Thursday, May 17, 2012

The BIG Question

posted by Shirlee Geiger and Michele Marden

Should all SACs address and assess all 6 of PCC's core outcomes?
PCC's Learning Assessment Council (LAC) will be making a recommendation to the college at the end of Spring quarter regarding our assessment process, and we would like to have a LOT of input from PCC stakeholders. We have held three 2-hour sessions to get input, as well as a number of shorter information-sharing meetings in TLCs and in the meetings of various groups. We are putting out a survey to all faculty. For those who would like more information before weighing in, here is some background:
 The survey will be available through may 2012 at: PCC BIG QUESTION Survey
Accreditation of the college requires faculty to assess students in two different ways:
1.        For continual program/discipline improvement of student learning
2.        For competency to ensure students have meet the course and degree outcomes

The faculty on the Learning Assessment Council decided to start with assessment for the purpose of continual program/discipline improvement, thinking this is what would matter most to instructors. After being told by the NWCCU (our accreditors) that we had to HURRY UP!! (in August 2010), we then asked CTE SACs (nursing, welding, bio-tech etc) to assess the outcomes of their degrees and certificates, after they have mapped them to the core outcomes. We hoped this would work for BOTH purposes of assessment.
LDC/DE SACs (history, philosophy, math, developmental ed) assess the Core Outcomes directly since the Core Outcomes are the basis of the college’s transfer degrees. Want a refresher on PCC's Core Outcomes:
? go to:

We have some concerns about whether our accreditors are going to be fully pleased with our process later on down the road.
Two Conflicts:
Conflict 1: Students who obtain a transfer degree, take a variety of LDC courses to obtain their degree. How can we be sure they have met the degree outcomes (ie, the core outcomes)?
Two possible solutions (perhaps there are more):
1.      The college may be able to make the argument to the accreditors that the LDC/DE SACs address and assess the transfer degree outcomes (ie, core outcomes) for continual improvement so broadly that students will be competent when they graduate. If so, we need LDC/DE SACs to incorporate most of the Core Outcomes. This is our current path.
2.     The college may decide to assess for competency in a different way. Options include a capstone course, a standardized exam before graduation, or a portfolio. With the impending Completion Contracts where college funding will based on graduation rates, putting additional barriers for graduation may not be in the best interest of the college financially. Also, do we deny graduation if a student fails?

Conflict 2: Assessment of a CTE program’s degree/certificate outcomes is easier to assess for competency since students take specified courses that address the degree/certificate outcomes that have been mapped to the Core Outcomes. However, some CTE programs do not have a degree/certificate outcome for one (or more) of the Core Outcomes and expect that the LDC/DE courses student are required to complete for their degree to meet the missing Core Outcome(s).

Three possible solutions (perhaps there are more):
  1. The college may decide that LDC/DE disciplines should meet CTE program needs. If so, we need the LDC/DE SACs to incorporate most of the Core Outcomes in their courses.

  2. The college may decide to take away the student’s freedom to pick the courses and they must take courses that fit the missing core outcomes. If so, students lose what many value about a college degree – development of the person for their individualized choices. Also, there is a danger that this type of marginalization of the core outcomes to specific LDC/DE courses would go against purpose of the Core Outcomes which are intentionally broadly defined so that they are applicable in many different ways for many different  programs/disciplines.

  3. The college may decide that the CTE programs need to have at least one degree outcome that would map to each of the core outcomes.
The faculty Learning Assessment Council is following the national lead of our union, insisting that we STAND AGAINST the "de-skilling" of the faculty role. At PCC, we have formed a strong partnership with our administration, who has trusted faculty to take the lead in ensuring quality education for our students through relevant and well-crafted LOCAL assessment of learning outcomes. This means faculty will need to stay informed of the changing accreditation requirements, and participate in shaping PCC's response to the swirling changes blowing through our sector of education, both nationally and internationally. Thank you for taking the time to think about this issue, and making sure your experiences and skills help shape the decision on these questions here at PCC.

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