Winter 2013

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As you may recall, SIU Carbondale joined the Assessment Academy in 2009, prior to our 2010 institution-wide reaccreditation by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). During the pre-reaccreditation discussions, it became clear that one major weakness in our degree programs was assessment. We realized we needed to create a culture of transformative inquiry into student learning on campus, but we lacked the expertise to accomplish this goal.  For these reasons, we decided to join the Assessment Academy. Part of SIU’s involvement in the Academy was to propose an activity or project that would bring the assessment of student learning to the forefront of academic pursuits.

Plans at the first Roundtable focused on the Saluki First Year (SFY), which at the time was in its very first year of operation. This program was selected because beginning in fall 2011 semester (later changed to fall 2012), every first-year student would be required to take a freshman success seminar (UNIV 101 then changed to UCOL 101).  It also was ideally situated in the undergraduate curriculum to engage faculty members in three different colleges (Business, Engineering, and Liberal Arts) in a sustained, constructive conversation about the “whys” and “hows” of measuring well-defined student learning outcomes.

The idea was to incorporate effective assessment into one important new component to the University Core Curriculum in a program elaborated in close coordination with colleagues in both Student Affairs and Academic Affairs so that it could be used as a model for faculty and staff across campus. Our hope was that by documenting the student learning in the SFY, we could use the same strategies to better document student learning occurring elsewhere on campus and generate renewed interest and expertise in the assessment of student learning in other, already established programs.

We are proud to state that as of October 18, 2013, we have successfully completed our commitment to the Assessment Academy.  Bonnie Heckard from the Higher Learning Commission provided us with the following evaluation. 

Jim Allen
Associate Provost for Academic Programs



Institution: Southern Illinois University Carbondale

progressPlease describe your general impression of the institution’s progress in the Academy. Include recognition of significant accomplishments, progress, and/or practices.

I feel the team has led the institution to achieve a number of significant accomplishments with respect to developing a culture of transformative inquiry and brought the elements of assessing student learning to the forefront of their academic and co-curricular pursuits.

Elements to brag about:

  • The team was committed to collect quality assessment data not for others (peer-reviewed journal), but to examine the achievement of SFY learning objectives.  It is so easy to get tripped up with the assessment ‘movement’ and forget the real reasons for all the work and effort put forth.
  • “It also was ideally situated in the undergraduate curriculum to engage faculty members in three different colleges in a sustained, constructive conversation about the “whys’ and “hows” of measuring well-defined student learning outcomes.  Whether intentional or not, it is significant to talk first about the ‘why’. If we don’t understand the why, there is no reason to work on the how. 
  • Taking advantage of the successes and built trust and understanding from the ground up. 
  • There was no hesitation to monitor the project/process and make changes as needed.  It can be frustrating to spend all that time in development and implementation just to find out it didn’t work, it then takes great leadership to admit it didn’t work and make the necessary corrections.
  • A direct link to the new institutional strategic plan Pathways to Excellence.
  • Assessment of co-curricular activities early in the discussions will give validity to that work, facilitate rich conversations and make clear the connections of learning and student growth in all areas of the institution.
  • All course syllabi on the web for all to see!  This is a lot of work but should prove extremely beneficial.
  • The separation of reporting on data collection and the feedback loop is a great idea.  What an opportunity to clarify the different roles of the related but separate elements of authentic assessment.

2.    Do you have any particular concerns about the work they have done?

  • I don’t have any concerns; it appears the institution has put a great deal of thought into the project and the resulting adjustments.

3.    If participation in the Academy replaced required interim monitoring, please indicate one of the following:

  • ____ The institution's activities in the Academy were directly related to the required monitoring.
  • ___x_ The institution's activities in the Academy were not directly related to the required monitoring and the institution has addressed them in its expanded Impact Report.

4.    In your judgment, is the institution prepared to sustain its assessment efforts after it leaves the Academy? Do you have any specific recommendations to help it sustain its efforts?

  • I believe it is.  The strategic plan, the committee development and the structural changes will all help to keep assessment in the forefront.

5.    Please note any other observations or recommendations that you wish to share.

  • I think SIU has done a great job of working through the obstacles (that all institutions find) and coming to the end of their academy with a great deal of success, many lessons learned and ready to continue the march forward. 

Again, we hope you will share in our success as we continue expanding SIU Carbondale’s assessment efforts and creating a culture of transformative inquiry into student learning on and off campus.

College-Wide Assessment Teams and Co-Curricular Assessment Team

We hope you remember from the last Assessment Showcase newsletter that part of the creation of a culture of transformative inquiry into student learning involved the creation of College-Wide Assessment Teams and a Co-Curricular Assessment Team

Please refer back to this previous newsletter to learn more about our restructuring efforts. 

We are excited to have so many individuals on campus discussing assessment related activities. The Team’s names and duties are now posted on the Assessment and Program Review website

Bloom’s Taxonomy


blooms-taxonomySeveral of the College-Wide Assessment Teams asked for more information regarding Bloom’s Taxonomy.  Bloom’s taxonomy is a classification of learning objectives.

When writing program-level student learning outcomes Dr. Susan Hatfield, Higher Learning Commission and Assessment Director at Winona State University, recommends simple statement with one action verb:

Student will be able to <<action verb>> <<something>>

It is also important to remember that the student learning outcome should be appropriate for students graduating from the program. Thus, you should avoid using the term “basic understanding.” Bloom’s taxonomy is a useful guide when deciding on the “action verb” for your student learning outcomes.

For more information, you might consider the following resources.

Richard Overbaugh and Lynn Schultz, Old Dominion University, provided a useful chart showing Bloom’s taxonomy in comparison with a recently revised version.

Iowa State University, Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, has created an interactive flash-based model that provides examples of each level of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Susan Hatfield, Higher Learning Commission, also recommends using lower-levels action verbs from Bloom’s for lower-level courses and higher-level action verbs for higher-level courses: Bloom’s Taxonomy of Cognitive Learning


Save the Date

In conjunction with the Center for Teaching Excellence and the Campus-Wide Assessment Committee, two colleagues from the University of Missouri, Kansas City -- Nathan Lindsay, Assistant Provost for Assessment, and Andrew Bergerson, Professor of History and former Assessment Fellow, will be returning to campus to meet with the newly created College-Wide Assessment Teams and the Co-Curricular Assessment Team during the week of February 24, 2014.  Please check the Center for Teaching Excellence website and the Assessment and Program Review website for additional information soon. 


You Should Know...


The November 2013 newsletter from the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) contains a timely and interesting Viewpoint, “The Surprisingly Useful Practice of Meta-Assessment.” The newsletter and website contain a wealth of information regarding assessment and transparency.

aacu logo

Making Learning Outcomes Usable and Transparent

The December 2013 newsletter from the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) feature article, “Encouraging Integrative Learning through Pathways and E-Portfolios at Santa Clara University” provides some valuable insight into using e-portfolios in conjunction with completing a reflective writing assignment. 


Todd Graham

Bragging Rights

Todd Graham in the Department of Speech Communications was recently named the Debate Coach of the Year by the Washburn Debating Union. [The Southern Illinoisan].This accomplishment was hardly surprising given the outstanding accomplishments of SIU Carbondale’s Debate Team, including being the first team in the country to qualify for the 2014 National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence [SIU COLA website]. This is definitely something to brag about!


Upcoming Spotlights

Check out the Spring Assessment Showcase newsletter where we will provide you with details about the many assessment activities scheduled for the summer 2014 semester.

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Each quarter we will present what we believe to be practical information regarding assessment practices. However, because we believe assessment works best when feedback is sought, we encourage you to submit any questions regarding any aspect of the assessment process (i.e., at the course level, department level, college level, etc.) to us at We will attempt to answer these questions in the following quarterly's newsletter and post them on our website under FAQs.