How do we know students are acquiring the knowledge and skills necessary to excel in their disciplines? The answer is assessment. To confirm DePaul is delivering the educational outcomes it promises to students, the university assesses student learning on an annual basis to pinpoint successes and target areas for improvement.
In 2012-13, student learning was assessed in 128 academic programs, according to Jennifer Sweet, associate director of the Office for Teaching, Learning and Assessment.
Ray Whittington, Driehaus College of Business dean, is a proponent of the process. “Looking at assessment through a strategic recruiting lens, we are able to provide students with evidence of the value a program has, and it gives prospective students evidence of why they should attend a particular program,” he said.
Not only is documenting learning a pledge DePaul makes to its students and to
its accrediting body, the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association, it is a major component of Vision 2018, the university’s strategic plan, which promotes enhancing academic quality as its priority goal.
Misty Johanson, Driehaus’ associate dean for academic quality, coordinates the assessment program in the College of Business. “Our faculty meet to discuss and take action when they see student performance that is outside our college’s parameters of success in student learning,” she said.
While all degree programs at DePaul participate in an annual process of assessing student learning, Driehaus must also meet requirements for its accrediting body, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. This year Driehaus examined student performance on 261 student learning outcomes tied to 42 goals across nine graduate master’s degree programs and the MBA. This process resulted in modifications to program curriculum related to any outcome in which at least 80 percent of students did not reach an outstanding or acceptable level.
Using the results of the assessment, the college’s Innovation Task Force created recommendations that led to a revision of the entire MBA core curriculum. Six existing courses were completely updated, and five newly designed courses were created. The modifications resulted in a core that is highly relevant to the business world and focuses on essential skills for all managers.
“The new core also has a much stronger focus on global issues, which are now infused throughout the core courses,” Whittington said. “Our capstone course was completely revised specifically to focus on global issues.”
Other adjustments made were:
• Giving students more opportunities to practice quantitative and qualitative analysis in their decision-making
• Enhancing global perspectives by assessing international business strategies, understanding international trade policies, identifying business risks in the global environment and recognizing the impact global issues have on management, and
• Delving deeper during class into such concepts as diversification and portfolio choice, identifying relevant consumer behavior, analyzing market opportunities and selecting appropriate marketing strategies.
Driehaus has a successful record of implementing curricular changes to achieve the desired effect. In 2008, after national headlines exposed business leaders who lacked ethical practices, the college gave greater emphasis to ethical awareness. Three learning modules focused exclusively on ethics have since been incorporated into the curriculum, ensuring every graduate student is taught about ethical business practices. After new course content was developed and faculty were given access to sample cases to use, student learning improved measurably in these areas.
Assessment is an ongoing process; programs can always be improved. That is the case in Driehaus, which is scheduled to undertake a rigorous review of its undergraduate program during the 2013-14 academic year.