Assessment and Accreditation
The University of Colorado Denver was re-accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools following its April 2011 accreditation review. In the area of assessment specifically, the university met all accreditation requirements. In support of this effort, the university has put in place assessment policies and procedures, formed academic assessment committees with representatives from each school and college, appointed an assessment director to conduct workshops and guide programs in strengthening their outcomes assessment systems, and required programs and schools/colleges to prepare annual assessment reports describing their student assessment results and program improvements.
The university has been actively working to build a culture of assessment and continuous improvement at the program level to advance teaching and learning, and to improve program quality. Each program identifies key learning outcomes, assesses how well students are performing for each of these outcomes, and then draws on the information to inform program improvement. All academic programs, including PhD graduate programs, systematically use assessment as a vehicle for advancing student learning. Some of these programs report on their assessment and program improvement processes to their specialized accrediting organizations as well. One hundred percent of the 130+ programs across both campuses submit reports to the university’s assessment committees each year.
Assessment of undergraduate learning regularly takes places within academic programs as part of the program improvement process. More recently, there have been efforts to assess student performance in the general education core across programs through a variety of approaches. A four-year project begun in fall 2011, the General Education Assessment Project, is aiming to re-conceptualize the learning outcomes in the general education core and collect curriculum-embedded assessment data for each outcome in each core area. In addition, the university has been assessing student performance for a subset of cross-cutting general education learning outcomes, such as critical thinking and written communication, through the ETS Proficiency Profile, one of the three standardized assessments approved by the Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA). As well, through its participation in the Foundations of Excellence project, the university conducted an analysis of assessment practices related to the first-year experience and undergraduate learning. The combination of these approaches, along with the assessment of learning within academic programs, provides a useful picture of learning and an opportunity for improvement in the general education core program.
The two assessment committees, one on the CU Denver Campus and one on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, have taken the lead in establishing policy, guiding decisions, and informing colleagues about the value and requirements associated with accreditation and assessment more broadly.
The Director of Assessment works to strengthen the culture of assessment in a number of ways, such as giving written feedback to more than one hundred programs a year on their annual assessment reports, conducting workshops for faculty, offering information sessions for variety of audiences on assessment-related topics, consulting with the provost and other administrators on assessment-related issues, writing assessment-related grants, publishing scholarly articles on assessment with faculty and administrators, supervising the standardized testing of undergraduates, chairing the assessment committee meetings, staying abreast of accreditation requirements, and serving on university accreditation-related committees. The university provides a budget to the director for these activities.