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Message from Dr. Kerry Fulcher, Provost and Chief Academic Officer

 

                Welcome to the PLNU's academic assessment site.  PLNU is committed to the continuous improvement of our academic programs by aligning our curriculum to the highest national standards in the respective academic discipline, annually assessing the gains in student learning, and making programmatic adjustments in order to achieve and exceed student success.  PLNU student learning and assessing the quality of the education we provide are central to our academic culture.  In the documents and pages you are invited to explore you will experience firsthand the serious commitment faculty have to the continuous improvement of their student learning outcomes, courses, curriculum, and programs.    

                PLNU has a three year cycle of assessment where student learning (Learning Outcomes) is assessed in the appropriate course, assessment results analyzed, and adjustments and improvements to curriculum made.  This full cycle from planning, assessment and improvement is commonly called "Closing the Loop" and is represented in the Assessment Cycle for each academic unit and program. Academic assessment begins with identifying the central mission of the academic program and the careful examination of the academic unit's alignment with and contribution to the University mission.  The academic unit mission focuses the faculty and staff resources on those unique Missional objectives the faculty have identified for their programs. 

                The second area of focus is the Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) that faculty identify as key to the student's academic experience.  These Learning Outcomes are measured and compared with national standards or other external benchmarks, where appropriate, in addition to internal assessments of learning achievements using locally derived instruments.  Student Learning Outcomes is the broad category of the specific knowledge and skills students are expected to acquire to prepare them professionally and for graduate school.  There are several levels of interlocking Student learning Outcomes.  Beginning at the highest level are the Institutional Learning Outcomes which all curricular and co-curricular programs contribute to and support.  The second level is the Department Learning Outcomes specific to that academic discipline such as the School of Nursing or Department of Art and Design.  In addition, each academic major has Program Learning Outcomes which identify what students will know and be able to do in their chosen discipline upon graduation.  The Program Learning Outcomes also support the Department and Institutional Learning Outcomes.  Finally, each course has specific Course Learning Outcomes aligning the course to achieving the specific Program Learning Outcomes. 

                The third area is the Curriculum Map that identifies each of the courses required for the major and the Learning Outcomes for the program.  Outcomes are embedded in courses and are mapped across the whole curriculum and faculty identify where a specific learning outcome will be introduced, further developed and finally mastered.  All Program Learning Outcomes are assessed at the mastery level and in many cases will also be assessed at different formative stages during the program.  The assessment of these Learning Outcomes forms the body of Evidence that faculty use to identify where the curriculum needs to be improved or strengthened. 

                Once the faculty identifies the specific courses where learning outcomes will be assessed, then a multi-year assessment plan, based on the three-year assessment cycle, is developed identifying where and when each Learning Outcome will be assessed and what assignments and rubrics will be used.  Rather than rely on a single assessment instrument, each Learning Outcome will be assessed in multiple ways.  Direct measures of assessment may include student performing a skill or testing for specific knowledge identified in the Learning Outcomes. Indirect measures might include opinion surveys or student reflections.  These various assessment assignments or surveys will be identified in the assessment plan and modified as required. 

                Evidence of students' learning the specific Program Learning Outcomes will include a wide range of assessment activities.  For example, in the Department of Art and Design will include a student's art work, in the School of Business a professional portfolio is a rich source of assessment information, in the Department of Biology a student's performance on the national Major Field Test is a key piece of assessment information, and in the School of Theology a student's ability to prepare and delivery a sermon are all direct assessments of the Learning Outcomes appropriate to the disciplinary field.   

                The final "closing the assessment loop" stage, is how the assessment evidence and process inform the faculty in making curricular changes to improve the academic program.  Based on evidence derived through assessment, new programs and courses have been created and some deleted.  For example, the School of Education strengthened its growing Special Education concentration by creating a new Master of Arts in Special Education embedding the Clear Credential and Added State Authorizations in Special Education.  There are numerous examples how evidence derived from a well developed culture of assessment has led PLNU to maintain excellence in all of its academic programs.

                In the Center of the Assessment Wheel, each academic unit displays examples of student and faculty life that make their program both unique and a vital learning community.  We hope you enjoy the hours and hours of work by students, faculty, and staff represented here.  The Assessment Wheels are continuously updated as new assessment information is gathered.  So come back again and again to learn about improvements underway.  We invite you to explore and always look forward to your suggestions.