Isothermal Community College

Institutional Assessment

Assessment Manual

Glossary

Assessment: (1) The College's Model for Assessment of Instructional Areas (2006) states that "Assessment is an ongoing, systematic process aimed at understanding and improving student learning. It involves making expectations explicit...; setting appropriate [thresholds]...; gathering, analyzing, and interpreting evidence to determine how well performance matches [the predetermined threshold]; and using the resulting information to...improve performance" (p. 1). For service areas, assessment is a similar ongoing process focused on identifying, measuring, analyzing, and modifying Program Goals. At the institutional level, assessment gauges the extent to which the institution achieves its mission and creates a common understanding of quality and improvement. (2) Assessment refers to a specific section on Part I of both the service and support and academic Assessment Plan Summary. In this sense, it refers to a tool used to generate data/results that can identify the actual Program Learning Outcome that is then compared to the predetermined threshold in order to determine whether modifications are needed. Assessment tools for service and support include surveys, reports, tracking logs, and minutes; in addition, academics can include portfolios, common test questions, and rubrics.

Assessment Plan Summary (APS), educational programs: A form that records each academic program’s Program Student Learning Outcomes by listing the program’s mission, graduate outcomes, assessment tools, location of back up data, and discussion plan (Part I). Lead Instructors submit it to department deans by the first day of classes in the fall. Part II of the APS is due at spring check out and records the assessment results, modifications, and approval signatures for the outcomes and associated assessments outlined in Part I. This summary is in a uniform format that streamlines Institutional Effectiveness analysis.

Assessment Plan Summary (APS), service and support programs: A form that records the assessment cycle for all non-academic programs. It relates goals (or student learning outcomes), reviewers/councils, assessments, location of back up data, and discussion plan (Part I); it is submitted to the appropriate member in June. Part II of the APS is due the following year and records the assessment results, modifications, and approval signatures for the outcomes and associated assessments outlined in Part I. This summary is in a uniform format that streamlines Institutional Effectiveness analysis.

Assessment Tools: Gathers evidence about student learning based on student performance that demonstrates the learning itself. Examples in the classroom are written assignments, classroom assignments, presentations, test results, projects, logs, portfolios, and direct observations. Examples in other areas are service logs, sign in sheets, satisfaction surveys, and outside audits, 

Capstone Course: A culminating experience, specifically a course at Isothermal, which allows students to synthesize classroom learning and informal knowledge in preparation for college transfer or entry into a career.

College Council: The College Council is a recommending body to the President with the expressed purpose of increasing communication and collaboration among the various areas of the College. College Council reports on activities and initiatives to keep the college community informed and to provide input as needed. See "College Council" in the "Governance of College" section of the Learning College Manual for a listing of appointed members.

Department Analysis Report: An annual report written by a College Council member that follows the outline described in this manual in the Departmental Learning Outcome section.

Educational Programs: The College has designated two different reporting units that use different APS forms: (1) Educational Programs and Service and Support Programs. An Educational Program is each educational degree (including associates, certificates, and diplomas) offered at the College. Educational Programs and Service & Support Programs use different APS forms to for SACS reporting purposes. The forms’ significant difference is between the use of “goals” for service and “outcomes” for academics. See Service & Support Program.

General Education Competencies: Students who complete Isothermal programs are expected to be able to function effectively as contributing citizens of our society. Our programs, regardless of their content areas, are designed to enable graduates to achieve the general education competencies. The required skills are technology, presentation, written communication, information literacy, quantitative and critical thinking. Competencies are evaluated at both the institutional and program level.

Graduate Essay: A reflective essay written by students in the capstone course. The essay asks students to use their collected artifacts to reflect on their personal growth, goals, commitment to life-long learning, and the value of the portfolio process. Students are expected to make specific references to their own artifacts and write a well-organized essay. The essay is graded for the course and then scored separately for institutional assessment purposes.

Institutional Benchmarks: Internal or external comparisons that are established and tracked by the President and the President’s Council annually to increase institutional effectiveness and connections between institution and program-level planning. External comparisons include the NCCCS Critical Success Factors and CCSSE Benchmarks. Internal comparisons include institutional survey results and statements from external reviewers, such as auditors. Benchmarks are often set at a standard and/or aspirational level. At Isothermal, each of the ten Vivid Descriptors in the Mission, Values, and Vision Statement has at least one institutional benchmark.

Institutional Effectiveness: The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ (SACS) definition is "the systematic, explicit, and documented process of measuring performance against mission in all aspects of an institution.” At Isothermal, assessment is often used to refer to both institutional effectiveness and the particular method used to assess a goal or outcome. See Assessment.

Lead Instructor: For academics. An instructor who is designated by a department’s dean to review and/or revise a particular degree's intended student learning outcomes, matrices, general education competency data, and actual student learning outcomes. The Lead Instructor submits Parts I & II of the Assessment Plan Summary to the appropriate dean.

Mission Statement: The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools defines mission statement as follows. "The mission statement is a comprehensive statement addressing all aspects of institutional function. It is important that the institutional mission statement be formally adopted, published, implemented, and made available to all the constituencies of the institution and to the general public. Because the statement describes what the institution does, it is the foundation for planning and assessment processes. These processes validate that the institution does what it claims and evaluates how well it fulfills its mission statement. The mission statement thus provides the basis and context for evaluating institutional effectiveness.”

Modification: Modification refers to a specific section on Part II of the Assessment Plan Summary. In the modifications section, the Program Leader or Lead Instructor lists by goal or student learning outcome the changes that will be made on all intended goals/outcomes that fall below the stated threshold. If no modifications are necessary, the Program Manager or Lead Instructor states that to be the case. The modifications are the final part of the assessment process begun the previous year and can be the beginning point for goals/outcomes set for the coming year. Recording program modifications on the APS Part II takes the place of the prior “Quality Improvement Documentation” form.

Planning Goals: Planning Goals are the desired and observable results for the department for the coming one to five years. When stating department goals, deans and directors make clear connections between the stated goals and the Budget Request form and Vivid Descriptors. Planning Goals are a continuation from the past assessment reporting plan.

Portfolio: Portfolio is an assessment tool that collects student work over time as a means of allowing instructors, lead instructors, and students to determine the growth and/or level of learning. Portfolios can be collected at the course-level, program-level, and general education competency-level. Rubrics and reflective essays are additional assessment tools that are used to assess the collected artifacts.

President's Council: The President’s Executive Council includes all direct reports to the President and meets twice monthly. The Council reviews and discusses organizational issues and each member shares updates from his/her area of responsibility.

Program Goal, actual: For service and support. An actual Program Goal is what the results or data from the assessment tool(s) determined to actually be accomplished. The actual Program Goal is stated with its paired threshold in the Results section on Part II of the APS. If the actual Program Goal level is below the predetermined threshold, the Program Manager determines a modification.

Program Goal, intended: For service and support. An intended Program Goal states how the program plans to implement its mission. It is stated in verb form and should describe an intended impact that can be measured by an assessment tool. Program Goals are listed on Part I of the Service and Support Assessment Plan Summary. Each program should have 3-5 goals listed on Part I of the APS. Of those listed, at least two, preferably all, should note a direct connection to one or more of the Vivid Descriptors by adding VD# at the end of the goal.

Program Indicators: For educational programs. Program Indicators are a marker of program effectiveness that shapes each academic program's outcomes; they are in addition to Program Student Learning Outcomes. Program Indicators provide a program-level report card using full-time to part-time instructor ratio and graduation and retention rates. Program Indicators tie directly into the fulfillment of a Vivid Descriptor. Voluntary Program Indicators include transfer rate, job placement, aggregate course evaluation data, and licensure passing rates. The Lead Instructor and Dean review and discuss the standard report provided by the Office of Assessment, Planning, and Research, considers additional indicators, and the dean reports modifications for any indicators below the predetermined threshold in the Department Analysis Report.

Program Leader: (For service & support programs) A staff member who is designated by the appropriate President or College Council member to review and/or revise a particular area's goals. The Program Leader submits Parts I & II of the Assessment Plan Summary to the appropriate President or College Council member.

Program Student Learning Outcome, actual: For educational programs. An actual student learning outcome (SLO) is what the results or data from the assessment tool(s) determined to actually be accomplished. The actual SLO is stated with its paired threshold in the Results section on Part II of the APS. If the actual SLO level is below the predetermined threshold, the Lead Instructor determines a modification.

Program Student Learning Outcome, intended (PSLOi): For academics. Intended Program Student Learning Outcomes are concise verb statements that complete the sentence: "Graduates will be able to…" Each degree should have 5-9 PSLOi listed on Part I of the APS.

Results: Results refers to a specific, concise section on Part II of the Assessment Plan Summary. In this section, the assessor lists the results of the data collection (the actual Program Learning Outcome) by assessment tool (survey, log, test questions, etc.) and compares them to the predetermined threshold. These statements become the basis for modification statements.

Service & Support Program: The College has designated two reporting units that use different APS forms. Three types of units use the Service & Support APS form. These unit types are: (1) Academic & Student Support, (2) Administrative Support, and (3) Community/Public Service. Reporting units are as follows:

  • Academic & Student Support units include: Academic Development, College Liaison for High School Programs, Educational Technologies, Learning Support and Retention, Library, and Student Services Administrative Support units include: Assessment, Planning, and Research; Bookstore; Business Office; Grant Writing; Human Resources; Information Technologies; Marketing and Community Relations; Plant Operations and Maintenance; President’s Office; and TALC
  • Community/Public Service units include: Continuing Education; Customized Training and Development; Polk Center; Small Business Center; The Foundation for Learning and Performing Arts; and WNCW
  • Educational Programs and Service & Support Programs use different APS forms for SACS reporting purposes. The forms’ significant difference is between the use of “goals” for service and “outcomes” for academics. However, when a service or support area does have a student learning outcome, the form may be adjusted. See Educational Program

Threshold, programmatic: A threshold is a predetermined level of expectation set to determine whether an intended Program Student Learning Outcome, Program Goal, or Student Learning Outcome has met or exceeded expectations. Thresholds are set at a level of adequacy and, therefore, set the minimal level of performance to maintain a goal or outcome without modification. If a threshold is met or exceeded for three years, it should be revised. A threshold is a program-level or course-level equivalent of an Institutional Benchmark. At the program level, thresholds are stated in conjunction with actual program outcomes in the Results section of Part II of the Assessment Plan Summary. If the actual outcome falls below the predetermined threshold, a modification should be stated on Part II of the APS.

Vivid Descriptors: Vivid Descriptors are the ten phrases found in the College Mission, Values, and Vision Statement (below); they break the mission statement into working units. Each Vivid Descriptor has at least one Institutional Benchmark.