Step 6: Close the Loop

Once you have data and an assessment plan that include specific goals, you will need to analyze and report the data. What does the data tell you? What is the program doing effectively (what goals are you meeting)? What goals are you not meeting? MOST IMPORTANTLY—why are those goals not being met? Answering this question will help you close the loop! Some things to consider: are the percentages/goals you set too high? Did you collect sufficient data to explain what the problem might be? (Do you need a better assessment instrument to figure out why students aren’t performing as you hoped).

Once you have analyzed the data, how do you plan to learn from it and improve in the future? This is typically the most difficult step and typically where assessment breaks down. There are several factors that can lead to failure to complete this process some common ones include:

  • Incomplete definition of assessment
  • Trying to do too much or too complicated assessment
  •  Philosophical resistance
  • Conflict with other faculty duties
  •  Lack of leadership
  •  Poor/inadequate data collection

 

So, you have data. It needs to be interpreted. What does it tell you? What are the strengths, weaknesses and needs? Once you have done this, the question is how will you use this data to improve the program/course. What kinds of changes can you implement to get different outcomes? Who will implement and manage the changes? Will you alter the assessment plan in some way to either get better data to make the process more effective/ask better questions?

Why close the loop?

Assessment is worthless if you do not take the opportunity to use it as a tool for improvement. Here are some of the benefits:

  • Return on the investment of time you put in to create the assessment tool
  •  Improvement of learning
  • Stronger program/course
  • Happier, more successful students & employers
  • Better retention & graduation rates
  • More successful accreditation review
  • Shared campus understanding of mission, learning goals, and what is being done to achieve them

 

Here are some good short pieces on closing the loop:

http://www.changemag.org/Archives/Back%20Issues/2011/September-October%202011/closing-the-full.html

http://www.illinoisascd.org/pdfs/pdfs/Hot%20Topic%20PDF/Hot%20Topic%2042.pdf

 

“As David Bartholomae observes, ‘We make a huge mistake if we don't try to articulate more publicly what it is we value in intellectual work. We do this routinely for our students -- so it should not be difficult to find the language we need to speak to parents and legislators.’ If we do not try to find that public language but argue instead that we are not accountable to those parents and legislators, we will only confirm what our cynical detractors say about us, that our real aim is to keep the secrets of our intellectual club to ourselves. By asking us to spell out those secrets and measuring our success in opening them to all, outcomes assessment helps make democratic education a reality.”-Gerald Graff Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2008/02/21/graff#ixzz208sixMnQ Inside Higher Ed

 

Ultimately this cycle will repeat itself so that you use the data collected to revise your assessment plan for the next year.

 

 

Here is the part of the UCA CI-Process form you will need to complete for your program to document the data and how you are closing the loop:

CI Process Closing the Loop