2017 Degree-Level Assessment Award Winner

Germanic Languages and Literatures Undergraduate Program

Lorie Vanchena, Nina Vyatkina and Ari Linden of the department of Germanic Languages and Literatures accepted the degree-level award from Stuart Day, vice provost for academic affairs.

The Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures won this year’s degree-level assessment award, which comes with a $5,000 grant that can be used to support a wide array of future assessment-related activities. The German department focused its plan on two 300-level courses that serve as a gateway to the major, and on its capstone course. Stuart Day, vice provost for academic affairs, said the University Academic Assessment Committee, which oversees the award, found the plan thorough, manageable and meaningful. It is one of the strongest assessment plans in place at the university, he said. It emphasizes substantive learning outcomes, uses a variety of methods for assessment, and includes a plan for making ongoing improvements.

At their SLS plenary presentation, Lorie Vanchena and Ari Linden spoke of a number important aspects of the successful study of student learning. First, there were multiple members of their department who lent a hand with assessment efforts, which both divides up the work of assessment and also broadens the scope of its inquiry. Second, they noted several sources of vital institutional support, including the chair of their department, Nina Vyatkina, as well as in-person consultations with the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) and the Center for Online and Distance Learning (CODL).

They also drew on readymade rubrics and other assessment materials from the Goethe Institute and the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages; that is, when the prospect of applying a metric to student work became complicated, they looked to extant support materials from the broader discipline of German studies. Finally, they noted their faculty's willingness to troubleshoot and revise assessment plans, especially when the workload became too onerous. They spoke of the virtues of not being overly ambitious when it comes to assessment: better to drill down in great detail on the examination of a few student learning outcomes than get overwhelmed by the prospects of a complete program review. 

Most importantly, German "closed the loop" on assessment: having collected, analyzed, and interpreted the data, they found themselves well-positioned to make actual changes to their courses and curriculum. These revisions included both course-based changes -- such as which materials to emphasize and how to stage extended writing assignments -- as well as broader, cross-course revisions -- such as reinforcing the bridge between 300-level and 500-level courses in an effort to make sure that students enter their capstone course well-prepared for the rigor of senior-level level in German.

Read more about the department's efforts in their own words.

This write-up is based, in part, on Doug Ward's coverage of the 2017 SLS: http://cteblog.ku.edu/three-things-that-help-create-a-great-assessment-plan/

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