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Artichokes Assess Learning!

SCC Assessment CycleA Focus on Teaching and Learning

The faculty and staff of Scottsdale Community College are devoted to continually improve the teaching and learning that occurs at SCC. A key component of this effort is our process of assessing student learning in our curricular and co-curricular programs and in our student services interactions. We believe that teaching and learning can be improved through a systematic and reflective process of assessment, driven by the faculty and staff who engage in teaching and learning with our students. Through this process, faculty and staff can design learning interventions focused on assessment results to improving the quality of teaching and learning at SCC.

What is Student Learning Outcomes Assessment (SLOA)?

Student Learning Outcomes Assessment is simply a process of measuring how well students have learned the particular outcomes and objectives that faculty or staff desire for their students to learn. As faculty and staff teach students, they expect that the students will learn specific knowledge, skills, or processes. Assessment helps to clarify how well students learn that knowledge or skill. The results of this assessment can then help identify the strengths and weaknesses in the learning so that the teaching can be adjusted to improve the learning outcomes.

Assessment Isn’t the Goal; Learning Is the Goal

SCC’s assessment of student learning process is designed to be focused on improving learning. We do not believe that doing assessment for the sake of assessment (checking a box) is valuable work. Instead, we engage in assessment as a way to improve the teaching and learning on campus. That is why we make sure that assessment efforts are led by the faculty and staff who do the teaching and learning. We encourage them to assess the learning outcomes that are important to them because they are then much more likely to use the results to improve teaching and learning.

Assessing to Improve vs. Assessing to Prove

Student learning assessment historically had been focused on proving to accrediting bodies whether our students learned what they are supposed to have learned. While accountability is certainly a valid issue, the measurement of these kinds of high-stakes outcomes has been riddled with problems, and the extreme focus on accountability has not necessarily provided any tangible improvements in learning outcomes. This has led to discussions by accrediting bodies as to the role of assessment in higher education (see this Inside Higher Education article: Harsh Take on Assessment… From Assessment Pros), with many now focusing on building assessment practices that fit the culture of the institution and are focused on the continuous improvement of teaching and learning.

Consistent with this shift, the goal of our assessment practice is to continuously improve the teaching and learning at SCC. Instead of focusing on trying to prove that one’s students are learning everything, we encourage faculty and staff to identify weaknesses in the teaching and learning. That way they can develop targeted improvements to their teaching to address the weaknesses in the learning. We have found that this focus has been instrumental in helping us “close the loop” in the assessment cycle because our faculty and staff are more likely to actually use their assessment results to create instructional interventions to improve student learning and support the institution’s learning outcomes.

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