SUNY’s General Education Assessment “Tips” for Closing the Loop and Frequently Asked Questions
What is “Closing the Loop” as it relates to the assessment of student learning?
Closing the Loop, or CTL, refers to a wide variety of outcomes and actions that result from an institution’s review and consideration of student learning outcomes assessment data. Critical to this process is that these revisions are made on the basis of qualitative and quantitative data that are gathered systematically, not on the basis of anecdotal evidence or intuition. CTL outcomes and actions tend to fall into the following categories:
Making Improvements to Teaching, Courses, or Curricular Programs
Most often, CTL refers to mechanisms through which involved faculty/staff make changes to courses, instruction, or programs based on their review of assessment data.(1) A fuller discussion and examples of this CTL category are provided below in Question 5.
Disseminating Assessment Results to Appropriate Members of the Campus Community
According to Middle States’ Characteristics of Excellence (2006), an institution should be able to provide evidence that student learning assessment information is shared and discussed with appropriate constituents so that there is a general understanding of student performance which can lead to either maintaining existing practices or recommendations for improvement. A fundamental part of this process is the development of a priori expectations for student performance on the assessment, so that it is clear the extent to which students have either met or not met standards.
In addition, institutions that have had particular success in the assessment of student learning have typically had mechanisms in place to assure a broader awareness and knowledge of assessment results, campus-wide discussion of those results, shared decision-making, and celebrating assessment successes. Of course, it is important to ensure that these results are reported and disseminated in such a way that individual faculty cannot be identified. Still, allowing the larger campus community access to assessment data provides important insights into how students are performing generally and can lead to valuable intra-institutional discussions on that performance and how it might be improved.
Evaluating and Revising the Assessment Process
It is also appropriate to use assessment results to evaluate – and revise as appropriate – the assessment process itself. In evaluating the assessment process, modifications may be considered that would improve the relevance and/or the effectiveness of the assessment.
Guiding the Planning and Implementation of Professional Development Activities
It is not unusual for academic departments and programs to realize as a result of the assessment process that faculty and staff responsible for delivering the curriculum could benefit from additional training or development opportunities. In some cases, these opportunities might involve activities related to the assessment of student learning. Or, they may focus on new pedagogical strategies intended to enhance the curriculum.
(1) Since SUNY campuses vary with respect to how many general education assessment rounds they have completed, CTL reports may focus on changes campuses have already made and assessed or changes they have made but not yet assessed.