individual courses each term, each student is enrolled in a degree, with a carefully designed curriculum that represents something larger than the simple aggregation of individual classes. Assessment of program learning outcomes is NOT an evaluation of individual instructors, individual students, or individual courses. Instead, this process helps faculty examine how students develop knowledge and skills and transfer them to new contexts over multiple semesters, and to determine whether students as a whole successfully learn what the program intends to teach them. Curriculum maps (PDF) assist programs in visualizing how program courses work together.