While the use of Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) continues to grow, there seems to be very little information available about how to manage all the data collected. The SLO process produces ample amounts of data, which mostly ends up stored, instead of studied or utilized. As such, the question becomes, ‘What is the best way for educational institutions to use all that information to help improve their SLO processes?’
How to get the most from the data you collect:
Analyze It. Assessment results provide you with two things: an indication of student learning and a copious, contextualized description of your student population. In addition to using assessment data to improve learning, institutions can analyze it to give insight on retention and student success. Data helps pinpoint what types of students are succeeding and identifies at-risk students. The information you glean from both can go a long way in predicting whether a student stays and completes their program. Reflecting on who your students are and what they are expected to learn, will give you more understanding in how student learning occurs and in the process, move you away from simply collecting and reporting numbers to articulating your institution’s effectiveness.
Compare It. Some might argue that comparing data can be a slippery slope and that it has the potential to backfire. But in this instance, using an externally-developed assessment can be helpful. Comparing your students’ performance to national averages or peer institutions provides an initial indication of the quality of achievement. If you discover your students are not performing on the same level as the national averages or of other institutional peers, diving deeper into the assessment results using externally and internally developed tools can show you areas where improvement is needed. Assessment data are never an end; just one way of understanding what students are learning and how they might learn more.
Share It. A consistent exchange of information between administrators, department heads, and faculty members strengthens a culture of evidence. Shelving reports or simply forwarding them in a mass email does a disservice to your SLO program and those who worked hard to create and implement it. Instead, discuss results during department meetings, or hold regular workshops that encourage an open dialogue. Making data available on your institution’s website not only increases your visibility, but also highlights your effectiveness.
Always Keep Improving
Simply collecting SLO data will never be enough. Educators must constantly evaluate the data and seek ways to improve the process so that they can close the gap between what teachers think the students are learning, what students believe they’re learning, and what is actually being learned.
Share with us in the comments how you’ve made use of SLO data.
Photo Courtesy of: Sterling College