CBS Undergraduate Program Assessment

CBS Undergraduate Program Assessment

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PLOs and CLOs

Assessment is the process faculty use to discover what skills and knowledge the students have incorporated from our teaching. We represent these as “learning outcomes” or LOs. Each undergraduate major encompasses a program of study with its own Program Learning Outcomes or PLOs. The PLOs for each of the 8 CBS majors can be accessed from the Programs link at left.

The teaching and learning for each of the Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs) takes place through the curriculum within a major, so PLOs are usually assessed within a course. If there were a capstone project for a major, some PLOs could be assessed there, as well as in classes. The relationship between the PLOs and the curriculum is represented in a curriculum matrix, as shown below. Component courses are listed in the leftmost column and the PLO's within the major are noted across the top of the matrix.

If a particular course in the curriculum has content relevant to a PLO, then the intersecting cell is filled. The depth of the relevant material is noted with an “I” to indicate that the material is “Introduced” in the particular course. “P” indicates the material is “practiced” and “M” indicates the material is “mastered” in a particular course. Some courses will be marked “P/M” to indicate that students address the PLO at both levels throughout the course. In the matrix below, Course 1 introduces two of the PLOs whereas Course 5 offers the students advanced work for three of the PLOs.

Courses \ PLOs PLO 1 PLO 2 PLO 3 PLO 4
Course 1 I I
Course 2 I
Course 3 P I
Course 4 M P
Course 5 M P/M P/M

Curriculum matrices for each of the 8 CBS majors can be accessed from the Programs link at left.

Each course in the matrix has a set of specific learning outcomes called Course Learning Outcomes or CLOs. The CLOs are specified by the course instructor or by the faculty group responsible for course oversight. The CLOs are listed on the syllabus so that students understand the educational vision for the course. If a course includes General Education (GE) credits, CLOs are also listed for the GE components of the course.

Some instructors create learning outcomes for each lecture and lab within the course to provide clear expectations for students. Some instructors provide explicit links between the per-lecture learning outcomes and particular examination questions, but this level of detail is not included in assessments on this site.

Using Assessment Outcomes for Teaching, Program Review, and Accreditation

Assessment results are useful for faculty who want to know how students are learning. Assessment is meant to be an iterative process where evidence of effective teaching in one part of the course allows time to focus on another area where students are not learning as well. The instructor will decide how to use the results of assessment in changing instruction or course content.

Program review takes place every 7 years and now explicitly requires assessment data (program review--see item #8). Typically, an instructor would assess one or two learning outcomes at each offering of the course. A course with 8 CLOs would be fully assessed within this cycle. Courses with General Education credit will also have to include their GE outcome assessment within program review.

Assessment data are also required for campus accreditation. Campuses must be accredited in order to obtain federal funding; regional accrediting bodies exist throughout the United States. The University of California is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, WASC. WASC visited the UC Davis in 2013 and produced a 2014 report. In a letter to the then-Chancellor, the WASC committee was concerned about the “small percentage of programs that are able to determine whether learning outcomes have been achieved.” The campus was “expected to address this disparity and to ensure that all departments consistently gather, analyze, interpret, and use data for improvement.” The next WASC visit to the Davis campus is in 2018 with a report due prior to the visit. The Undergraduate Council, an Academic Senate body, resolved that assessments would be used. Our campus provides assessment guidelines at:

Grading versus Assessment

There is sometimes confusion about the difference between assigning grades to students in a class and assessing what students take away from the class. Many faculty want their students to be able to think critically about the material in the course, but individual examinations may consist of questions on basic knowledge or memory recall. Often only a small part of graded work focuses on higher order thinking such as critical evaluation, prediction, or analysis. Faculty should consider what aspect of student evaluation measures metacognitive processes and use that aspect in assessment of a learning outcome.

Rather than calculating a mean score on a particular question, faculty may look at the distribution of scores across the class. How many of the students perform at an acceptable standard, how many are below the standard, and how many are above? Is this distribution of scores acceptable? Faculty may assess the skill at two points within the course to determine whether students are progressing. There are many methods that could be used in assessment (see thumbnail sketch of assessment methods) and the course faculty must decide what assessment is meaningful. Assessment is an iterative process where there is opportunity to learn from the past and to refine both how one teaches and how one assesses learning.

Getting Started

This application allows you to store information on CLO assessments and to apply this information to PLOs. You will be asked a few basic questions about your course (class size, are student majors or non-majors, etc.) and then have an opportunity to briefly describe your assessment plan, the outcome, and your reflections on the outcome. You may also upload assessment data or sample student work. If a course is used for writing, one may upload a few samples of writing at an acceptable standard, along with those above and below the standard. You will be asked what fraction of the class falls into each of these three broad groups. If you do not have particular information, there will be a place to mark this as currently unavailable.

Once data is entered for a particular class, the presence of assessment data for that class will populate all the curriculum matrices where the course occurs.

To begin entering assessment information, Start an Assessment or click on the Course Assessment in the menu on the left to view assessments you have already started. You will need to enter your CLOs and choose the one you wish to assess. If you or a colleague have previously entered CLOs, these will pre-populate the list of CLO’s.