Assessing Student Learning | Webster University

Assessing Student Learning

For School of Business and Technology Faculty, in addition to the general information below please see specific requirements and assessment activities by clicking here.

At Webster University Worldwide, Academic Assessment refers to those analytical activities engaged in by the faculty as they work toward the goal of wanting to fully understand the intellectual capital or academic knowledge and skill of their students.

This section will cover the following:

  • The meaning of academic assessment as used at Webster University Worldwide.
  • Distinguishing between the purpose of academic assessment and the purpose of program evaluation.
  • Designing activities for assessing student learning that relate in a meaningful way to classroom assignments.
  • Interpreting and applying rubrics to the assessment of student learning outcomes in their classrooms.

What is Academic Assessment?
1. Academic Assessment is a faculty activity whereby expert instructors exercise their managerial authority in defining the learning outcomes for their course and the best route by which those outcomes will be achieved for their students.

2. Academic Assessment also reflects faculty exercising a standard of "quality control," in documenting and assessing "the type of learning" and "the quality of the learning" that is occurring under their supervision (of the classroom and its students).

3. Academic Assessment also refers to the analytical moments where the faculty engage in obtaining and interpreting data – reflecting the assignments, the exams or the performances completed or produced by their students.

Purpose of Academic Assessment
The purpose of Academic Assessment is to illuminate what students are learning from Webster faculty, when their learning is "specifically" defined in terms of learning objectives as opposed to "generally" defined without any particular learning objectives in mind. Specific learning outcomes assist faculty and students by narrowing the focus of their attention, within a given subject area, so that they may spend their energies and time concentrating on that which is most important.

Program Evaluation by contrast
Where Socrates used verbally-mediated evaluation of students, to assess student knowledge, Program Evaluation may be usefully thought of as beginning in the 1800s when Horace Mann conducted comprehensive, annual empirical reports on Massachusetts's education system and worked with the Boston School Committee in evaluating their use of printed tests as the means for "objectively" measuring student achievement. Many advances have been made in educational theory and administration since that time.

In 1965, with the passage of the U.S. Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and Title I, many scholars suggest that this legislation became the most costly federal education program in the history of the United States and established the basis for the development of the field of Program Evaluation. To secure Title I funds from the federal government, programs had to file evaluation reports showing the outcomes of their efforts or the results they achieved in educational settings.

Webster's Program Evaluation Standards
At Webster University Worldwide, Program Evaluations represent the interests of university, college, and department leaders. Program Evaluations begin with an internal audit. This may be followed by a review from a team of external evaluators from the field under study.

Program Evaluations focus on the quality of the program, the sophistication of the curriculum, the expertise of the faculty and the academic achievements of the students; therefore, as a professional evaluative exercise, it extends well beyond classroom assessment activities.

Specific Responsibilities of Webster Adjunct Faculty in Assessing Student Learning
A. Adjunct Faculty Will Benchmark to Learning Objectives All adjunct faculty will benchmark to the learning objectives established for each course by the faculty of the program of study and/or college. For questions about the learning objectives for any given course, please contact the chair of the department to determine what if any pre-defined objectives have been established.

B. Adjunct Faculty Will Design Experiential Assignments All adjunct faculty will incorporate at least one assignment (out of a set of classroom assignments) that provides students with experiential or active learning experiences so that the ideas, concepts, theories and models under examination are "brought to life" for all students. If an adjunct faculty member is teaching within what Webster calls a "key assessment" course, then they are automatically viewed as part of the assessment team and are asked to use the assignments chosen by the department, and/or college.

C. For Grading Purposes, Adjunct Faculty Will Follow the Direction of the Department and/or College All adjunct faculty will follow the grading system used by the department with which they are associated. If faculty are teaching what are called "key assessment" courses then they may be asked to use "rubrics" for grading purposes.

D. Key Assessment Courses: Adjunct Faculty Will Use Rubrics to Evaluate Student Learning All adjunct faculty will use "rubrics" to evaluate student learning when they are involved in the teaching of key assessment courses. Rubrics extend beyond grades and represent scoring systems used to assess student learning outcomes. Rubrics use descriptive terms, and offer full explanations, about what a student has learned when they have achieved at a given level. For instance, one rubric might be worded "very effective, effective, ineffective" and or "high, medium and low." Clink on the link entitled rubrics (offered below) for an example.

In Summary
Academic assessment is a faculty-based activity whereby expert instructors create meaningful learning objectives, assignments and a schedule for their courses, so that as they implement their curriculum they will be able to document the knowledge and skills students have acquired from their learning. Academic assessment activities serve faculty in their decision-making capacities as they design and monitor high-quality educational experiences. When compared to the past, Academic Assessment represents a new mindset for educating the next generation of students. Where grades represented the former currency allocated to students by the faculty, rubrics and assessment strategies are now educators' tools for a global society.

Classroom Assignments
Classroom assignments at Webster University Worldwide span a range of learning opportunities specifically designed to promote student learning within disciplinary areas. Within the set of assignments prepared for students, faculty will want to include at least one active learning exercise, activity, or project that is purposefully experiential in nature. Webster University Worldwide strives to be an application-based institution of higher learning where students regularly apply concepts, ideas, theories, techniques and creative approaches in order to fully learn the subject under study.

To stimulate creative thought the Center for Academic Assessment provides faculty with an A-Z Assignment Matrix that highlights the relationship between skills and knowledge, classroom assignments, and academic programs of study. See Webster's Assignment Matrix (Link opens in a new window).

Learning Outcomes
Learning outcomes represent the learning objectives achieved by students in Webster classes. Where faculty have established goals for students to reach, and where students have met the goals, learning outcomes are a result of the objectives established for students. See the directive verb table (PDF) for examples of words used to initially define learning objectives.

Rubrics are scoring systems to be applied to student homework assignments as well as their performance in the classroom. When compared to grades, rubrics measure, in a more detailed way, what knowledge and skills students possess relative to the subject they are studying. See example (PDF).