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Assessment leads to Common Hour changes

Common Hour, part of the Chicago Quarter class that all first-year students are required take, is a key component of what New Student and Family Engagement does to ease student transition to DePaul and the city and support their persistence and success. Although some aspects of student learning through Common Hour has been assessed, it has never been looked at on a broad scale, across all 106 sections of the Chicago Quarter.  So New Student and Family Engagement set out to do just that through their 2016-17 annual assessment project.

Staff in New Student and Family Engagement designed pre- and post-tests to measure student learning related to Common Hour lessons. The test was based on Common Hour learning outcomes and posed questions based on Common Hour content. The pre-test was sent to students after they attended new student orientation, but before they started the fall quarter. By comparing the 281 pre- and post-test results, NSFE was able to hone in on learning related to Common Hour. 

The pre- and post-test comparison then allowed NSFE to determine which topics to spend less time on during Common Hour, which topics to continue teaching in the same way, and which topics might require more attention for deeper learning.  You can get more detailed information on the assessment project here.

Toni Fitzpatrick, associate director in New Student and Family Engagement, notes that the assessment project was aimed at strengthening the first year experience in order to support student persistence and success. “What we don’t want to do in Common Hour is teach students about things they already know,” says Fitzpatrick. “Instead, we want to thoughtfully build on what they know and then provide dedicated time and space to allow students to consider how they will be academically successful at DePaul.”

By freeing up time in the Common Hour curriculum, New Student and Family Engagement was able to add more content around academic success, including metacognition, grit, resilience and growth mindset. NSFE also built on two particular topics that students  appeared to have a solid basic understanding. “Students understand consent and harm reduction strategies for alcohol consumption, so we took that one step further and added conversations about student values related to relationships and substance use, and how those values might inform their choices,” Fitzpatrick says.

The assessment was conducted in conjunction with regular meetings and discussion among a faculty and staff stakeholder group. Those conversations, along with periodic assessment, will continue to inform the Common Hour curriculum in the coming years, in order to continue to ensure smooth transitions and to support student success. 

For questions about the assessment project or changes to the Common Hour, contact Toni Fitzpatrick​.