Assessment of the General Academic Experience and the Major

18 February 2002


The Faculty Senate Executive Committee moves that the following policies be implemented for the assessment of the general academic experience of Binghamton University students and each academic major.


General Academic Experience

  1. Existing efforts (particularly surveys) that address satisfaction by and growth of students through their academic experience will be undertaken more systematicallyĖin particular, students will be tracked at entrance and exit to examine what they recognize they have learned and how their university experience has contributed to the learning outcomes of which they are aware.
  2. For graduating seniors, this process can best be achieved either by embedding exit surveys within courses or by making completion of an exit survey a requirement for graduation.
  3. Use the standard surveys now administered on campus, but make certain that they reach as wide an audience as possible.
  4. This should be done every second or third year, depending on availability of resources.Schools and programs should take advantage of the results of these surveys in their own self-examinations, including the examination of major programs.The University should use these results not only as a measure of our studentsí accomplishments, but also as indications of strengths and weaknesses in the studentsí experiences and in their programs.
  5. A sub-set of graduating students should be engaged in exit interviews and/or focus group discussions to provide a different, more personalized data set for assessment of the student experience.


The Major


††††††††††† The purpose of any assessment of a major must be to identify and then improve program quality.All of this requires a willingness among faculty to involve themselves in the process.


  1. Statements of goals and objectives for each major will be developed by December, 2002 by each program/department faculty.


††††††††††† Educational objectives within the major (each originating department or program) need to be explicitly defined.Goals for student outcomes may involve knowledge in the field or mastery of content (such as the information that is key to a field); competencies (such as analytical, computing, performance, or laboratory skills) and/or critical evaluation and thinking about material in the field.Each academic unit needs to undertake a self-examination of the major, including interaction with all constituents (such as students, alumni, prospective employers, as appropriate) to identify these goals.Samples of statements of goals and objectives are available through the Educational Policy and Priorities Committee as developed by the Subcommittee on Assessment.


  1. Each program will develop a statement of the criteria and methodology it will use for evaluation of the major by March, 2003.


††††††††† Assessment of each major will involve several additional steps.The first will be development of criteria to examine the degree to which the major meets its goals, or how the curriculum and experiential opportunities within the major satisfy these goals.Some programs may wish to assess whether students have mastered the knowledge base in the discipline; others may wish to see a progression in skills, depth of understanding, creativity, critical thinking about the field, etc.Faculty need to develop ways to see how fully their efforts to achieve the objectives they have for their student majors are successful.They might consider the effectiveness of the approaches being used, including curriculum design and delivery, mentoring, long-term projects, comprehensive examinations, theses, assignments in courses and seminars, use of visiting scholars, etc.


††††††††††† Criteria and methods of assessment may differ among programs.One methodology for assessment might include construction of a matrix that identifies goals and how these are met in individual courses:a curriculum map.Another might be a systematic comparison of the major (curriculum, or types of courses; student performance; placement of graduates; etc.) with similar programs at a set of identified peer institutions, which may vary across campus.The best criteria and method of assessment for each program will grow out of faculty consideration of the programís goals.


  1. Each program will develop a mechanism for evaluating assessment results and recommending changes within the major by April, 2003.


††††††††††† Another important step will be to create a formal way to identify and respond to needs for change in the majorĖto define how program revision will be undertaken in response to assessment, or how the information obtained will be used to improve the program.In some programs, for example, an assessment and planning committee is charged to study assessment results and bring recommendations for improvement to program faculty.Because assessment should naturally lead to consideration of improvement, each major program needs a mechanism to develop, recommend, and respond to calls for change.


  1. Each program is encouraged to collect data on a regular basis, preferably annually, and prepare a report to the department/program faculty every three years with copies to the relevant Dean and to the Educational Policy and Priorities Committee.


††††††††††† Annual data collection provides the most effective means of establishing longitudinal trends; most departments already do this.However, if these data are not carefully analyzed, and implications of assessment results are not acted upon, then it becomes simply a paper-pushing exercise.A report every three years would summarize the assessment results and show how the department/program is addressing areas that need improvement.


  1. External evaluation of major programs will be a regular, repeated process, on a 6-year cycle, depending on funding.Each cycle of external evaluation should be a culmination of continuing assessment measures that program faculty conduct between external reviews.The external evaluations should involve reviews by scholars from peer institutions of the programís undergraduate and graduate programs and scholarly achievement.


External evaluation of departments is a standard mechanism for assessing the overall state of a departmentís range of academic and research missions.This is currently done on a rotating basis at Binghamton, subject to availability of funding. Part of all future evaluations should include review of the assessment results for the majors.


  1. The Educational Policy and Priorities Committee of the Faculty Senate will oversee the assessment process, reviewing assessment plans and guidelines for external evaluation of programs, and reporting to the Faculty Senate.