Assessment project provides insights into student learning through the Common Hour

Every July, a new assessment cycle begins in the Division of Student Affairs. At this time, each of the 14 departments in Student Affairs proposes an assessment project, and 12 months later, each department submits a report with its final results. Assessment in Student Affairs is designed to determine if students are achieving the desired outcomes of departmental programs and services, if they are actively involved in the division’s programs and services, and if they have access to the resources they need to succeed at DePaul.

In 2016-2017, New Student and Family Engagement (NSFE) assessed student learning through the Common Hour portion of the Chicago Quarter program, one part of the First-Year Program at DePaul. Common Hour, a weekly component of fall Discover or Explore Chicago courses for first-year students, is taught by a team made up of a student mentor and staff professional. Lessons taught in Common Hour include the topics of diversity and privilege, consent, Campus Connect basics, career success tips, the university mission and academic success.

NSFE created and administered a pre- and post-Common Hour learning survey of 22 questions based on the various topics in Common Hour. Through this direct assessment of student learning, NSFE identified content areas students already had a solid foundation in, and areas that they demonstrated an increase in knowledge in through the post-Common Hour learning survey.

The pre- and post-survey data revealed that students started their Chicago Quarter with a good understanding of financial information, such as budgeting, student loans and basic functions in Campus Connect, but increased their knowledge of class registration, definitions of privilege and oppression, exploration of major and career options and academic success strategies. Based on these results, NSFE plans to modify the content of Common Hour to focus more on topics in which students had little knowledge, and less on topics that they already understood.

In addition to content, the survey revealed what types of classroom activities potentially contributed to increased learning. “Increases in growth and knowledge were related to lessons that had active learning and reflection pieces, like activities and discussions provided by the Chicago Quarter mentor and staff professional,” associate director of NSFE and project leader Toni Fitzpatrick says. “This is critical in designing a classroom’s environment, and aligns with best practice in teaching and learning.”

For more information about Common Hour or the Common Hour assessment project, contact Toni Fitzpatrick.​

​​​