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What We've Learned About Curricular Changes Resulting From Assessment



As the examples of student achievements illustrate, outcomes assessments help units affirm things in their curricula and courses that are going well. They also help identify things that are not going so well, and often suggest the kinds of changes that might be needed. About half of the units doing serious outcomes assessment (and about 40% of all units reporting) have identifed areas for improvement. Seniors' performance in some areas may not be up to the faculty's expectations, or other aspects of the data may suggest changes that would strengthen the unit's undergraduate program. Almost all of these units have either acted on this information with changes in the undergraduate curriculum or teaching practice, or have planned future changes.

Assessment can affect curricula in several ways:
  • Courses, faculty, and specialty areas can be added, removed, or affirmed.

  • Individual course structures or teaching methods can be changed or affirmed.

  • What courses are required and the way they are sequenced can be changed (e.g. for more flexibility or better prerequisite flow) or affirmed.

  • Opportunities for students outside of required courses, such as independent study or internship possibilities, can be added, changed, or affirmed.

Examples:

Adding new courses, faculty, and specialty areas
  • Senior Mathematics majors' performance in the modern algebra subarea of the ETS Major Field Achievement Test (MFAT) was good but weaker than their performance in other subareas. In addition, the MFAT's questions suggested that mathematics majors at other institutions were studying more modern algebra than the CU-Boulder program required. The faculty have added a required upper-division modern algebra course.

  • Senior Sociology majors' performance in the methodology and statistics subarea of the MFAT was not as strong as performance in some other areas. The faculty have strengthened the methods and statistics requirement of the undergraduate major with a three-semester methods sequence.

Changing individual course structures or teaching methods

  • On exit surveys, Chemistry/Biochemistry students reported that they valued hands-on experiences in advanced labs and independent study courses. As a result, more experiments were added in lower-division courses to provide more and earlier hands-on experiences.

  • In response to early assessment results, Classics faculty added more sight-reading exercises in introductory Latin and Greek courses. As a result, translation grades in those courses rose noticeably.

  • Communication faculty members examined each others' course syllabi and assignments to help create a highly integrated curriculum, and have been visiting each others' classes on a regular basis.

Changing what courses are required and the way they are sequenced
  • Geological Sciences exit interviews and surveys indicated that seniors wanted more flexibility in the curriculum. As a result the curriculum was restructured to include more options.

  • Faculty reviews of Theatre and Dance senior seminar essays and results on faculty-developed diagnostic exams showed that students were not as well prepared as faculty expected them to be in theatre history or dramatic literature. The faculty revised the sequence of courses in these areas and now emphasize them in the senior seminar.

Additional opportunities can be provided for students
  • As a result of Chemistry/Biochemistry students' desire for more hands-on experiences, the faculty now more vigorously encourage students to do independent study. As a result the number doing independent studies has increased by 60%.

More details and more examples are in the individual unit summaries.

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Last revision 06/02/04


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