West Texas A&M University

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Learning Assessment Discipline Specific Knowledge

Discipline Specific Knowledge (DSK)

Assessment of student learning in the discipline or major is the responsibility of the departments and units that offer academic programs. WTAMU’s academic programs have a wide range of educational objectives and hence a “one-plan-fits-all” assessment approach is inappropriate. However, exemplary program assessment plans generally incorporate some common elements:

  1. identification of learning outcomes for academic programs;
  2. a timetable for periodic assessment of students’ attainment of these learning outcomes;
  3. description of methods, which make use of existing academic milestones, processes, and resources as loci of assessment;
  4. events and processes that are embedded in the curricular experience and are valued and understood by faculty, staff, and students; and,
  5. an explicit assignment of responsibilities for assessment activities to an individual or a faculty committee that uses data findings in academic and curricular decisions.

Learning Assessment Reporting System (LARS)

All undergraduate and graduate degree program assessment reports are submitted via the Learning Assessment Reporting System (LARS). LARS is designed to coordinate the university-wide assessment of student learning by providing academic programs the opportunity to respond to each of the required program assessment components on an annual basis. The required components are aligned to the Learning Assessment Cycle and consist of the following:

  1. Program Mission Statement – Identifies the purpose of the program and its alignment with the departmental and University’s mission statement;
  2. Program Educational Objectives – Identifies career and professional objectives that the program prepares graduates to achieve including academic and nonacademic objectives to be assessed during the planning year;
  3. Program Learning Outcomes – Identifies measurable learning outcomes which describe what students can demonstrate upon program completion including academic and nonacademic outcomes to be assessed during the planning year;
  4. Methods and Criteria for Evaluation of Expected Learning Outcomes – Identifies how learning outcomes are evaluated and establishes the minimum performance standards necessary to achieve outcomes;
  5. Assessment Results – Provides results and analysis of qualitative and/or quantitative assessment data including a description of conclusions, significance and impact of results;
  6. Actions – Identifies actions taken where indicated as a result of the analysis of assessment results including a description of how the results are utilized to inform program improvement; and
  7. Closing the Loop Analysis – Identifies effectiveness of actions taken in response to assessment results and where indicated, modifications to previous actions implemented.

While academic programs complete assessment plans and reports annually, the University views ongoing assessment within a multi-year framework. The current assessment cycle began during the 2014-2015 academic year and runs through the 2017-2018 academic year, which is aligned to the University’s current Strategic Plan. This structure recognizes that several of the required components, including mission statement, objectives, and outcomes, may remain relatively stable over the span of several annual assessment cycles. Although carried forward from year-to-year in LARS, programs review these particular components during the planning phase each year to determine whether changes should be made based on findings generated from the previous annual assessment cycle.

The remaining required components distinguish the annual assessment cycle from the multi-year cycle. While the University expects programs to assess all SLOs using multiple measures over the course of the full multi-year assessment cycle, programs identify which specific learning outcomes will be assessed during each annual reporting cycle. Programs then specify which methods will be used to assess each SLO during that annual cycle and establish appropriate criteria for success. Once assessment data have been collected and analyzed, program faculty review results to determine which actions should be taken to address concerns found through the annual assessment process.