Assessment of the Academic Program

Matters pertaining to assessment of the academic program at Whitman College fall under the responsibilities of the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Kendra Golden (golden@whitman.edu). The College's Assessment Committee, chaired by the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, consists of one faculty member from each of the three academic divisions, as well as the Director of Institutional Research (Neal Christopherson), the Director of Academic Resources (Juli Dunn), and the Director of Instructional and Learning Technology (David Sprunger).

In order to document and maintain the high quality of teaching and learning at Whitman College, and to seek ways to improve or maintain success, assessment processes are woven throughout elements of the academic program.  Specifically:

  • The Provost and Dean of the Faculty Office New Faculty Orientation programming includes, among other things, instruction on how to create clear learning goals at the course level. 
  • Course revisions and proposals, which undergo a rigorous vetting process with the Curriculum Committee and faculty approval, include rationales for how courses meet curricular goals at the department or program level, and for how they meet student learning goals in the larger academic program.  These learning goals are communicated to students. 
  • Courses at Whitman College are evaluated by students every semester.   
  • Faculty and staff who work within the academic program of the College participate in regular formal and informal review processes.
  • The Office of the Provost and Dean of the Faculty administers internal grants for innovation in teaching and learning and faculty development, all of which require clear goals, assessment mechanisms, and reporting about impact on the academic program of the College. 
  • Administrative offices that report to the Office of the Provost and Dean of the Faculty participate in an annual review process that outlines their goals, strategies for improvement, and future plans to meet goals.
  • The Provost and Dean of the Faculty Office works closely with the Office of Foundation and Corporate Relations in order to ensure that effective assessment mechanisms are included in external grant pursuits.
  • The Office of Institutional Research, which reports to the Provost and Dean of the Faculty, facilitates much data collection, analysis, and reporting for decision-making processes about the academic program, and is facilitating a five-year Mellon-funded panel study on student learning at the College (2012-2017). 
  • The Provost and Dean of the Faculty Office works closely with other campus constituencies to find ways that assessment of student experiences (for example, co-curricular experiences, off-campus study, and advising) may help with student learning, broadly speaking, and will fulfill the College's academic mission. 
  • Academic departments and programs submit assessment reports that include articulation of major-specific and student-centered learning goals, direct and indirect measures of student learning, and future plans to address desired improvement in student learning that the departments or programs may find to be important (note: the frequency and format of this process is currently under revision). These goals and plans may relate to the Senior Assessment in the Major, or they may relate to other portions of the course sequence within majors.
  • The Provost and Dean of the Faculty Office sponsors faculty development, through various means such as Center for Teaching and Learning programs, workshops, or conference funding on topics such as: program goal development, senior assessment in the major innovation and assessment, teaching excellence (including assessment of student learning), collaboration and assessment across colleges in the Northwest Five Consortium, and ways to bridge curricular pursuits across majors and minors.
  • Academic departments, programs, and administrative offices that report to the Provost and Dean of Faculty office participate in a decennial cycle of external reviews, which consist of in-depth self-studies and alumni surveys, among other things, in order to get objective assessments of the quality of undergraduate education, as well as to seek best practices that may help the College improve its academic program.  

Student participation in assessment at the College is important and multi-faceted. It is successful student learning that most clearly demonstrates that the academic mission of the College is being fulfilled. The College documents direct and indirect measures of student learning and related experiences, including, but not limited to: department and program-level assessment of major-specific learning goals, graduation and retention rates, and co-curricular involvement rates, as well as surveys that ask students to reflect on their overall collegiate learning experience (e.g., the National Survey of Student Engagement, the HEDS Senior Survey, the CIRP College Senior Survey, and the Research Practices Survey).

Department and program assessment materials can be found on the Provost and Dean of the Faculty CLEo site; information about student surveys can be found on the Office of Institutional Research website.

Faculty and Staff members who need assistance with survey construction or other assessment materials may contact the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Kendra Golden (golden@whitman.edu) or the Director of Institutional Research, Neal Christopherson (christnj@whitman.edu) for consultation.