2018 Degree-Level Assessment Award Winner

This year, graduate programs applied for the award and the field was quite strong. Indeed, it was so strong that, for the very first time, KU elected to award a second honorable mention.

This year’s winning department for excellence in degree-level assessment at the graduate level goes to the master’s and doctoral programs in the Department of Linguistics. Their annual report read like a proseminar in the best practices of assessment. The department relies on a mixture of both indirect and direct methods to triangulate their understanding of student learning across the curriculum. That is, the department draws on rubric evaluations of major milestone assignments, in-class performance indicators, and student surveys of their own impressions of the program and its training. When the department identifies something eye-catching through any of these methods, they are able to compare the results across metrics and pinpoint targeted revisions to their curriculum in response.

Although the departmental leadership centrally steers this data collection and analysis procedure, the true virtue of Linguistics’ approach to assessment rests in its homegrown AssessFest. Each year, the AssessFest brings together all of their faculty to review a wide range of assessment data, discuss its implications for student learning, and chart paths for future assessment work. This year, in particular, the discussion led to the development of new rubrics that will be applied at formative stages in their students’ progression through the degree programs as well as the introduction of new required courses to fill holes in their master’s students’ curriculum.

In addition, the department articulated an ambitious intent to begin tracking their students’ performance over time such that they will be able to discuss growth and change in student comprehension and learning. Capturing this temporal aspect of student development in assessment is an intricate task, but we had a strong sense that the department was well-positioned to take this next step.

This year’s honorable mention for excellence in degree-level assessment at the graduate level goes to the Master of Public Administration with the School of Public Affairs. The MPA program identified multiple learning outcomes to study this year -- some of which were simple comprehension of core materials -- and others of which dealt with more complex synthetic and creative thinking. A faculty committee oversaw the implementation of course-embedded rubrics across roughly 10 core courses in their curriculum. Instructors were allowed to select their own assignments and develop their own rubrics so long as they dealt with the program-level learning outcomes. This broad involvement of multiple faculty in the review of student learning led to the collection of 438 data points across 85 individual students. The faculty members in charge of teaching the graduate core courses met in May to discuss the results and identified three specific opportunities for course revisions. We were impressed with the MPA program’s approach because it involved several members of the faculty; allowed for both centralized data analysis and decentralized agency on the part of instructors; painted a broad picture of the different aspects of their curriculum; and led to concrete revisions in multiple core courses.


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February 25, 2022

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