Mason Core Assessment
Assessment is the systematic process of collecting, evaluating, and using information to determine if and how well performance matches learning or service expectations. The purpose of assessment is to use the results to inform meaningful dialogue and decision-making about how the university can improve its programs and services to support student success and institutional effectiveness.
At Mason, assessment of academic programs is the responsibility of faculty and is administered by the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Planning (OIEP). Mason’s assessment efforts are guided by the belief that student learning is enhanced in classrooms in which instructors use best practices for collegiate teaching and learning. As such, partnerships with Mason’s Stearns Center for Teaching and Learning and OIEP facilitate faculty development activities to encourage best practices in curriculum development, student learning outcomes, assignment design, and learning assessment.
Student Learning Outcomes
Student learning outcomes are broad goals that reflect the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and habits of mind that students take with them from a learning experience. Learning outcomes for Mason Core categories are established by faculty, led by the Mason Core Committee. Faculty members who teach Mason Core courses are expected to incorporate the learning outcomes in their courses, in addition to course- or discipline-specific learning outcomes. These learning outcomes then serve as the basis for learning outcomes assessment for each of the categories.
At the end of each semester, we collect course materials from instructors who are teaching Mason Core courses in the area being assessed. Instructors are contacted directly and provided instructions and a link to submit their course materials for assessment. Course materials include items such as the following:
- Assignment description(s)
- Sample of de-identified student work
The assignment(s) should align with the student learning outcomes for the Mason Core area. Course materials are de-identified before being reviewed and rated with the respective rubrics. Findings are summarized and reported in aggregate across each Mason Core area; they do not individually reflect any course, instructor, or student.
Mason Core areas are divided into four groups for staged implementation of the assessment cycle. The assessment cycle for each Mason Core group is four years long and consists of three phases: Collect Data, Assess / Share Findings, and Reflect / Refine Practices.
Please visit OIEP for details pertaining to the category groups and the timeline of each group’s assessment cycle.
Use of Assessment Results to Improve the Course and/or Curriculum
Assessment helps shed light on how students are performing on learning outcomes. The goal is to identify what is going well and consider how to further support student learning where it is needed. The focus is on improving student learning. We accomplish this by mapping learning experiences at the course level to overarching Mason Core learning outcomes. The process is intended to be formative and reflective. Findings offer faculty members the opportunity to consider what may be working well and what could be refined in their courses to improve student performance on the learning outcomes. Assessment is not meant to be punitive or directive; rather, it is a chance to see how students are doing, explore potential learning disparities, make meaning of the findings, and discover ways to better align student experiences in the classroom with the overarching Mason Core learning outcomes.