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Assessment of Student Learning

What's New in Assessment:

The Assessment Committee has been leading the charge to incorporate course-level assessment into CCA's assessment practices. Areas of the college that hadn't been previously assessing the course content aspect of student learning created new plans and programs highlighting course level objectives in respect to what CCA students are learning. These new course-level assessments will be implemented in the Fall 2014 semester.

See below for a preview of findings from areas that conducted piloted studies of new assessment plans

In the School of Liberal Arts:

The Social Sciences department piloted a pre and post-test in each discipline to determine whether or not students were leaving these classes having learned the outcomes specified by the CCCS Common Course Numbering System. Preliminary results found that students were learning much of the important material and now the individual disciplines within the Social Sciences department are able to use the assessment data to focus on the areas that seem to be the most difficult for students.

The Behavioral Sciences department also instituted pre and post-tests in the introductory psychology and sociology courses (PSY 101 and SOC 101) to determine if the foundational information for both of these subjects was being clearly communicated to the students in these courses. The results demonstrated that while the majority of students did much better on the post-test assessments, indicating that students were retaining important the course content necessary to move on to other courses, areas of weakness were also revealed giving the department an opportunity to increase focus in these difficult content areas.

In the Early Childhood Education department, ECE 101 & ECE 103 are our introductory courses for students entering the early childhood profession. Those courses along with other ECE  courses administered a pre/post- test  to students during Spring 2014 term.  The results showed great student growth with an average of 50% increase in scores toward mastery. This verified for us that students were learning the information. We are continuing the pre/post-test process but have now aligned the test questions to the course objectives. Instructors will analyze which questions students got right and wrong and what skills are attached to those questions.  Using this data instructors will create opportunities to emphasize and develop an understanding of those objectives.

 In the School of Professional Studies and Sciences:

All discipline areas of the Science Department use cumulative final exams and in some cases lab reports to assess student understanding of the specific course outcomes for each of our courses. The results from the final exams are tabulated and distributed to all faculty in the discipline area. Faculty then meet to develop action plans based on the results obtained from the assessment tool. For example:

Anatomy & Physiology I: For their major courses the faculty have used an end of year assessment to evaluate the effectiveness of their new online assignments and lab books. For two semesters some classes have been requiring these assignments and lab books. The data analysis of the end of year assessments indicated that the additional online and lab book assignments improved scores when compared with the classes that did not require these assignments. Consequently, the faculty plan to continue to use these learning tools and expand their use to all classes.

The faculty have developed critical thinking questions  in the end of year assessment that are similar to what their students will see on licensing exams in the future. They are in the process of reviewing the design of these questions to effectively evaluate knowledge and critical thinking.

Astronomy I: In the latest round of assessment of student learning in Astronomy 101, the faculty assessed the teaching and learning of the concept of lunar phases. They collected information from all faculty members about what materials they were using to teach about lunar phases, and used results from 3 questions about lunar phases embedded in the course final exam to assess student learning.

All faculty indicated that they were using in-class and out of class exercises about phases of the moon, and generally had been over the period for which they have been collecting data on the final exam (summer 2010 to present.) Student performance on the lunar phases final exam questions remained relatively flat over that same time period, with a small decline in scores (the decline in scores was of marginal statistical significance, approximately a 3-sigma result.) To gain more information about the cause of this decline, they are planning on embedding more diagnostic questions on the final exam to more fully characterize the nature of the student reasoning difficulties, and then plan to modify the lunar phases material and instruction accordingly.

Science of Biology: For our non-majors course the faculty have used end of year assessment to adjust how they are teaching specific topics in the course.  For example, they were able to use their assessment tool to determine that their students did not understand that populations of species evolved.  This is a key component of evolution.  Based on this data they revised their population genetics lab to help student really understand that concept.  After this revision, the assessment tool showed that more students understood this concept.  

General College Biology I: During the Assessment process for General Biology, the faculty realized that there were significant differences in the depth and breadth of content coverage among instructors, so the student experience varied considerably depending on section.  In response, they created Core Objectives for the course that provided more detail than the course outline and objectives outlined by the College System.  This helps ensure that every student who passes General Biology has the same base of knowledge that is important for future biology classes.  In addition, with common goals for the course, instructors are better able to share supplemental learning materials like handouts and worksheets that facilitate student learning.

Microbiology: Microbiology faculty assess the subject area content, written communication, and critical inquiry performance of students.  Based upon historical data students seemed to lack strong critical inquiry abilities.  Two strategies were adopted during fiscal year 14 (FY14) in an effort to bolster students’ critical inquiry skills as assessed by our college-wide assessment tool.  First, since this is a lab-based science course, a capstone lab project was piloted in which students are given an unlabeled microbe and tasked with identifying the species using the skills they procured throughout the semester.  Second, the classroom format was shifted away from a lecture intensive approach to more student-centered learning activities.  After these adjustments were instituted the course-wide final exam average rose 3%, and the number of students scoring >70% on the critical inquiry portion of the final exam rose 20% over a three year period (FY12 - FY14).

General College Chemistry I: The Chemistry faculty embedded 3 questions on the topic of Intermolecular Forces into the cumulative final examination given to students. Analysis of the results of student performance on these questions (in several sections of the course at least 40% of students answered the questions incorrectly) led the faculty to conclude that students were not developing an understanding of the concept of Intermolecular Forces or the role they play in physical properties of substances. The faculty decided to add a laboratory exercise to the curriculum where students would actively engage in experiments involving the effect of Intermolecular Forces on the behavior of differing compounds. This laboratory will be included in all Chemistry 111 classes beginning in the Fall 2014 semester. 





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