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Assessment of Learning at Misericordia

At Misericordia University, assessment of learning occurs both inside and outside the classroom.  As an institution founded by the Sisters of Mercy, the University commits to developing the intellectual and cognitive as well as the personal and interpersonal capabilities of our students.  Embedded in the text below, you will find a demystification of why assessment of student learning is important, what it can be used for, as well as some tools, links, and noted book length discussions for where you might find more information and help.

Why formally assess student learning?

Teacher at board and student with laptop

As educators in the curriculum and the co-curriculum at Misericordia, you regularly engage in reflective practices centered on teaching and learning. A student focused perspective causes all of us to ask, did my students learn what I hoped that they would learn from whatever the event, course, or activity that presented my students with an opportunity to learn? While informal reflections on student learning are essential for improving learning opportunities for better student attainment, more systematic methods of collecting and evaluating evidence of learning provide an improved and more targeted method for comprehending a holistic view of your students’ learning as well as where and for whom improvement is essential, and where and for whom you might push harder for greater student achievement.  At Misericordia we look to continuously improve our teaching and students’ learning opportunities.

In addition to a student focused rationale for systematic assessment of learning, there is a distinct culture of accountability that our government and our accrediting bodies expect university personnel to acknowledge. Essentially the more formal promise keeping aspects of assessment of learning lead to these agencies mandating that higher education provide proof that students are learning as a result of your efforts. In this view, students as consumers pay for learning opportunities, assisted in the majority of circumstances with federal resources, and universities need to demonstrate that in return, students are learning and supported to achieve the goals that higher education at Misericordia promised them. Hence Misericordia and other institutions publish pass rates for licensure exams, track student acceptances into medical schools and graduate school, track employment, measure and report on student retention, attrition, and graduation, and in addition provide detailed evidence of student learning across all programs of study and the co-curriculum, and how programmatic improvement assists student achievement.

Both accountability and the student focused aspects of assessment are important in the 21st century university. Therefore, at Misericordia we agree to adhere to the following approach to determining the extent of our students’ learning in their programs of study.

Assessment Cycle
  1. Establish and assess learning outcomes for all student-facing academic and co-curricular programs, including support offered through student services, annually.  While all outcomes may not be assessed in a single year, programs will develop an assessment cycle that assures systematic evaluation of each outcome in a three to five-year cycle.
  2. Assure that program learning outcomes are aligned to the curriculum or divisional activities through mapping, and that signature courses, assignments, and activities that will best evaluate student learning, are selected for embedded programmatic assessment.
  3. Assess and Collect Data. Determine your assessment methodology by building aligned rubrics, mapping or blue-printing test questions, using pre-post testing to determine learning gains, or any other best practice method that suits your assessment goals.  Collect your data and develop a narrative report as well as complete data fields specified in our Assessment Management Software, currently Watermark Planning and Self-Study.
  4. Discuss your assessment results with all members of your department in order to better comprehend the challenges and successes of your students’ learning. Consider together what the results tell you about your curriculum, instruction, targets/benchmarks, and assessment processes. Develop action plans that will promote improvement in teaching and student learning within the program.  Understand that Misericordia is a small institution so that there may be a longitudinal multi-year collection of assessment results required before actionable change may be endorsed.
  5. Make curricular, pedagogical, or content improvements and re-assess.