Fall 2011, Number 2

Assessment Newsletter

This newsletter is intended to:

  • Share key assessment findings
  • Promote the use of assessment information
  • Provide updates on assessment-related efforts

Spring 2011 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE)

47% of Gettysburg first-year students and seniors participated. Gettysburg participate rate exceeded that of all comparison groups. Findings suggest many distinctive strengths of Gettysburg College in terms of student engagement as measured by five Benchmarks, especially based on seniors' self-reports. In particular, Gettysburg Benchmark Scores for seniors are significantly higher than those of Selected Peers on four out of Five Benchmarks: Level of Academic Challenge, Active & Collaborative Learning, Enriching Educational Experience, and Supportive Campus Environment. On the remaining Benchmark (Student-Faculty Interaction), no significant difference was found between Gettysburg seniors and Selected Peers. Regarding first-year students, there was no significant difference between Gettysburg Score and that of Selected Peers on any of the Five Benchmarks.

More specifically, compared with selected Peers, Gettysburg seniors (and sometimes first-year students as well) are more engaged or responded more positively in the following areas under the Benchmarks: amount of academic writing, coursework emphasis on higher-order thinking skills, faculty expectations of academic effort, service learning as part of a course, frequency of class presentations and collaborative learning, course-related interactions with faculty, enrichment through foreign language coursework and senior capstone, institutional support for social success and for coping with non-academic responsibilities. Gettysburg scored lower than Selected Peers in two areas: (1). Interaction with peers from different racial/ethnic backgrounds; (2) quality of academic advising and quality of relationships between first-year students and faculty. Read More

HEDS Senior Survey

94% participated in the 2011 graduating senior survey. Gettysburg results are substantially more positive than those of the peer group in the following areas:

  • Enhancement of ability to read or speak a foreign language, to use quantitative skills, to evaluate the role of science and technology in society, and to use computers.
  • Satisfaction level with the quality of course instruction in business.
  • Satisfaction level with with student government and student voice in policies.
  • Satisfaction level with financial aid package, student union facilities and programs, student housing, food services, student health services, and recreation/athletics facilities and programs.

Gettysburg seniors reported a noticeably lower satisfaction level with ethnic/racial diversity, less frequent diverse peer interactions, and a lower degree of enhancement in their ability to relate well to people of different races/nations/religions.

In comparison with the 2010 results, one of the major improvements is that an increasing percentage of seniors recognize faculty as the most helpful source in understanding the four Goals of the Gettysburg Curriculum. Read More

Do Course Syllabi Matter?

In Spring 2011, COLA Chair Jack Ryan invited each department to collect syllabi and asked summer assessment coordinators to review them using a common rubric (developed by Bruce Larson & Kevin Wilson) which contains the following 5 criteria:

--Syllabus clearly and explicitly states student learning outcomes: 84% completely or partially met this criteria.

--Syllabus makes expectations of students clear and explicit: 98% completely or partially met this criteria.

--Course assignments serve as reasonable means of advancing course goals: 99% completely or partially met this criteria.

--Syllabus explicitly links the course to department/major goals: 43% completely or partially met this criteria.

--Syllabus explicitly links the course to College Curricular Goal(s) (if applicable): 30% completely or partially met this criteria.

Compared with a similar study conducted in spring 2008, the results improved on all criteria except for the last one: Link to the 4 College Curricular Goals.

Capstone Experience: How Well Did Students Learn?

In December 2010, a COLA subcommittee (Jack Ryan, Jonelle Pool, David Powell, Suhua Dong) conducted a study of student achievement of the Integrative Thinking Goal in the Capstone Experience. 12 faculty members (representing 9 departments) teaching a capstone course/seminar participated in the study.

Key findings: (1). Overall, capstone instructors' course objectives are aligned with the intended core outcomes for the Integrative Thinking Goal articulated by COLA. (2). Some aspects of the Integrative Thinking Goal receive more emphasis than other aspects in capstone classes. Instructors place the most emphasis on "Producing work that synthesizes content, methods, and unique perspectives of the major discipline" and "Producing work that demonstrates quantitative, inductive, or deductive reasoning." (3). The great majority of students achieved all the expected outcomes.

Did you know......

♦ The job placement rate for our graduates remains strong: Over 90% of alumni reported being employed or attending graduate school within a year after graduating (Class of 2009: 94%; 2010: 92%). 25%~26% reported attending graduate school full time. (Source: One-Year Out Alumni Survey; visit Facts & Figures for more information)

♦ You can find out more about the characteristics and experiences of Gettysburg students and faculty from findings from surveys, and other academic and co-curricular assessment resources.

Call for Submissions

Did your department recently use any assessment practice which you find very useful? If so, you are encouraged to share your practice through this newsletter. Email Suhua Dong, Associate Director of Institutional Analysis, for submissions or questions.

Program-Level Assessment: What are the Common Practices?

Are students achieving the intended learning outcomes in their major? Are the classroom environments and processes maximizing student learning? One way to determine this is to evaluate student performance in their senior capstone. What are the additional approaches? During summer 2011, COLA Chair Jack Ryan invited departments to share their assessment practices. Responses show that the top 5 program-level assessment practices are:  

  • Peer observation of teaching
  • Departmental review of major curricular offerings
  • Tracking the proportion of majors accepted into graduate school
  • Departmental surveys or interviews/focus groups with students /alumni
  • Departmental review of course syllabi

Read more

This newsletter is compiled by the Office of Institutional Analysis.


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Gettysburg, Pennsylvania