As one of the essential elements of a curricular approach, assessment should occur at all levels of your curriculum. This includes on-the-ground assessment of individual learning activities, but also broader based assessment of overall curriculum effectiveness. One way of achieving this broader-based assessment is to utilize data collection instruments you may already be using and assessment data you may already be collecting.
Mapping Existing Assessment Instrument Questions to your Curricular Objectives
Your institution likely already administers a number of campus wide assessments. Some of the more common international/national instruments may include the NSSE (National Survey of Student Engagement), the CIRP Freshmen Survey, campus climate surveys, and sometimes functional area specific surveys (ex. Skyfactor’s Benchworks surveys). Furthermore, your institution may have its own internally developed instruments that it administers on a regular basis.
One method for collecting additional data points to examine the effectiveness of your curriculum is to map specific questions from these pre-existing surveys onto your curricular objectives. To do this, scan through the questions asked in these instruments. Do specific questions align with the learning objectives you identified? Highlight these questions and create a running list of your objectives and the questions in these instruments which apply to those specific objectives. This can give you a baseline to follow thorough time, or create a pre-test post-test opportunity to check for curricular effectiveness.
Although this mapping may not be a perfect fit, it can nevertheless be useful. Many of these surveys rely on student self report and are not squarely focused on learning, or demonstrating learning, per se. Nevertheless, they can sometimes act as proxy indicators. For example, if you focus your educational efforts on pluralistic or multicultural outcomes, you should hopefully see movement in your campus climate numbers. Although you cannot prove causation, it can still be a telling measure. Presumably if you do your educational work well, these indicators should be positively impacted.
Integrating Data Into Your Institutional Database
In the future of “big data” we are likely to see increased attention paid to these types of endeavors. A recent report from NASPA recognized, “Many institutions have adopted data analytics practices to forecast operational needs and enrollment trends, and are now applying the use of predictive analytics directly to student success initiatives” (Burke, Parnell, Wesaw, and Kruger, 2017). Curricular approaches, with their emphasis on assessment, are consistent with this trend. Collecting, triangulating, and utilizing data to predict trends and needs can be an important by product of your curricular efforts. Much of the work in this area is still relatively nascent in higher education contexts, but is likely to become more important over time. Technology, in particular, has an important role to play in its development.
Curricular assessment is not restricted to just the efforts you conduct yourself, but should be integrated into your institution’s overall assessment plans. Pre-existing efforts can be mapped and paired with your learning objectives to provide a broader and stronger snapshot of your effectiveness. Furthermore, the data you glean from internal assessments can help shape your institution’s overall efforts.
- What campus-wide assessments do you already administer that might provide insight into the success of your curricular efforts?
- How can you map and track relevant data that can help inform the health and direction of your curriculum?
- How might assessment data collected through your curricular efforts aid in overall institutional goals?
References: Burke, M., Parnell, A., Wesaw, A., & Kruger, K. (2017, April). Predictive analysis of student data: A focus on engagement and behavior. Retrieved from: https://www.naspa.org/images/uploads/main/PREDICTIVE_FULL_4-7-17_DOWNLOAD.pdf