How does the unit use its assessment system to improve candidate performance, program quality and unit operations?
Our unit-wide assessment system, Kremen Learning Assessment System to Sustain Improvement (KLASSI), is an assessment and accountability system built upon a continuous improvement model. Our assessment is an on-going, goal-oriented process, viewed as the vehicle for continuous improvement. Assessment system activities include not only gathering data, but also turning those data into rich information through a feedback process used to guide individual candidates, faculty members, programs, and the unit in improving performance, quality and effectiveness. We view assessment as an integral part of learning to foster improvement and the first step in a continual learning cycle (an assessment-learning-change cycle), which includes measurement, feedback, reflection, and change. Aimed at improving teaching and learning, our assessment is an iterative process of developing and organizing activities, signature assignments, courses, curricula, or programs, collecting and interpreting data, and using outcome information to guide decisions. These outcomes serve as determinants of program effectiveness and accountability.
Our unit assessment system attends to not only outcomes, but also to the experiences that lead to achievement of those outcomes. Since learning is a complex process, unit assessment includes not only what candidates know, but also what candidates can do with what they know.
Astin’s (2002) input, processes, output conceptual model for assessment provides the framework for our Unit Assessment System. Underpinning our unit assessment system are the Nine Principles of Good Practice for Assessing Student Learning adopted by the American Association of Higher Education (AAHE), and Frye’s (1999) assessment precepts which clarify the linkages between assessment and student learning. Frye’s precepts guide our assessment work and are based on a number of assumptions of good assessment practice:
1. Assess what is most important
The unit vision and mission statements and professional dispositions as well as unit and program goals are all integral components of our conceptual framework and form the initial point of reference and alignment for curriculum development, delivery, fieldwork experiences and assessment. Educating our candidates to be well-prepared, ethical professionals and leaders for diverse communities is what is most important.
2. Anything that can be taught or learned can be assessed.
Through our learning- or student-centered model, the focus is on outputs - what expanded knowledge have our candidates acquired and what skills have they developed? In the student-centered model, instructors are facilitators of a broad range of learning experiences whose role involves creating and sustaining an effective learning environment based on a wide range of promising and best practices in teaching and learning. Thus, the fundamental role of assessment is to provide a complementary methodology for monitoring, confirming, and improving student learning.
3. Assessment should be applied at course, program, and institutional levels
The design of KLASSI provides for assessment of objectives, activities, and processes at course, program, unit, and institutional levels. The final determinant of the quality of our academic programs is the performance of our graduates, and the degree of this success depends on how well the curriculum is delivered through our courses across unit programs. Course and program goals and objectives are aligned to the vision, mission, and goals of our unit and university and to professional standards.
4. Every program and every course should be organized around clearly articulated learning goals and objectives, explicit assessment methods, and measurable outcomes
The University is committed to fostering and supporting a culture of evidence-based planning and effectiveness. A university-wide expectation exists that each degree program develops a Student Outcomes Assessment Plan (SOAP) that includes Goals and Student Learning Objectives, Assessment Methods (Direct and Indirect), and Student Learning Outcomes by Assessment Method. The SOAP is reviewed and evaluated annually by the university Learning Assessment Team to ensure the plan addresses all required components, contains both direct and indirect measures, is unbiased and appropriately implemented, and that annual assessment activities align with intended outcomes. Feedback on the SOAP is provided to the department assessment coordinator, chair, and dean. The SOAP is an important element in the University Program Review Process.
5. An assessment process should be logistically feasible and practically manageable to insure that it is regular and ongoing
Performance assessments for elementary and secondary teacher candidates are embedded in fieldwork throughout the program. TaskStream currently provides the avenue for submission, scoring, and tracking of key assessments. The university program review process and the annual evaluation of the SOAPs ensure a regular and ongoing assessment process.
Unitwide Assessment System
KLASSI is a new conceptualization of the unit’s assessment system. Since our previous accreditation, the unit has focused on developing a more collectively shared understanding of unit assessment with a shift to a more student-centered and outcomes based system. The graphic representation of KLASSI displays the inputs, processes, outcome measures, closing the loop processes, and decision-making that occur as we skillfully prepare education professionals for leadership in diverse communities.
The internal areas (shaded green) detail assessment-related processes that transpire within the unit. The external environment area illustrates influences external to the unit that impact internal operations. Decisions are also influenced by factors internal to the University but external to the unit, such as the use of GPA, Basic Skills and Competency Test results as criteria for admission to unit programs
Four benchmarks monitor candidate preparation.
Benchmark 1: Criteria used to make decisions about admission to unit programs.
Benchmark 2: Measures of candidates’ progress throughout coursework in acquiring an expanded knowledge base, dispositions, and the skills to effectively execute what they know in support of improving performance of their given organizations and effectively leading diverse communities in their given contexts. Benchmark 2 includes faculty mutually agreed upon signature assignments, student work product samples and portfolios, transcripts, and Annual and Biennial Reports. An important measure for initial elementary and secondary teacher candidates is the Fresno Assessment of Student Teachers (FAST), a locally designed, state-approved Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA). Advanced programs also use graduate writing requirements and qualifying and comprehensive exams to measure candidate progress.
Benchmark 3: Measures of candidates’ performance in a clinical or fieldwork setting. Various assessment activities in alignment with program goals and objectives are used to assess candidates’ performance in the field. Observations of teaching performance during field experiences are used in initial teacher preparation. Embedded fieldwork is also a signature pedagogy used in advanced programs, and fieldwork assignments are conducted in collaboration with fieldwork clients. Master’s projects, thesis, comprehensive exams and doctoral dissertations relate to what is happening at the ground level in the field.
Benchmark 4: Candidate feedback during and upon program completion, and graduate and employer feedback after at least one year after program completion. All initial teacher candidates complete an exit survey and the Center for Teacher Quality surveys initial program graduates and their employment supervisors after the graduates have taught for one year. Each advanced program SOAP includes a plan for soliciting feedback from program graduates and employers.
Benchmark 5: Activities that support the unit in better understanding some of the antecedents to excellence. Scholarship of Teaching and Scholarship of Application are two critical aspects for tenure and promotion at Fresno State. Teaching effectiveness is highly valued at the University and within in the unit.
Outcome Measures Phase
The Outcome Measures area of KLASSI depicts how we measure success in preparing ideal gradates/educators who (a) use an expanded knowledge base and relevant skills to effectively execute what they know to improve their organization, (b) demonstrate knowledge and skill to effectively teach and lead diverse communities in their given context, (c) reflect on their professional practice, think critically, and skillfully analyze situations and execute appropriately aligned actions that accelerate growth and achievement in their organization, (d) demonstrate ethnical decision-making, (e) effectively work with diverse populations and deploy actions that demonstrate valuing of cultural, linguistic, cognitive, and physiological diversity, (f) effectively collaborate with colleagues and the larger educational community, and (g) deploy actions that demonstrate a commitment to lifelong learning about the profession.
Closing the Loop Phase
Closing the Loop is the second part to the Processes Phase and depicts the venues used for data and information dissemination, analysis, discussion, debate, comparison of results to outcomes with the intended purpose of driving meaningful reflection, learning, and change for continuous improvement.
Throughout the cyclical process, data are changed into information to enable all levels of the system (candidate, program, unit) to identify areas of strength and areas for growth and improvement. These identified areas inform next steps and drive future decisions (i.e. whether to change a process, course, or program or shift allocation of resources)