Rooted in our commitment to ensuring academic excellence, UCLA has developed a framework for assessing educational effectiveness that has three distinct, but complementary focal points. The first focuses on the student, with specific emphasis on evaluating academic performance and understanding students’ perspectives on their educational experiences. The second attends to course-based instruction, incorporating new approaches and feedback mechanisms for evaluating teaching and learning. The third highlights program level considerations and is grounded in evaluating learning and performance indicators.
The strength of this framework lies in its broad applicability across UCLA’s diverse academic programs. Importantly, it offers a common structure for engaging faculty in meaningful dialogue about assessing learning and enhancing educational effectiveness. Simultaneously, it provides faculty with the flexibility essential for developing and sustaining effective, program-specific assessment and evaluation plans. Insights gained serve to enhance faculty’s ability to foster student development, inform instructional and curricular development, and ensure performance standards at levels appropriate for an elite research university.
At the undergraduate level, we recognize that students’ scholarly identities are often just beginning to emerge. UCLA is fortunate to have many outstanding teachers who are committed to facilitating students’ development as engaged learners and to enhancing effectiveness in undergraduate education. Like their counterparts at many other universities though, UCLA faculty have traditionally tended to talk very little with each other, or with their students, about learning and teaching. Today, however, our faculty is engaging in new dialogue about pedagogical priorities and practices. Together, they are establishing learning outcomes for their academic programs, communicating those expectations to students, developing plans for evaluating student performance, and considering how to use assessment findings to support curricular enrichment.
Through this work, the faculty is creating an enriched climate for learning and teaching that is student focused and outcomes based. As an academic community, we are building a broader and more explicit commitment to a process of inquiry and reflection that focuses on growth, renewal, and continuous improvement.
Refocusing on Programs: Evaluating Learning and Performance Indicators
UCLA has a longstanding commitment to understanding the undergraduate experience, and has long embraced the practice of using assessment data to facilitate improvement in teaching, research, and service. The campus also has a long-standing, rigorous Academic Program Review process. At the undergraduate level, however, prior to 2010, there were no common expectations for articulating or assessing “learning outcomes.” In response to new expectations, UCLA has adopted two approaches to working with departments and programs to document educational effectiveness for its 125 undergraduate degree-granting programs; one for those with capstone experiences and the other for those without capstone experiences.
This site focuses on outcomes assessment at the program level. For more information about UCLA’s student and course focused academic evaluation efforts, please visit the Center for Educational Assessment and the Center for the Advancement of Teaching .
ADDRESSING CORE COMPETENCY EXPECTATIONS
The current (2013) Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Handbook states that baccalaureate degree programs must “ensure the development of core competencies including, but not limited to, written and oral communication, quantitative reasoning, information literacy, and critical thinking” (p. 30). By Spring 2019, UCLA must be prepared to report on each of these competencies with respect to undergraduate student learning, providing (as may be potentially requested as part of the process) illustrative evidence of how those competencies are evaluated within and across majors, as well as how information gleaned through evaluative processes has been used to enhance undergraduate curricula and associated programming.
Toward addressing these new considerations, between October 2014 and February 2015, UCLA created an ad hoc Core Competencies Workgroup comprised of faculty, administrators, students, and alumni. The group’s charge was to make recommendations to the Senate with respect to how the campus: (a) should define the five “core competencies” and (b) can most effectively incorporate evaluating, and reporting on, those core competencies as part of our ongoing efforts to evaluate student learning outcomes within baccalaureate degree-granting programs.
Ultimately, workgroup members concurred that the new core competency evaluation and reporting expectations should be viewed as an opportunity to refine UCLA’s continuing efforts to incorporate outcomes-based assessment as a tool for understanding and enhancing student learning within academic programs and provided three sets of recommendations that were endorsed by the Senate in the fall of 2015. Those recommendations pertained to the critical importance of: (a) continued communication and collaboration with departmental faculty regarding evolving accreditation expectations and avenues for addressing associated requirements, (b) revising (prior to the 2015-16 academic year) current Senate Program Review guidelines to reflect new expectations (beginning with programs undergoing self study review in 2016) for integrating core competency considerations within the unit’s outcomes planning, evaluation, and reporting processes, and (c) sustaining commitment to understanding and enriching student learning by rewarding academic units that embrace innovative approaches to understanding and enriching student learning. (For additional information, please refer to the Core Competencies Workgroup Report ).
See also: Guidelines for Developing and Assessing Student Learning Outcomes for Undergraduate Majors