Decide to Assess; where can it go?

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OutcomeAssessmentJourneyChoosing ePortfolio as a tool for assessment creates new perspectives and builds stakeholder focus on teaching and learning. ePortfolios contain authentic student work, ePortfolios with statements as to why artifacts demonstrate outcomes provide insight into actual learning.

Assessment is part of our daily work. Faculty and staff collect embedded test question data, perform test and item analysis, score work with rubrics, review paper and electronic portfolios, assess capstone projects, review nationally created test data and projects, gather demographic, service usage and satisfaction data, looking for trends and correlating data. ePortfolio assessment provides surprises and promotes lively discussion of teaching, learning, assessment and institutional change.

Three Rivers Community College offers 44 certificates and 47 associate degree programs to a diverse student population which has rapidly grown from 3,793 in 2006 to over 5000 in 2010, merged from two campuses into one in 2009, and transitioned to new legislative mandates and a new BOR incorporating all of the community colleges and state universities in 2012. ePortfolio as a learning and potential outcome assessment tool has been piloted in various courses by various faculty.

The Nursing Department uses ePortfolio throughout the program. Outcome assessment exceeds the rigorous Accreditation Commission for the Education of Nurses (ACEN) standards formerly NLNAC accreditation standards. Data analysis from student ePortfolios is reported on in the curriculum standard. ePortfolio as a tool is not mandated for accreditation but provides validation and surprises in curricular review.  Artifacts, reflections and design of the ePortfolio are reviewed through rubrics, attainment of program outcomes, and qualitative statement analysis.

Outcome assessment with ePortfolios has been an evolving process driven by best practices within the nursing department. Not only was program outcome attainment assessed but philosophical changes in pedagogy and testing methods followed.  Imagine faculty reflecting on social pedagogy and seeing the value for practicing nurses. Through use and curricular discussion of ePortfolio pedagogy collaborative testing was adopted in the pharmacology courses. Positive feedback from both students and faculty continues after four semesters of implementation. Other pedagogical questions have emerged: do students use cooperation or collaboration when testing, does either behavior when testing promote higher scores or differences in clinical application and how do you promote collaboration?

The Continuous Cycle of Outcome Assessment includes:

  • rubric evaluation of critical thinking, information literacy, communication, professionalism, reflective learning and integrative learning
  • students’ assessment of program outcome attainment
  • connection of reflective learning to NCLEX pass rates, transfer to BSN and MSN programs
  • role of feedback and collaboration
  • use of tools / pedagogy and feedback to faculty
  • beginning longitudinal assessment
  • employer and graduate feedback

Setting the Stage

Outcome assessment at Three Rivers Community College is evident at programmatic, course levels and key divisions within the institution and is driven by the mission, program and course outcomes.

Many of the assessments are traditional mandated assessments of courses, faculty, programs, graduation and employment rates. Departments have assessment plans using data to inform program improvement.

Assessment is part of daily work for faculty and staff. Faculty and staff collect embedded test question data, perform test and item analysis, score work with rubrics, review paper and electronic portfolios, assess capstone projects, review nationally created test data and projects, gather demographic, service usage and satisfaction data, looking for trends and correlating data. This process is evident in department and curriculum meeting minutes, Academic Division Goals and Outcome Reports, the Five Year Periodic Program Review, “E forms” for NEASC accreditation and other external accrediting program reports. Faculty and department chairs prepare and reflect on the content, celebrating successes and revising when improvement is needed. Outcome assessment is strongest in departments with external accreditation requirements, for instance at every monthly nursing curriculum meeting data related to a specific standard is presented, reviewed, and acted upon.

The General Education Task Force (faculty, library and IR members) developed rubrics, an assessment cycle for collecting paper artifacts, a process for forming and training assessment teams, evaluating artifacts, analyzing data, disseminating the data to the college community and reviewing the process after each implementation. The nine learning outcomes included: critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, information literacy, scientific inquiry, responsible citizenship, global awareness, communication and technology literacy. The Task Force explored use of an electronic portfolio but was side tracked by the mandated BOR Transfer and Articulation Plan (TAP) for Liberal Arts and Science Competencies. The Task Force continues to work, collaboratively and effectively meeting every other week now linking the TAP learning outcomes with the established process and new college wide implementation of an ePortfolio platform. Linking General Education Assessment, understanding of authentic assessment and 21st century assessment requirements is propelling use of an ePortfolio platform. Thoughtful, planned scaling up is beginning.

There is an atmosphere of respect and integrity within our campus, and seeds for a culture of assessment have been planted. In 2011 an entire campus professional day guided all to understand how outcome assessment is integrated into the academic programs and general education requirements. One faculty described it as the “best professional day we’ve ever had.” What is needed now is maintenance for sustained growth. In a constantly changing state organization and fiscal structure, vision and encouragement will yield desired results. In 2014 staff and faculty will renew and learn new assessment procedures at a professional day in February. Three Rivers Community College is continuing its journey in transparent college wide assessment.

Vision and Next Steps

If each of us incorporated reflection, daily assessment and professional development into our work, a foundation would be built for outcome assessment in a course, program and college wide initiative. ePortfolio allows each of us to build our own foundation. Do I ask a question or record a reflection related to a goal of assessment, am I learning how to effectively inquire, and is this in my ePortfolio?

Connecting ePortfolio to outcome assessment could strengthen our scaling up process in multiple ways; specifically as a tool in the RN profession and Nurse of The Future Initiatives, in our General Education Outcomes and Liberal Arts Competencies evaluations, Advanced Place Learning (APL) program, as well as connecting evaluation throughout the college. It could become a focus for fostering a strong culture of assessment and connecting components for authentic college wide evaluation.

ePortfolio as a tool and pedagogy has promoted discussion about best practices in teaching and learning as evidenced in a faculty development website  ( ) and Center For Teaching seminars related to reflective learning and feedback.

Currently ePortfolio is a tool which promotes assessment of nursing program outcomes, educational and career transfer behaviors. It does provide student voice when reviewing curriculum content and process. After assessment of artifacts student seminars and faculty retreats have been planned and implemented to remove barriers and support successful implementation of curriculum and resulting student learning. ePortfolio shows you surprises in how students are processing information.

ePortfolio provides the platform to collect, select, reflect and present artifacts but it is also important to review the tool itself. Common student and faculty survey trends indicate the need to review other ePortfolio platforms. Some stakeholders express a fear of the technology,another platform may be easier to use. One goal would be to pilot use with other platforms.

Another goal would be to support the APL program as they consider transitioning from a paper portfolio to an ePortfolio system. Some assessors prefer paper versus reading an electronic screen. But some are realizing dynamic media formats can support APL goals through ePortfolio. Short term training from the platform provider and another school who uses the chosen platform would be supportive resources. It would be important to connect with multiple stakeholders, including the program director, dean, president and APL Board. Financial support for a platform would also support the work.

A larger goal would be to use the opportunity of the “current moment in time” at TRCC to open stake holder’s eyes to the power of ePortfolio as an outcome assessment tool. The hurdle is letting go of past understandings, learning how to use a new platform, and practicing in an updated vision. I marvel at how in the initial years we focused on the technology, grew into the pedagogy and for continued growth must return to technology, communication and collaboration for a more robust process. Assessment is a journey.