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Overview of Assessment Efforts 2001-2011

Advancing Learning Through Continuous Improvement

2001 Higher Learning Commission (HLC) Accreditation Review

The HLC conducted a site visit for the accreditation of the University of Colorado Denver in 2001. As a result of the visit, the Commission required a progress report from CU-Denver “on the program of assessment of educational outcomes.” This progress report was presented to the Commission on March 1, 2004.

Advancing Student Learning through Program-Level Assessment

In the nearly ten years since the last Higher Learning Commission accreditation review in 2001 in which the university was deemed weak in outcomes assessment, 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. By identifying learning outcomes, assessing how well students are performing for each of these outcomes, and then drawing on the information to inform program improvement, programs have been systematically using assessment for many years now as a vehicle for advancing student learning. Strategies since the last accreditation review have included creating policies and procedures, forming academic assessment committees with representatives from each school and college, hiring an assessment director to conduct workshops and guide programs in strengthening their outcomes assessment systems, and requiring programs and schools/colleges to prepare annual reports describing their assessment results and program improvements.

Director of Assessment

Demonstrating its commitment to the outcomes assessment effort, the university established the position of Director of Assessment in 2005, first on a part-time basis and then full time in the last two years. The director has aimed 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.

Academic Assessment Committees

The two academic assessment committees, one on the Denver Campus and one on the 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.

Annual Program-Level Assessment Reports

Programs across both campuses of the university have been documenting their assessment practices and results through annual assessment reports to the university’s outcomes assessment committees for many years now. Some of these prgorams have been reporting on their assessment and program improvement processes to their specialized accrediting organizations as well. In these reports, programs describe the results of their assessments of student learning and how they have used the assessment information to guide program improvement decisions. Over the last five years in particular, increasing numbers of programs have been systematically documenting their assessment results in these reports, with one hundred percent of the programs across both campuses submitting reports to the university’s assessment committeeseach year.

Annual School and College-Level Assessment Reports

As well, beginning in 2008-2009, each school/college has been preparing an annual school/college report describing its efforts and results around outcomes assessment. These school/college reports are intended to capture activities and accomplishments that typically are not reflected in the individual program reports.

Assessment of General Education

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 cross-cutting approaches. A four-year project (The General Education Assessment Project) to re-conceptualize the learning outcomes in the core and collect assessment data each year is underway. In addition, the university has been assessing student preformance for a subset of general education learning outcomes, such as critical thinking and written communication, through ETS Proficiency Profile (formerly the MAPP), ond of the three standardized assessments recommended by the Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA). As well, through its participation in the Foundations of Excellence, 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 program effectiveness in general education.  

Assessment of Graduate PhD Education                                                                              Graduate PhD programs on the conslidated Denver Campus and the Anschutz Medical Campus follow the same reporting format in their annual assessment reports and have been submitting annual assessment reports since August 2009.

Accreditation Review 2011                                                                                                      The university passed the re-accreditation review with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools in April 2011. In the area of assessment specifically, the university met all the accreditation requirements, but was given a recommendation to deepen and extend its assessment of learning in the general education program. In response the university launched a four-year project (The General Education Assessment Project), involving forty plus faculty members, to strenghthen the assessment of learning in the core curriculum.

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